The Sudha and Shankar Innovation Hub, located adjacent to the Institute Hospital, represents the new home for the Center for Innovation. The building, which is colored in steel and has a large globe in the center, is covered with glass panes. The dome represents the essence of what CFI aims to achieve, the role of India in world affairs, science and technology going forward. A lot of thought went into each and every step of the construction of the building. It’s a space that hopes to personify innovation, not just in terms of design but also to become a facilitator and mentor for young innovators.
This hub was established with funding from three sources – the 1992 batch which initially provided funding for Nirmaan, Mr. V Shankar who is an alumnus from the 1981 batch, and the Gopalakrishnan-Deshpande Centre. Designed by the 2013-14 batch of IITM, the building is the epitome of student creativity.
The Honourable Vice President of India, Jagdeep Dhankhar, inaugurated the new facility in the presence of Thiru K. Ponmudy, Minister for Higher Education, Government of Tamil Nadu, Prof. V. Kamakoti, Director, IIT Madras, and Mr. V. Shankar, Founder, CAMS Pvt. Ltd and Distinguished Alumnus Awardee of IIT Madras, besides students, faculty and other officials of IIT Madras.
The space where the hub now stands was initially home to the carpentry workshop. Owing to acute shortage of space for housing both students and machinery, given that the building was just one floor, the workshop was shifted to NAC where the current CFI building exists. The current building has been operational since the early 2020s but will now be shifting its operations to the innovation hub.
Featuring a ground+2 layout with a functional terrace, the CFI building shares its space with both Nirmaan and the GDC who have offices on the top floors.
The members of the competition teams and the clubs have varied opinions on the new space. Congruent among all of them is the relief the new building brings with air conditioned rooms, surveillance systems and brainstorming spaces. Ultimately, the old building functioning at NAC ground floor was just a makeshift space: a renovated basement.
Most students were discouraged to work on their projects due to lack of facilities, shortage of space and as an embellishment, the building was a home to dengue mosquitoes. Now with a better designed interior, the building encourages interaction among the different teams and clubs, increases output and stirs a sense of creativity and initiation.
The ground floor:
With biometric systems installed everywhere, the ground floor consists of a central area, a long spacious corridor and the sides divided into rooms using glass partitions. The corridor is meant for testing cars, drones, robots and other creations while the right side will provide space for the competition teams to work. Rooms to install computing facilities have also been allotted on the ground floor. The door next to the staircase connects the innovation hub to the workshops so that resources and other materials can be easily accessed.
Allotted to the hardware clubs, the first floor of the innovation hub is shared with Nirmaan, the pre-incubator. Nirmaan acts as a conduit between the GSB and IIT Madras Research Park incubation cell and further guides and facilitates these groups to materialize their ideas into successful businesses.
This is shared among 15 startups. Like the ground floor, the right side of the building as we exit the elevator will be divided into rooms with glass partitions. Biometric systems have been installed for improved security long with CCTV surveillance due to prior incidents of theft. The inside of the dome area is an open space which the team is planning to design creatively for productive brainstorming sessions and collaborative discussions. To the sides, we also have lab rooms for conducting in-house experiments, a 3D printing room and server rooms that house one of the most powerful computing systems in the campus, second only to the main supercomputer at the computer center. These rooms assist in smooth conduction of high level simulations of the CFI teams.
The Gopalakrishnan-Deshpande Centre occupies the second floor of the innovation hub. The Centre endeavours to strengthen the ecosystem for Innovation & Entrepreneurship by bridging the various gaps between the Institute and the marketplace. GDC strives to become a world leader in innovation research and simultaneously make innovation part and parcel of everyday life.
CFI’s annual Open House was held to much fanfare at the Sudha and Shankar Innovation Hub on March 12, 2023. It was covered extensively by both national and regional newspapers.