Every year, the Indian Institute of Technology-Delhi opens its doors to the public, with its “Open House” showcasing innovations that its faculty and students have been working on all year through.
From fantastic robots and chemicals that help you look after your clothes in a better way to providing something that eases the life of the differently-abled — the show has it all.
But how many of them actually make it to real world and become part of everyday life like every good invention should?
“We may have our venture capitalists and we might have an institute like IIT behind us, but in this country, it is still very difficult to find people who can help you fail,” said Vijayaraghavan Chariar, whose “waterless urinal technology” is one of the most recent success stories of the “Open House”.
The risk factor in an area like sanitation is something that corporate houses are not ready to take on, Dr. Chariar feels. Funding for his research was mostly from NGOs and others who had socio-development on their agenda.
This is mainly because the urinal harvests the “phosphate” in urine, which can then be used as a fertiliser.
Although, there are other waterless urinals, this one’s “harvesting” power is what gives it the edge, said Dr. Chariar, adding that in a country where access to water is such a big problem, a waterless urinal is the need of the hour. And more so, to meet the goals of water conservation and organic fertilisation.
Inside IIT-Delhi, however, the urinal is already a big success.
“The now-odourless men’s rooms in the institute are all thanks to the waterless urinal technology,” said Professor Suneet Tuli, Dean of Research and Development, while revealing plans to open a mini-science park on campus in addition to their other industrial research centre’s which help incubate new ventures.
“We as scientists and academics are not really good at figuring out the nitty-gritty of commercialising an invention, so we have a separate body that forms the interface between the research or innovation and the markets,” he said, adding that there were several other “Open House” stories that had seen commercial success in the real world.
“We are proud of a lot of ventures that have been incubated in IIT-Delhi and displayed during the ‘Open House’. There is the gram vaani, a cheap communication tool that helps villagers get relevant information about other villages. Then there is the eco-friendly printing ink and the security scanners that we use to scan vehicles entering IIT. These are also incubated products,” said Prof. Tuli.
The Institute helps innovators with the initial grants that are given to every new faculty member, but as far as getting grants for research is concerned, faculty member have to get their own funding, that is usually controlled by the Institute.
“My research cell normally has Rs.100 crore in reserves at any given time,” he said, adding that the better the research of a faculty member, the better his career prospects become at the institute.