How the IBM -NITK collaboration is enabling students to take forward long-term collaborative research projectsSindhu MV
India’s research capabilities are widely known and acknowledged globally. But for these to have a significant impact on the economy, there has to be a way in which some of this research can actually help combat real life challenges.
This is a need which Monica Aggarwal, Vice President, India Systems Development Lab (ISDL), IBM Systems, reiterates.
“With many MNC R&D centres located in the country, India has strong capabilities across R&D. However, for this to have an impact on the economy there is a need for collaboration between academia and industry,”she says.
According to Monica, the focus now is on incentivising technology and market driven research that solves unique problems that India faces, thereby drives grassroots-level growth.
IBM gives a lot of importance to research collaboration with academia, and works closely with students and teachers from around the world to address global challenges. They foster collaborative research to transform and bring in innovation into businesses and governments, through fellowships, grants, and funding for programmes of shared interest. In India, IBM’s goal is to develop a long-term mutually beneficial relationships with select Indian academic institutes by fostering advanced research in the field of computer systems, promoting academic exchanges, and cultivating world-class researchers for the future.
With this in mind, the National Institute of Technology, Karnataka (NITK) at Surathkal and IBM India have come together to establish NITK-IBM Computer Systems Research Group (NCSRG), a collaborative research platform to conduct joint research in computer systems. This initiative takes IBM’s decade-long relationship with this premier education institute further towards nurturing next generation innovators.
Monica says, “NSCRG is a joint endeavour between IBM India (ISDL) and NITK to promote and support collaborative research and educational projects to meet common goals, across a wide range of activities that encourage innovation and technical vitality.”
Collaborative research as the way forward
The goal of establishing the NCSRG research group is three-fold:
1) To establish a permanent research organisation focussed on computer systems research.
2) To create an ecosystem in India to foster research and innovation in the area of computer systems.
3) To create a talent pool of researchers and engineering graduates from the institute with a strong background in Computer Systems who can design the Computing Platforms of the future to address unique challenges as India embraces digital technologies on a large-scale.
The NCSRG is led by a steering committee comprising senior professors from NITK Surathkal and senior technical members from IBM India. The professors can propose long term research projects that can be implemented under the NCSRG umbrella and both under-graduate and graduate students across Electronics & Communication, Information Technology, Computer Science and Engineering Departments will get to work on the projects. These projects will span across processor design and verification research, reconfigurable computing, memory and I/O research, computer organisation and architecture, compilers, operating systems, systems security, systems networking, cloud and high performance computing.
Getting mentored by technical experts
What makes this an exciting proposition for students is that they will be exposed to real-life challenges in the design and development of next generation computing systems. The students working on the projects also stand a chance to intern at IBM Labs where they will further continue their work on the associated project and be mentored by the associated team of ISDL experts. Every project under NCSRG will have a technical mentor from IBM who will guide the students and work closely with the professors to achieve the set goals as a part of the project. The mentors will also help prioritise the deliverables under the project and find the relevant tools and technologies that can be leveraged to achieve these goals in a shorter period. The mentors will share their technical and business expertise that will provide an industry perspective to the students and the professors.
Talking about the mentoring aspect of the programme, the Vice President of ISDL says, “Apart from cutting-edge technology, students will get a chance to learn about tools, new industry paradigms such as design-thinking, agile, dev-ops and, more importantly, get a view of challenges faced by the industry and clients that are relevant today.”
“A seeding ground for budding ideas”
At the moment, Prof. Basavaraj Talawar from NITK’s Computer Science department is heading a project as part of NCSRG. The project is to enhance GEM5, a Full System Simulator used extensively by academia to design newer architecture and interconnects. Discussions are also on with the state Electronics & Communication and Information Technology departments to chalk out research projects in the areas of reconfigurable computing and cloud computing.
“With the explosion of a number of grand challenges to solve in today's systems industry, an academia-industry collaboration such as this one will go a long way. The research groups in NITK will benefit from working on innovative technologies with active mentorship from IBM. IBM will benefit from the experience and the outcomes of these projects. NCSRG will act as a seeding ground for budding ideas that will grow to become technology game changers,” sums up Prof. Talawar.