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Indian Institutes of Technology set up schools, centres to boost AI research

Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) from across the country are responding to the rising demand for qualified artificial intelligence (AI) and data science (DS) professionals by setting up schools and research centres.

According to a media report, IIT-Bombay recently announced it was establishing a Technocraft Centre for Applied Artificial Intelligence (TCA2I) to grow collaborations between the industry and academia in applied AI. Last year, it had set-up the centre for machine intelligence and data science (C-MInDS) to help create AI and DS talents by encouraging research, teaching and collaborating with the industry and government. Previously, AI and DS subjects were for engineers from the computer science stream exclusively. However, as the demand for these capabilities grows regardless of the industry, institutes are capitalising on the opportunity to train all engineering students in these technologies.

The report noted that C-MInDs offers a bachelors in technology (B.Tech) minor in AI and a dual-degree in a masters in technology. “BTech students from any stream can complete five additional courses in AI and ML-related subjects and they will be awarded a minor degree in machine intelligence and data sciences. The courses cut across all streams. The goal is to develop manpower, who are experts in their own domains, but also have expertise in AI and ML,” Manjesh Hanawal, an associated faculty at both CMInDs and TCA2I, explained. So far, around 100 students have registered for the B.Tech Minor course.

Last September, IIT-Delhi set up a School of Artificial Intelligence (ScAI), it received more than 160 applications for its PhD programmes in AI. “From the next semester, we plan to start an MTech programme with an intake of 40. We have identified five core areas where we have our strength in AI applications: healthcare, material sciences, Industry 4.0, robotics, and multilingual natural language processing. ScAI aims to bring AI researchers across all departments together,” said a professor of ScAI. Similarly, CMInDS is also likely to start regular MTech and PhD programmes in AI from the next semester.

TCA2I focuses on research across domains. It is looking at interdisciplinary research in the application of AI in the supply chain, logistics, transportation, and cybersecurity, among others. “Today, many donors are also realising that there is a huge thrust on making our workforce ready to adapt to AI as well as bring out high-quality research work in AI,” said Hanawal. TCA2I was set-up via donations worth ₹15 crores (around US$2 million) spread over three years from alumni members. Through these centres, there is scope to build new use-cases where both academia and organisations have an edge in these areas. For the institutions, these centres offer an opportunity to focus more on research.

It is estimated that AI has the potential to add over 500 billion dollars and 20 million jobs to the Indian economy by 2025. India has a diverse pool of talent working on innovative ideas in the space of AI to solve real-world problems. According to a report, the AI domain attracted the highest investment in 2020 at US$443.8 million. It was followed by the analytics domain with a cumulative investment of US$214.8 million. The automation field received total financing of US$91.7 million, followed by conversational AI and NLP domain with US$38.6 million. Robotics and IoT received 0.8% and 0.6% of the total funding, respectively.

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