Excerpts from National Workshop on Technology Innovation in Cyber Physical Systems (TIPS 2:0) 6-8 April 2023 by Bhat Dittakavi, CEO of AI4ICPS.in at IIT Kharagpur

India is rejuvenating, reinventing and reimagining unlike never before! NM-ICPS, National Mission on Interdisciplinary Cyber-Physical Systems by DST of India is the mission designed to take the deep tech research in India from the labs to the markets through 25 Technology Innovation Hubs across India. The hubs achieve these objectives through symbiotic collaborations with academia, industry and startups.

Successful implementation of disruptive missions such as NM-ICPS of national importance is never easy as it requires transformation of deep-rooted cultures. NM-ICPS is on its course to doing something unimaginable in India: Develop commercial-grade deep technologies from India for solving societal problems of India and the world! Kudos to Kris Gopalakrishnan, chairperson of the Governing Body of NM-ICPS for leading the mission from the front.

Outstanding people have one thing in common: An absolute sense of mission. The speakers of this national workshop are outstanding and NM-ICPS is their mission. We witnessed the promise and progress of India in technology, especially technology innovation through translational research. I had spent three wonderful days with diversified change makers from the united India and I have lot of takeaways.

Dr. Ekta Kapoor, Mission Director, NM-ICPS

Light symbolises knowledge and wisdom and we invite the dignitaries for the lighting of the ceremonial lamp.

Director IIT Delhi: We are fortunate to host this TIPS event. We look for impact, creativity and collaboration through collaborative robotics. We, as IITs, shall create technology that touches peoples’ life. Dr. Saraswat is at the helm of initiating such events. We are delighted to welcome all to the campus.

Dr. Akhilesh Gupta, NM-ICPS, Secretary SERB

Falicitation of Dr. VK Saraswat of Niti Aayog

Mission was launched in December 2018. First three years was a struggle. credit goes to AS & FA today. We are not used to implementing the Missions that are 24×7 job. The new team we have today is delivering weekdays and week nights during the last 18 months.

Government works under hierarchy. Mission like this can’t and shouldn’t follow this. We have developed a flat structure. Anyone can reach anyone any time! That’s making the difference. Thanks to Dr. Gopalakrishnan who is guiding us all through. Dr. Saraswat is the architect and DPR was written under his leadership. ICPS team at leadership level has visited 25 hubs just within six months. DST gives money and forgets but going to each TIH and spending time on the ground made the difference. This very team found out the loose ends. We have established a committee to fix those loose ends. I promise to all we work very hard. Form now on, we will have quarterly review. We hand hold you and we provide all the support. We will also have delivery of money in time through AS and FA. There is no shortage of money.

We work like a family and we work like a business. Something is done you get rewarded else you know. We request all TIHs that have now full teams in place shall delivers. We are now midway. We will have another 2-3 years to go and we have to tighten our belt. Very soon we will have a review at the highest level. We have been working with PIs and we don’t have much working experience working with industry. This is why synergy is required. The basic aim of this Mission is not research but translational research and commercialisation.

Kris Gopalakrishnan, Chairperson, Chairperson, Governing Body of NM-ICPS

This is a change program. Each one of you is a change agent. Each of you are part of the overall mission. Overall mission to me is very simple. We want India to become one of the top 5 research ecosystems in the world. Research encompasses not just publishing papers but taking the works from the labs to markets. How do we get this happen? This mission’s learning can percolate to our future missions. India has inherent advantages. We represent 20% of world’s population. We will become top 3 economies of the world we are already in top 3 startup ecosystems. Why not on top 5 of research? We want at least 10 of our universities in top 100 in the world. We want significant growth in research translation. How can we develop technologies like that in our academic and research industries. Out of top 10 IT companies in the world. five are from India. Top three banking products in the world are from India. This gives me confidence that we can achieve. We are second to none in talent! Another thing is that there is no capacity in the system to spend the money. 95% of the proposals that come from IITs are less than a crore. It means professor gets promotion and recognition and student gets PhD. This isn’t enough. We shall think about tens and hundreds of crores of funding. Each IIT must specialise in tens of technologies. We shall increase funding from industries. If the proposals coming from the institutions are less, industry won’t step in. Government has announced national missions with crores of funding. We don’t have capacity to absorb that money: this is why this is the change program. We need to create capabilities to take it all the way from TRL 1 to TRL 9. We need to build capability. Industry must be co-located and VC ecosystems need to be there along with mentorship. Products, startups and publications and jobs all have to scale up. Mission has been well conceptualised. Dr. Saraswat has consistently appreciated good work and also highlighted when there are challenges and mistakes. This is what I call support. DST has continued to support this and continued to guide us. Dr. Chandrasekhar and team DST have been giving us support. On the ground at the hub, let us a come together to make it happen. 50% of the hub’s work must be with collaboration. We can even find private initiatives with focus on particular technology and creating technology for societal impact and taking it to market.

