In this context, Isro and NITK signed an MoU. It was signed by P V Venkitakrishnan, director, Capacity Building Programme Office (CBPO), Isro, and K Umamaheshwar Rao, director, NITK, Surathkal. The exclusive centre aims to pursue advanced research in the areas of relevance to the future technological and programme needs of the Indian space programme.
The centre will act as facilitator for promotion of space technology activities in southern region comprising Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, Kerala and Lakshadweep and become an ambassador for capacity building, awareness creation and R&D activities of ISRO.
The activities of RAC-S will be directed to maximize use of research potential, infrastructure, expertise and experience that exists in ISRO and NITK. The RAC-S will also facilitate and engage other institutes of excellence in the region to take part in capacity building, awareness creation and research and development activities related to space technology, space science and space applications.
The RAC-S will consist of faculty members and researchers from NITK and visiting scientists and experts from ISRO. Activities will be guided by a joint policy and management committee (JPMC) consisting top executives from two organizations. The JPMC will plan promotional activities including research programmes of common interest and periodically review such research programmes and related activities.
JPMC will also facilitate collaborative activities between the partner institutions of southern states, while ISRO will provide necessary annual grant to the tune of Rs 2 crore per year for the conduct of research and development projects, promotional activities and administrative expenses.
The joint research and development activity will actively engage students of NITK and partner institutions. While BTech and MTech students will be engaged in carrying out short term research projects of one year duration, PhD students will be engaged in long term projects of 2-4 years relevant to advancement of space programme. Eligible students will also receive research fellowships during the project period.
ISRO and NITK will jointly own the intellectual property generated as part of this research activity.
Venkitakrishnan, interacting with the media after signing the MoU, said this centre is one of the ‘bahus’ (daughter-in-law in Hindi) among the many ‘bahus’ of Isro, and expected that it will perform best. “We will give unlimited powers to this centre to carry out any activities, and it’s student centric-whereas there are other centres are faculty centric. The centre will have the responsibility of incubation and research,” he said.
The other three RAC-S by Isro are located in MNIT Jaipur, Gauhati University and Kurukshetra University.
The RAC-S setup at NITK, Surathkal, will receive an initial funding of Rs 2 crore. Venkitakrishnan said that Isro expects that collaboration with NITK will trigger interest for incubators on space technology. “Many startups usually perish in a few years due to various reasons. However, Isro plans to help those who come with space technology startups by offering products and help in innovative thinking. There are future plans to help the best startups with funding and other requirements,” he said, adding that the onus on success of RAC-S is with NITK, Surathkal. RAC-S will also help in offering academic degrees related to space technology.
Two more centres in the pipeline: Isro chief
Dr K Sivan, chairman, Isro, and secretary, DoS, government of India, in a video message, during the workshop on space technology applications, said that two more such centres are in the pipeline at NIT, Patna and BHU. “All these centres are set up in tier-2 cities where space technology is not much talked about. These centres will develop interest among the young generation in rocket and satellite technology and also use it for the betterment of society.”
He added that RAC-S will cover Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Kerala and Puducherry. “Today Isro is venturing into new arenas like navigation systems, Gaganyaan and others. It is essential to strengthen academic collaboration and also at the same time spread the footprints of space technology to different parts of the country,” he said. He also stressed how RAC-S will play a pivotal role in space technology.