Wednesday, June 1, 2016

MS Ramaiah University’s Multi-Disciplinary Approach to Innovation

Bangalore based private university, MS Ramaiah University of Applied Sciences (MSRUAS), recently inaugurated its first PhD batch for the year 2016 at its Peenya campus. Despite its young age, MSRUAS is noted for its research programs, and out of 150 applications, barely 25 students are admitted for PhD programs. Recent visitors to the campus include Prof. GR Reddy, Professor and Senior Scientist, Homi Bhabha National Institute and BARC, and a senior team from the noted French institution, École des Mines de Douai (ENSMD). Research as well as projects undertaken at MSRUAS are differentiated by their focus on innovation, applied nature, and their multi-disciplinary approach. Successful R&D projects at MSRUAS so far include bionic arm, automated intravenous haemostatic drug delivery system, torque converter design software, futuristic monorail design, ragi de-husker, home automation system, battlefield communications system, unmanned ground vehicle, optical flow based navigation system for unmanned vehicles, fluid thrust vectoring for combat aircraft, and various unmanned aerial vehicles including micro helicopter, quadcopter, fixed wing, and flapping wing drones.

MS Ramaiah University of Applied Sciences (MSRUAS), has eight core faculties including engineering & technology, art & design, management & commerce, hospitality & catering technology, dental sciences, pharmacy, science, and humanities. Why then is it named an “applied sciences” university, many may wonder.

The answer lies in MSRUAS’ history as well as continued focus on delivering innovation that can be applied by the industry and society around. MSRUAS and its forerunner MS Ramaiah School of Advanced Studies is the brainchild of its Chancellor MR Jayaram and Vice-Chancellor Prof. SR Shankapal. The institution is designed from the ground up to be an innovation university, and aspires to be a model for other universities.

While its research projects are impressive for their complex achievements, the university also takes pride in the fact that even average students are groomed here for highly rewarding careers.  

Indian military and paramilitary forces, thanks to our long boundaries, belligerent neighbours, and multiple insurgencies, often suffer serious injuries in battlefields. If left untreated for just the first 30 minutes, many of these injuries can turn fatal due to uncontrolled bleeding.

Haemostatic drugs need to be administered intravenously as soon as possible to stop this, but it requires the soldier to be transferred to a battlefield hospital where a medical practitioner can carefully locate the vein to administer the drug. In most locations and situations, especially in non-urban encounters, this is not possible within the first half-an-hour and that explains why we lose many of our most valiant soldiers and commandos in combat.

But what if, an automated, precise, and mobile equipment can be designed for locating the vein swiftly and administering this drug, very near to the battlefield itself? What if the equipment can be operated by a soldier itself without the help of a medical practitioner? A pipe dream perhaps?

But a team of scholars at MSRUAS has designed and developed this very equipment – Automated Intravenous Haemostatic Drug Delivery System that works like a charm.

Now, development of such a complex equipment is impossible for any single department of a university. It requires the coordinated research & development skills of doctors, mechanical engineers, computer scientists etc. And that is what the core 5-member team behind this applied innovation did at MSRUAS.

The plight of amputees is another area where India is facing serious challenges. According to some estimates, the country is home to over 10 million people who have lost one of their limbs, and their staggering number puts them above the entire populations of countries like UAE, Sweden, or Hungary.

In case anyone is searching for reasons, look no further than our high rate of serious road accidents, and high incidence of diabetes and vascular diseases. While the country has one indigenous innovation to its credit in this domain – the Jaipur Foot – nothing very modern has ever been used here here except for costly imported prostheses.

The gold standard in prosthesis technology worldwide is currently the bionic limb, where actual brain signals are used to control a robotic arm or leg. While the amputees in developed countries like USA, UK, Germany, or Japan, have today access to sophisticated bionic arms, most Indians can’t afford it as it costs between Rs. 17 lakhs to Rs. 27 lakhs for just one such robotic arm.

But a multi-disciplinary team of five researchers led by none other than its Vice-Chancellor Dr. SR Shankapal has developed a bionic arm system that can read the brain’s signals to the non-existing limb and use it to move the robotic arm with a high degree of accuracy. The fact that they have developed it from the scratch and that too indigenously is giving high hopes that soon a low cost bionic arm can come to the aid of Indian hand amputees too.

