External funding for research at IIT-Bombay drops by 20 per cent
For the first time in the past four years, funding for research activities at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IIT-B) from external sources has gone down, instead of maintaining its upward graph.
According to the director’s report presented at the 56th convocation ceremony of the institute on Saturday, IIT-B generated Rs 312 crore in revenue for research and development (R&D) projects commissioned by various government and private organisations. In the previous fiscal, the revenue receipts for these projects amounted to Rs390 crore.
To make matters worse, the institute allocated a much smaller portion of its own funds for R&D projects this year. The internal grants for research fell from Rs47.6 crore in 2016-17 to Rs12 crore 2017-18 - a dip of 75%.
The drop in research funding during the last fiscal stands in contrast to the boost it received a year ago. The revenue receipts grew from around Rs252 crore in 2015-16 to Rs390 crore in 2016-17 - a jump of 55%. In fact, during the 10-year period between 2007-08 and 2016-17, the external research funding grew steadily, except when it dropped in 2013-14, with a compound annual growth rate of 42%.
According to IIT-B director Devang Khakhar, the institute was awarded fewer projects, resulting in the decline in revenue. “We receive all our projects through competitive bidding process,” he said.
Khakhar added that the institute poured less of its own money as well due to financial constraints. However, he added, “We will allocate more money this year.”
The institute’s faculty and researchers are bearing the brunt of the dip in funding. “The bulk of our funding comes from the government and it has gone down. For various reasons, even private sector is not contributing much. Whomever you ask, you will get the refrain ‘we don’t have any money [for our projects]’,” said the head of a department at IIT-B.
Despite the reduced funding, compared to last year, the institute boasted of more patents last academic year. The researchers at the institute filed applications for 127 patents, out of which 36 applications were approved in 2017-18. During the previous year, these figures stood at 122 and 31, respectively.
In the last one year, the number of students who obtained their doctorate from IIT-B has increased from 357 to 380 - the highest ever.
The drop in research funds notwithstanding, Khakhar said research work at the institute is growing at a fast pace. “Every year, the number of research papers published in academic journals is consistently going up,” he said.
However, some teachers at the institute are not satisfied with the quality of the research work. “The number of young faculty members and researchers has increased in the recent years, leading to the rise in research papers. However, we will also have to consider the quality of these papers,” said the head of the department.