BENGALURU: In a session on ‘Contribution of IISc to Strategic Sectors’, leaders from Indian science and technology elaborated on how the institute has played an important role in the development of many technologies of national importance. This event was a part of the IISc Alumni Global Conference.
Dr Kiran Kumar, chairperson of the Space Commission and an IISc alumnus, said, “If ISRO exists today, it’s mostly because of its connections with IISc.” He spoke about the stalwarts of India’s space programme, Prof Brahm Prakash, Prof B L Deeshatulu, Dr S Srinivasan and others, who were from IISc.
The architects of the Indian space programme, Dr Vikram Sarabhai and Prof Satish Dhawan, had close connections with IISc. Prof Dhawan also served as the Director of IISc from 1962 to 1981.
Prof Ramakrishna Ram Akella of the University of California, Berkeley, told Express, “IISc is the best-kept secret in the country. The essence of IISc is its excellent work and the modest and low-key culture of its people. The govt of India must channel more funds into it to make it an outstanding institution on par with MIT and Harvard.”
Dr Bhujanga Rao, Director General, DRDO (naval systems and management) said, “IISc has contributed a lot in the form of talent. Many leaders of DRDO studied at IISc.” Elaborating on the “long history of partnership since 1970’s”, he said a lot of basic research critical for DRDO gets done at IISc.
Prof V K Atre, former head of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), told Express, “The best place for our missiles is under the ground, but it is good to have the technologies. Academic programmes on next-generation aircraft have been sanctioned and IISc will soon work on them. My group is making sensors so that we do not have to import them. Centre for nanoscience at IISc (CeNSE) and the Dept of Electrical Communication with Prof Anurag Kumar is doing a lot of work in the area. Many other projects are classified and cannot be talked about.”
Rao mentioned Prof Bhagavantham, C N R Rao and Prof V K Atre for helping bring sonar technology to the country. Prof Saraswat was the first to introduce the surface-to-surface missile Prithvi into the armed forces while Dr P Rama Rao started the first full-fledged ordnance factory. Technology for missiles, electronic warfare systems, submarines, torpedos and materials for making soldiers’ lives better with smart materials, stealth materials, nanotubes etc were all developed with maximum contribution from IISc, said Dr Rao.
Dr Baldev Raj, director, National Institute of Advanced Studies, spoke about the role of IISc in the development of atomic energy technologies in India. He said, “Without Prof Brahm Prakash, we could not talk about our mastery over platinum, uranium, titanium etc used in nuclear reactors. India cannot manage 800 gigawatts of electricity by 2100 without nuclear and renewable energy.”
“Dr Homi Bhabha, the father of atomic energy programme, extensively used his connections with IISc,” observed Dr Baldev Raj. Dr Kota Harinaraya, former chief, LCA Programme, explained how IISc played a crucial role in the development of India’s first Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), Tejas. He said, “IISc has nourished the LCA programme, and the Department of Aerospace of Engineering virtually built it.”