Meanwhile, for those with walking disabilities including the elderly, another team of MSRUAS researchers have pioneered the ‘EasyWalk’, a revolutionary ambulatory aid that can double up as a walker and chair, is lightweight, foldable, and can be used indoors as well as outdoors. The research and development behind ‘EasyWalk’ followed world-class product development protocols including market research and user feedback.

Yet another innovation from MSRUAS research teams include an Unmanned Ground Vehicle (UGV) called Kainos for military and anti-terrorist activities. Equipped with self-decision making and self-navigation capabilities, Kainos which is a military robot also takes commands from its counterpart the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, and is equipped with sophisticated cameras and transmitters to send back live video.

In fact, there is no end to describing the multi-disciplinary research projects that have been developed successfully at MSRUAS in recent years.

They include torque converter design software (for automatic gear shifts in cars – first time in India), futuristic monorail design, ragi de-husker, home automation system, helmet mounted soldier adhoc network for real time av communications in battlefield, optical flow based systems for navigating unmanned aerial and ground vehicles, fluid thrust vectoring for next generation combat aircraft that can do extreme maneuvers, unmanned micro helicopter, and various unmanned aerial vehicles including quadcopter, fixed wing, and flapping wing drones.

Very few private universities in India, that too as young as MS Ramaiah University of Applied Sciences, can dream of achieving these kind of projects.

But the real beauty of all these achievements is that this has been done without denying access to even average students for all its courses. In other words, even average students have participated and benefited from such development exercises in this private university. How is this possible?

MSRUAS has done another innovation in this regard – the Centre for Learning Differences – aimed at helping out slow learners with extra coaching, during their first and second years of study at the undergraduate level. The Centre has 10 professors and lecturers from 10 departments, as coordinators, who are passionate about bringing up slow learners, and this system has worked wonders so far.

The kind of transformation that MSRUAS can cause in even average students will come across as surprising to everyone. Very ordinary students from Diploma and ITI backgrounds, after doing the university’s course in Product Design, are today employed in top automakers’ facilities like the GM Design Centre in Bangalore, with salaries they couldn’t have imagined a few years back.

The university also appeals to highly performing students, especially at the postgraduate level. One reason for this is the university's focus on industry-specific PG courses. As of now eight companies are collaborating with MSRUAS to run these types of courses.

For example, MSRUAS has an MTech course in Cyber Security and Information Assurance, designed by Paladion Networks. In some such programs, all the students are given by the specific company, whereas in some others a percentage of students are from outside, but they also get absorbed by the industry, as these are courses designed by the end user which is the specific industry itself.              

When it comes to placements, MSRUAS is very particular that each and every one of its graduates are able to do the professional work he or she was trained for. Towards this, industry requirements are kept in mind, starting from the curriculum design stage itself.

Additionally, MSRUAS has deep connections with various industries as this private university is a leader in conducting training programs for various companies. Currently the university is doing such training programs for around 25 leading companies in India, in various sectors.

MSRUAS takes its research initiatives seriously, and encourages faculty and PhD students to focus on applied research and get their study published in the best national and international journals.

MSRUAS is also unique in that they provide the best research students with financial support, from what the faculty gets for their research work with institutions like the DRDO.

The faculty here can’t continue with their static knowledge as, every year, at least 15 of the lecturers are send for overseas training at good institutions. MSRUAS also makes sure that at least 6 professors from abroad come here for training the faculty every year.

Apart from its historical tie-up with United Kingdom’s Coventry University, it has tie-ups with six universities in Russia, while in UK it has relations with two more institutions.

The Undergraduate Programmes at MSRUAS are BTech, BDes, BHM, BPharm, PharmD, and BDS while its Postgraduate Programmes are MTech, MDes, MBA, MHA, MPharm,  MDS, MCom, and MSc. It also offers Doctoral Programmes leading to PhD degree.

MSRUAS also offers three super-specialized MBA programs - MBA (Innovation & Entrepreneurship), MBA (Pharma Business Management), and MBA (Hospitality Management).

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