Jugaad. This colloquial term, often used negatively, is defined by the Oxford dictionary as “a flexible approach to problem-solving that uses limited resources in an innovative way.” To put it simply, it means to innovate. Innovation has become such an integral part of how the world runs that organisations have added the Chief Innovation Officer (CINO) role to the C-suite in the last decade. Educational institutions in India have been going back to the drawing board, tweaking their curriculum to give the concept its due importance. Leading the way is the Faculty of Science & Technology (IcfaiTech), Hyderabad, a constituent of the ICFAI Foundation for Higher Education (IFHE), a deemed-to-be university.
Established in 2010, IcfaiTech constituted the Institution’s Innovation Council (IIC) in 2018. Constantly expanding its scope of operations to make the innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem more robust, the IIC has been actively seeking meaningful collaborations. By May 2022, the IIC had organised 44 internships, 21 talks by experts, 18 workshops, 7 orientation sessions, 4 competitions, 2 mentoring sessions, and 2 panel discussions. Not to mention that by the end of May 2021, the IIC had entered into collaborative agreements with Atal Innovation Center – SKU, Anantapuram; Atal Innovation Center – CCMB, Hyderabad; Emids, Bengaluru office (US-based multinational); HINNTS, Bengaluru-based startup; Salzgitter Hydraulics, Hyderabad; and SoftNet, Government of Telangana. IIC is also a part of the Ministry of Education’s Innovation Cell (MIC).
The IIC prepared a comprehensive policy on the institution’s innovation and startup efforts in 2021 by taking into consideration the framework provided by the National Innovation and Startup Policy (2019) and integrating it with the mission and vision of IFHE. Subsequently, IFHE’s Incubator Policy was framed, clearly outlining the scope of operation of the incubator and the services that the incubatees could expect from it. Soon after, IFHE established its own Section 8 company to serve as a business incubator for entrepreneurs who wanted to create their own startups. In December 2021, the IFHE Innovation & Entrepreneurship Council (IIEC) was granted permission by the Ministry of Corporate Affairs to commence operations. As of May 2022, the Incubator has been hosting 15 incubatees, providing an excellent meeting ground for them to interact with each other and offer support by exchanging knowledge and services.
Giving importance to engineering and basic sciences research, IcfaiTech stands firm in its view that only a few institutes in the country can boast of the kind of computational facility set up at their campus. “We have a computer centre with 80 high-end workstations catering to quantum computation and data science research needs. Likewise, the research laboratory attached to the Chemistry department has all the facilities required for PhD students,’ says Dr. K.L. Narayana, Director, IcfaiTech
IcfaiTech offers the option to take a semester-long thesis course for those academically inclined students who aim to pursue higher education. Interested students will work under the supervision of a faculty member, and a thesis will be submitted for evaluation of a culmination of the research work done. The thesis will be graded by a team of experts, followed by the publication of the work in peer-reviewed journals. “Embedded in the curriculum are also special project courses, wherein the student works on mini-projects in the area of their interest under the supervision of a faculty member of their choice. All of these initiatives are in addition to the various measures we take to encourage them to attend conferences and present papers,” adds the Director.
Meanwhile, the research contribution of the prodigious faculty team includes 447 publications, 60 patents, 68 books, 57 chapters, 385 national and international conference presentations, 10 research projects worth 399.22 lakhs, 5 projects worth 344.76 lakhs, as well as two centres of excellence: Robotics and Advanced Manufacturing and Blockchain and 20+ awards received for the faculty’s contribution in research and innovation. It is no surprise that more than 90% of the faculty members hold doctoral degrees, and the rest are in the process of obtaining their PhD.
Since its inception, IcfaiTech has been ensuring academic excellence embedded with contemporary infrastructure and learner-centric pedagogy. The core philosophy of education at IcfaiTech is to empower students with the proper knowledge and modern skill sets so that they are ready to face the challenges of a competitive world. The programmes at IcfaiTech have been uniquely designed by including courses drawn from varied areas like humanities, arts, and management combined with science, engineering, and industry-based internships. “At IcfaiTech, we integrate courses like Principles of Economics, Principles of Management, Dynamics of Social Change and Introductory Psychology into our curriculum, thus helping shape the overall personality of our students,” says the Director.
IcfaiTech ensures that students gain exposure and knowledge across different disciplines and develop interpersonal skills and leadership qualities that take them beyond traditional thinking and practice. Similarly, the faculty team actively engage in research, faculty development programmes, consulting, organising conferences and seminars, giving guest lectures, and guiding PhD scholars employed in the industry. Recognised for their exemplary teaching and trailblazing research, the IcfaiTech faculty members are collaborative, innovative, and focused on making a difference. Together, they continue to strive to nurture an environment for learning and discovery unlike any other.
