Prof. M.S. Ananth, Director, IIT-M, to inaugurate Chennai Regional RoundTable

By Team YS|16th Jun 2011
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Director IITM

The trait that differentiates wise men from ordinary men is that their mind thinks possibilities and their heart is in the right place. A visionary director for 10 years at Indian Institute of Technology-Madras (IIT-M), the only director to serve two terms and one of the brains behind IIT-M Research Park, Prof. M.S. Ananth, has graciously agreed to start the TechSparks 2011 Regional RoundTable Chennai with his inaugural address.As I waited to meet him this evening, I just looked around the reception area outside his office. R.K. Lakshman’s cartoons adorn the walls along with a work of art. Those witty cartoons show idiosyncrasies of life. As I looked at the list of directors that have been carved in gold-plated strips in a decorative frame, none of the directors preceding him have served beyond five years. And anyone you meet and talk about him stand in awe of his developmental activities at the institute and his vision of keeping its rightful place in the educational sphere internationally. Also in his office is a small piece of paper stuck underneath the teepoy informing about online courses offered by Stanford, Yale, and of course IITs. You get to know the mind of the director from his reception area. A researcher who understands what works and what wouldn’t.

As I enter his chamber at the appointed hour, I was expecting a formal exchange of words and a few technical questions about the event. But on the other hand, he was very pleasant in greeting me and asking me about the details of the Regional RoundTable. He corrected me when I said he was the brain behind IIT-M Research Park. He said, “I am one of the brains behind.” It’s an honour to have him in our midst on 25th June for the Regional RoundTable Chennai.

Then followed a lucid explanation of why the idea of Research Park came in and how he convinced the Ministry of Human Resources Development. He quoted Louis Pasteur who said, “discovery is the result of a chance meeting of opportunity with a prepared mind.” He told the MHRD that we have been preparing minds for 50 years but they are meeting opportunity in the Silicon Valley or elsewhere. Many of the patents filed in the US have IITians behind it. So why not provide the research opportunities for such prepared minds here itself? So what started about ten years back has materialized today. The IIT-M Research Park has 37 companies and 10 incubatees and is evolving as a centre for research and development with an entrepreneurial vision that comes out of IIT. This could be parallel to such facilities that University of Berkeley or Stanford have in the Silicon Valley. But for his grand vision and his clear intent of seeing it through, the IIT-M Research Park wouldn’t be there, a towering 10-floor complex just behind IIT.

Prof. Ananth went on to explain why students who can execute crazy ideas and can come up with something pathbreaking whereas the label of a professor constrains creative thinking. “People will think he is blabbering, if a professor lets out crazy ideas,” he added. Students do not have that kind of a problem and nobody will affix labels on students. Once we put a mantle of a professor on top of a learned person, that becomes a handicap for him to think beyond. So students should be encouraged to give shape to their bright, innovative ideas. Prof. Ananth has institutionalized his thinking into three centres of innovative thinking. Regional RoundTable will also feature explanation about the activities of Centre for Innovation (CFI), the innovation lab where students can test their crazy ideas, and Centre for Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CSIE), both explained by Prof. Nagarajan who heads CSIE. Prof. Nagarajan says, “what comes out CFI either goes into CSIE or C-TIDES.” Then IIT also has an entrepreneurship and innovation incubation facility, Cell for Technology, Innovation, Development and Entrepreneurship Support (C-TIDES), which will be explained by its head Prof. L.S. Ganesh.

For agenda, please visit www.techsparks.in.

Do not miss the event and write to sriram@yourstory.in for registrations.

—Venkatesh Krishnamoorthy, chief evangelist

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