Institutes seek special tag so labs can go pro, help make students industry-ready
Colleges are upgrading laboratories in line with the government’s NABL criteria, so companies can outsource testing, offer real-world experience to students.Updated: Aug 16, 2019 13:34 IST
When you’re studying science and engineering, hands-on is the only way to learn, and so colleges have labs, but they’re nothing like what you’d be working with out in the field. Some colleges are now trying to fill this gap by setting up commercial labs on campus, with some help from the NABL or National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories.
An NABL tag means universities and institutions can have labs formally recognised as competent third-party assessors, allowing them to accept commercial projects and offer services directly to industry.
Among the institutes that have set up such labs over the past two years are Allahabad University, the Pondicherry Institute of Medical Science, Lovely Professional University (LPU), The NorthCap University and the Vellore Institute of Technology. “The industry now comes to us and we work hand-in-hand on research projects,” says Archanaa Dongre, head of The NorthCap University Testing Center (NCUTC), accredited by the NABL in 2017 for the testing of building materials. “Students get to assist industry researchers on actual commercial projects at our labs now, and leave the institute better equipped for the real world.”
Getting the NABL certificate itself is no mean feat. It’s a necessarily rigid process; costs are high; and even after following all protocol, the accreditation is valid only for two years.
“It’s rare for an institute to get an NABL tag. Most educational institutes in India simply lack the wherewithal and will to manage their labs professionally and hence fail to produce technically competent and authentic test results,” says Amit Srivastava, professor of civil engineering at LPU.
“Balancing academics and a commercial laboratory can be difficult too,” Dongre adds.
One hidden market for such labs can be, other students. At Allahabad University’s Food Analysis and Research Laboratory (FARL), which has testing facilities for food and water, students from other colleges, who are working on course projects, frequently drop by to get samples tested, and get a 10% student discount.
“We also provide testing services to food business operators, government agencies, packers and consumers,” says professor Neelam Yadav, director of the lab.
And it makes Allahabad University’s MSc Food Technology graduates market-ready for hire by industry regulators such as the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI). “Every student who is inducted to work in the lab is give operations training as mandated by NABL,” says Yadav.
Amardeep Kaur, 25, a research scholar in the geotechnical engineering field worked on her thesis out of LPU’s lab for mechanical testing of building and construction materials, says one of the best parts about working there was the time she saved by working with newer and safer technology. “There is a certain degree of confidence when you’re working at an NABL lab. Your test results are accurate and certified. It’s a great advantage to research scholars.”