Offering B.Tech., B.Sc., and an array of PhD programmes, IcfaiTech is on a mission to create an intellectually stimulating environment for research, particularly in areas bearing on the socio-economic and cultural development of the state and the nation. Along with an IIC that is rated 4 stars (out of 5) by the MIC, IcfaiTech offers a broad spectrum of facilities for enhancing academic, innovative, and research interests. Dedicated full-time faculty members, adjunct professors, and 17 research scholars impart knowledge to the learners through regularly updated course programmes that involve newly launched UG programmes (Data Science and Artificial Intelligence, Mechatronics) and 20+ recently introduced electives in thrust areas.
The curriculum at IcfaiTech is updated regularly with input from academicians from reputed institutes, industry experts, and alumni, thus exposing its students to the latest practises and techniques. Emphasising application-oriented learning, the curriculum offers a cafeteria approach, allowing them to choose courses from across disciplines, thus helping them develop interests in tune with the current interdisciplinary nature of research. “Our curriculum aims at instilling in our students an appreciation for synthesised multidisciplinary learning through workshops, internships, and other group learning assignments. This not only encourages them to articulate science and technology needs but also provide appropriate solutions,’ comments the Director.
IcfaiTech understands the importance of incorporating the latest technology into its pedagogy and has pulled out all the stops to provide students with the best infrastructure facilities. From a well-stocked library with reference materials, magazines, journals, and books of national and international publications and access to various databases that facilitate research activities to the academic delivery and management of student data – including marks, attendance, and dissemination of information through state-of-the-art Learning Management Systems – IcfaiTech is equipped with the latest computer systems with high functioning processors and security.
Innovation with Insight and Intend
Aiming to shape its students into well-rounded, empathetic professionals with a solid moral compass, IcfaiTech promotes a range of co-curricular and extracurricular activities. These activities encourage students to explore their innate talents and skills and develop the right attitude to succeed in their corporate lives. Run by highly self-motivated and passionate students, there are 12 student bodies (clubs, chapters, cells, committees, and societies), and they conduct 1000 events in a year (on average), such as sociocultural programs, sports, arts, debates, etc. The institute spends around INR 45 lakh per year on student activities. It has a designated faculty member who acts as the ‘Coordinator of Student Activities’ who is responsible for the overall supervision of the activities.
Some national-level events organised by the IcfaiTech students are Triti: Management and Cultural Fest, Impulse: Techno Cultural Fest, Entuzia: Sports Fest, Entrepreneurship Week, MUN, Dandia Night, Freshers Day and Farewells. They have also participated in various social service activities such as organising blood donation camps, social awareness camps, waste management, visiting and celebrating birthdays at different NGOs, and conducting leadership training for students in government schools. They have also extensively participated in creating AIDS awareness, Save Energy and Water campaigns, and plantation drives as a part of – Haritha Haram – a Telangana government initiative. The students have also taken up the responsibility of painting the school in a neighbouring village – Goppularam – to brighten up the learning environment for the kids there.
Competent with Compassion
IcfaiTech has signed 56 memorandums of understanding (MOUs) to meet internship, consultancy, and placement needs and a dedicated team of placement officers who work all year tirelessly to organise campus placement drives. The officers give the utmost importance to enhancing student competence and preparing them for placement. A testament to their efficiency is that 93% of the students in the 2022 batch found placements, with 72% receiving multiple offers. The highest package was 13.4 LPA, and the average was 6 LPA. These numbers also substantiate IcfaiTech’s claim that its graduates are strong communicators and influential leaders with the adaptability and entrepreneurial drive to keep pace with evolving technologies and the demands of the marketplace.
One of the many ways IcfaiTech gets its graduates industry ready is through its Internship Program that stresses real-time work experiences, thus preparing the students to confront diverse challenges in their professional lives. The dedicated faculty members supervise, evaluate, and grade the students in consultation with industry mentors. The Internship Program ensures that collaborative and fruitful relationships are developed and sustained with industrial units, scientific laboratories, public sector undertakings, manufacturing units, and other organisations. “Our internship programs are charted out in such a way that they help the graduates tap into their innovation mindset. We have dedicated faculty and industry experts to supervise the students’ performances and assess them during the internship program,” says the Director.
The institute takes pride in its growing alumni base of 2000+ individuals currently pursuing fast-track careers with 200+ companies in India and abroad. One can clearly see the excellent rapport the institute shares with the alumni by how the alumni actively take part in suggesting courses based on recent trends in the industry and identifying companies where students can be sent for internships and be placed.
Changemakers in the Making
A quick observation of how IcfaiTech has adapted to the changing business landscape and has incorporated the necessary updates and changes to its curriculum will show how serious they are about levelling up the way education is imparted in the country. An in-depth inspection would show how committed they are to shape ethical, professional individuals with a passion for technology. Here’s to gearing up for a future where the country that gave the world the word ‘Jugaad’ also gives a generation of insightful, inventive Innovators.