In the last 8 years since Startup India is announced, we have become the third largest startup ecosystem. Our academic systems have created world class leaders. We are able to do that. Let us transition that to world class producers of products and technologies. This mission address TRL4-7 valley of death! If you got serious problems to solve, industry and government funding is available. Beyond TRL7, VC funding is available. This valley of death is the focus of NM-ICPS. We need to ensure we do world class in India and transform it into one of the top five research ecosystems in the world. I am confident it can be done.

India is the best place to research. We have the talent. We can buy the technologies with money. We do research at 1/5th the cost elsewhere it would cost. We can double the research outputs if we combine these two things. We have data and diversity for biotech, financial services and healthcare. We have the size, volume and scale. When India produces the solution, it is affordable and accessible for the 100% of the world!!! We need solutions that address sustainability issues. Let create accessible affordable sustainable and inclusive products from india for the world.

As you are change agents, this is ultimately about building confidence and building trust. Money will come from government, industry and philanthropy. I supported research on brain at IIT Madras. Dr. Partha Mitra, one of the chair professors with his research team in US. We doubled his research team without him adding any money from his own research. We mapped the mouse brain. Then we decided to map the human which is 100x magnitude bigger. Human Brian has multi-billion in neuron and has trillions of connections. Today that brain centre is doing world class work. They have access to post-mortem brains. They make 2000 slices of the brain. They photograph at 20 micron, digitise and reassemble it. These are world’s first many things. This puts India on top in brain mapping.

Dr. VK Saraswat

I have been associated with this mission from inception. It was 2016-17 Prof. Ashutosh Sharma and others from DST worked at the time with the purpose to do something differently where in it is autonomous and inclusive. Information flow and research collaboration. ATL and Atal Incubation Centers demonstrated many things at Jammu with basic concepts of CPS. These local students went to the IIT Jammu and got the insights from the professors there and the students of high school made these CPS systems happen! If that can happen, the model we have worked is the right model in which the hubs and spokes work in collaborative manner.

From Technology Development to Technology Innovation is what we need as Dr. Ekta Kapoor mentioned. Kris ji also mentioned about the valley of death and how to swim. In 2016-17, today’s technologies were at the fringe. We didn’t realise. We only talked about connectivity, sensors, computing, analysis, communication, cloud, actuation and all. This is what we thought this much. We never realised that the new technologies give a completely different spin that we see today. Today we have digital plane, data models and we are looking at the whole city, complex of civilisation, complete traffic management even system of systems. The simulation models, the new APIs, inter-operable framework. In the physical plane your equipment is going to be much more capable. Then we have GOUs. Then we see the complete visualisation. New testbeds and robotics and are all integral part of your CPS systems today.

Low altitude and high altitude drones, our water gas and electricity distribution systems and all combine a diverse CPS. What we need is tremendous amount of data for doctor to do surgery with the help of robots. We have to do intelligent transportation and robotics services. This workshop is not just about the conventional systems but about the augmentation of these new CPS systems. How a digital twin, shadow model and living lab are being done. The the works, fidelity, level of achievement and all. This shouldn’t be just for the sake of doing it but for sake of deploying!

I would like to see how many windows we can open for these technologies. Done of the TIHs have gaps. While the autonomy has been given to the hubs with funding, the feedback I have got is that the process of funding the spokes has got into deeper bureaucracy. Our honourable PM is likely to review our progress. He also knows that these missions are likely to add economy to the nation. Value addition has to be quantified.

The session is concluded with Vote of Thanks from Dr. JBV Reddy of DST.

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