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IIT Madras launches School of Sustainability

By   /  October 7, 2023  /  Comments Off on IIT Madras launches School of Sustainability

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CHENNAI : Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT Madras) has launched a School of Sustainability, which will boost the Institute’s strong tradition of exemplary work in this area.

The School of Sustainability will teach new, interdisciplinary courses on sustainability, synergize research to tackle grand challenges and provide a platform to host events and showcase technologies that can help drive both practice and policy. Conceptualized as a Centre of Excellence, it will bring together faculty members from across departments and research centers of the Institute.

The School was inaugurated today (7th October 2023) in the presence Shri Jayant Sinha, Member of Parliament and Chairperson, Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance, Prof. Kala Vairavamoorthy, Executive Director, International Water Association, Prof V. Kamakoti, Director, IIT Madras, Prof. Ashwin Mahalingam, Head, School of Sustainability, IIT Madras, and Prof Rajnish Kumar, Associate Head of the school besides faculty, staff and students.

Addressing the inaugural program, Chief Guest Shri Jayant Sinha, Member of Parliament, and Chairperson, Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance, said, “Today, the world is on fire…If you have seen the research, we have had the warmest September on record and its warmer not just by 0.5 degree centigrade but much much warmer than people had anticipated. We are in 2023 experiencing the warmest year that humanity has ever experienced. We have seen that in the extreme weather events acorss the world this year, from the fires in Canada to the flash floods in Sikkim…We do not know what once in a 100 years is going to bring. What we thought was going to happen once in a 100 years is now happening virtually very two or three years. We do not even know the limits of what these events are going to be, So, how do we design and build a world when things are so off the charts?”

Shri Jayant Sinha said, “The Paris Agreement said that we should restrict the Global Average Mean Temperature to 1.5 C. The latest UN projections are 2.8C is where we going to be by 2100. In the last 220 years, we have warmed by 1.2 C to 1.3 C. In the next 80 years, we are going to warm by 1.8C, then imagine the gradient we are on right now…Dealing with sustainability and decarbonisation is the biggest scientific and engineering challenge of our times. I want all of us, as scientists and engineers to really focus on what we need to do to get us to sustainability”

Terming this as a very important intiative, Shri Jayant Sinha added, “The fact that you have such outstanding faculty who have put together these centres and MoUs with excellent universities such as Technische Universität Dresden (TUD), Germany, and Tel Aviv University, Israel, and that you are putting something together that will be a very important resource and aspect of India’s very own net-zero decarbonization and focus on sustainability. This is going to be a very important institution.”

Besides offering a minor course in sustainability and an interdisciplinary Master’s programme in the subject, the School also plans to provide a variety of sustainability related capacity building programs to working professionals as well, both online as well as in person.  In addition to teaching, the School’s activities will focus on basic scientific research, technology development and transfer, real world project implementation and policy advisory activities.

Speaking on the occasion, Prof. Kala Vairavamoorthy, Executive Director, International Water Association, said, “In the water sector, we are seeing this major transition taking place. We are moving much more to a low-carbon way of doing business. Water was very carbon intensive, historically. But with huge investments taking place, particularly in the Global South, we are seeing this opportunity to re-build and re-imagine our water infrastructure in a much more low-carbon way. We are also seeing this transition to a circular economy, which is a big thing in the water sector.”

Prof. Kala Vairavamoorthy, who is also an Adjunct Professor at IIT Madras, added, “The mission of the School of Sustainabilty is very much about taking new ideas into practice…The focus of this school in trying to link SDG 6 (Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all) with all 17 SDGs is very important.  This school should encourage people to be more creative and create the sustainable future they are imagining.”

Sustainable development is perhaps one of the greatest challenge facing humanity today as the world deals with the effects of anthropogenic (pollution or environmental change originating in human activity) factors leading to climate change and the depletion of critical resources. Universities and organizations across the world are working on ideas that can help humanity live and develop sustainably.

Speaking earlier, Prof. V. Kamakoti, Director, IIT Madras, said, “Meeting the Sustainable Development Goals – 1 to 17 of the United Nations is a collective responsibility of the entire globe. Through this School we aspire to bring researchers and industry from different domains to discuss, debate, develop and deploy solutions targeted towards the SDG.  Human capacity building related to sustainability will also be a primary focus of this School”

The highlights of the school’s teaching and research initiatives are given below:

Ø  TEACHING – Apart from the minor course in sustainability set to be launched in 2024 that will be made available to all students at IIT-Madras, the School plans to launch, within the next 3-5 years, an Integrated Dual Degree Program (IDDD) on Sustainability. This will also be offered to all students at IIT Madras but unlike the minor, this will be a full-fledged Master’s degree, including a thesis project. Several interdisciplinary courses will be moreover, introduced as a part of this programme.

Ø  RESEARCH – The School has identified four key areas of research and development, namely Decarbonization, Human Settlements, Modelling and Scenario Development, and Behavioural and Industrial Change.

In each of these four areas, the School will undertake basic scientific research, translational and product development, pilot implementations and policy advisory. As an example, a policy roundtable on Climate Finance was recently conducted in partnership with the Ministry of Finance, Government of India and served as an important input to the G20 deliberations on this issue.

Speaking about the school, Prof. Ashwin Mahalingam, Head, School of Sustainability, IIT Madras, added, “Many of the faculty involved in the school are already working with several industries including Shell, GE, Ashok Leyland, Mahindra Electric, Accenture, Danfoss, Baker Hughes, Saipem, Sembcorp, L&T, CPCL, and Tata Group, among others, on various levels for a holistic treatment of sustainability. In addition, we also work closely with Government agencies such as the Ministry of Finance, Government of India, and Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority, among others. We plan to leverage these partnerships to conduct events such as a Policy Dialogue Series on a quarterly basis and Technical Workshops on specific grand challenges often dovetailed with the annual summits that we will host.”

In the long term, the School of Sustainability will support the nation, industry, and global citizens in the following areas:

1.)    Develop well-rounded professionals who will lead the world in building resilient and sustainable infrastructure for industries and communities.

2.)    Act as a platform to catalyze the change to a low-carbon world by supporting the translation of research and knowledge to products and services.

Elaborating on the activities of the School, Prof. Rajnish Kumar, Associate Head, School of Sustainability, IIT Madras, said, “The planned activities of the School of Sustainability include a phenomenal number of translational aspects of technology that can lead to technology transfer and start-ups. The translational domains include lithium-sulfur batteries, zinc-air batteries, hydrogen gas turbines, sCO2 heat exchangers, grid-independent buildings, microgrids, carbon capture, utilization and storage technologies, water and air purification systems, 3D printing, automated material management systems and many more.”

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