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NID in Bangalore, Gandhinagar soon

March 30, 2006 13:43 IST

It has often been said that technology raises the bar for manufacturing, but chances are that it will be common across all levels of competition where the major (and sometime only) differentiator is likely to be design.

And with the "Designed in India" idea taking shape across all manufacturing activities, the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, is breaking free of 45 years of campus innovation to outreach.

That the outreach is in the shape of more campuses is merely coincidental, for its aims are loftier -- to free up imagination and combine it with hardcore research, to launch an era of intellectual property and ideas.

"Ideas come fast, and they perish fast," says Dr Darlie O'Koshy, executive director, NID, "so you have to hit the ground with them and run fast."

The ED is running fast too. First on his plate is the inauguration, on March 31, of NID's second campus, and its first outside Ahmedabad -- in Bangalore. Spread across 40,000 sq ft, it is dedicated wholly to research and development.

Students from Ahmedabad interested in research (or, as Dr Koshy says, "breakthrough ideas") will get attached to the institute with a faculty that includes NID alumni wanting to head research units.

The Rs 5 crore (Rs 50 million) campus -- plus Rs 2.5 crore (Rs 25 million) spent on the R&D labs -- will have a student body of 100-110 who can continue working on their projects after graduation as research associates.

It hopes to conduct research for industry and institutions in and around Bangalore. "Research requires an innovation economy," says Dr Koshy, "for which Bangalore is ideal."

Even though there is growing recognition for design in India, Dr Koshy says that traditionally, "Our design sense is weak but our business sense is strong. Design is not considered the interface between the industry and the consumer."

The move then, for NID alumni to be "true innovators of breakthrough ideas" is a recognition of the digital format overtaking the analog format, of which Bangalore is possibly the best representation.

Bangalore aside, the coming week, on April 4, NID will lay the foundation stone for yet another campus -- this time in nearby Gandhinagar. The Rs 19.5 crore (Rs 195 million) post-grad campus spread over 15 acres will be fully ready for the academic session of 2008-09.

The current campus in Ahmedabad will then house 600 students for undergrad courses, while the PG campus in Gandhinagar will be dedicated for PG and fellowship programmes, also for 600 students.

On course in Bangalore

The Bangalore campus of the National Institute of Design, which goes online from April 1, will offer four courses in as many R&D labs:

  • Digital inclusion, also aimed at designing for the majority, will "look at interfaces in more inclusive formats" such as e-choupal, and will "define new areas", according to Dr Koshy. The voting machine that NID helped to design is one such example of research in this stream.
  • Product innovation, particularly in the areas of transportation and automobile design, and communication technology. "With hardware and software getting increasingly amalgamated, the interface for manufacturability is increasingly becoming digital," explains Dr Koshy. Hence the unit.
  • Design business incubation for SME enterprises -- or grassroots innovation. Here, NID would like to function as a design corridor to help an industry cluster use design for innovation or differentiation. "Such design clinics will help in real research," says Dr Koshy, and companies looking for solutions can pool in resources to address common issues.
  • Sensitive design projects (including for defence), these will be housed in an underground R&D unit to ensure a fair degree of secrecy. "There are a number of nationally sensitive projects that can be undertaken," explains Dr Koshy.

    In addition, the campus will offer research focused short-term programmes, and a knowledge management centre for research by scholars and designers.

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  • Kishore Singh in New Delhi