Frontier Center shared with IIT Bombay launches at Ohio State

mhuson Frontier Center, General


Buckeye Nation is not defined by borders. At The Ohio State University, neither is research.


Now, the Institute for Materials Research (IMR) is strengthening links between Ohio State and international investigators with the launch of what is believed to be the university’s first academic research center shared outside the U.S.


The IIT Bombay-Ohio State Frontier Science and Engineering Research Center is a joint, collaborative research center shared by Ohio State and the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay. It is set to provide grant funding and foster new research projects related to advanced technologies from both institutions.


IIT Bombay is a public institution of higher education, internationally recognized as a leader in engineering education and research. It is located in Mumbai, the capital city of Maharashtra, India.


“We are excited to collaborate through the Frontier Center to create a global community of researchers, students and industry that builds on the existing strengths of both universities to advance the well-being of our world,” said Steven Ringel, IMR executive director and Ohio State distinguished university professor. “This collaboration between Ohio State and IIT Bombay is really a beautiful match. Both universities have complementary assets and strengths, but a lot of shared goals and visions.”


Frontier Center leadership consists of two faculty members from each institution: Ardeshir Contractor, professor of practice in Ohio State’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering; Sanjay Krishna, Ohio State’s George R. Smith Chair in Engineering and professor in Electrical and Computer Engineering; Saurabh Lodha, professor in IIT Bombay’s Department of Electrical Engineering; and Raghavan Sunoj, institute chair professor in IIT Bombay’s Department of Chemistry.


Creating a global community of researchers


The center will kickstart innovative, interdisciplinary research projects within the broad areas of materials, devices, components and systems, while designated research spaces at both campuses are set to give professional and student researchers greater access to new facilities and expertise.


The Frontier Center Scholars grant program will provide seed funding for cutting-edge research projects led by a pair of principal investigators, one from each institution, as well as a doctoral student from either IIT Bombay or Ohio State.


These students, Frontier Scholars, will spend approximately one semester conducting research at the partnering institution, receiving travel support, accommodation, and living expenses for their stay at the host university from four to six months.


“The key thing of this particular center is to engage students. This is where IIT Bombay and OSU will work together: to see that we connect students to the faculty members,” said IIT Bombay Director Subhasis Chaudhuri. “Once we have them on board, I think we will really take off. I’m sure in about five years, we will be graduating a good number of Ph.D. students from IIT Bombay and Ohio State who benefited from the other side.”


The Office of International Affairs is collaborating with IMR to assist and support students studying abroad at Ohio State and IIT Bombay.


Both institutions will focus research in areas of strength and strategic growth. Initial supported research will be in renewable energy, advanced manufacturing, electronics, photonics, and emergent materials. Supported research areas will continue to expand in response to societal needs and research discoveries.


“We want to take on projects in which you have complementary research expertise, which would not be accomplished by a single research group,” Krishna said.


New opportunities for innovation


Both Ohio State and IIT Bombay are located in environments ripe to push new knowledge gained through research into the real world as solutions ready to meet the challenges of the 21st century.


Through Ohio State’s Materials and Manufacturing for Sustainability Discovery Theme, IMR met with top Indian academia and industry representatives to better understand the country’s sustainability needs and goals. IMR then began exploring the potential for collaboration with India-based academic institutions and industrial entities.


“There is a significant innovation ecosystem around IIT Bombay’s campus, which is often called the ‘Silicon Valley of India,’” Ringel said. “Columbus is a growing entrepreneurial, high-tech city, with a significant innovation ecosystem forming on its own as well.”


IIT Bombay is located in the neighborhood of Powai, in Mumbai. The area was dubbed “Mumbai’s start-up hub” by the Times of India, as entrepreneurs from the tech industry and other sectors began launching new business ventures there. Mumbai, itself, is the financial capital of India.


Columbus, Ohio, has been named No. 1 in the top 10 rising cities for startups, as well as being in Forbes’ top 10 best American cities for young professionals. Ohio’s capital city was also listed among the top 50 places in the world to visit by The New York Times.


Paving a road for collaborative research


The Frontier Center is the culmination of a history of collaborative efforts pursued by IMR and IIT Bombay.


IMR worked closely with the Office of International Affairs’ India Gateway to ensure strong foundations for collaboration were set between the university’s materials research community and Indian companies. In early 2014, IMR held a series of meetings, during a week-long visit to Chennai, Bangalore and Mumbai.


The success of these initial meetings showed almost immediate response. Later that year, a delegation from leading Indian companies in the materials and energy sectors visited Ohio State’s Columbus campus.


Additionally, then-IIT Bombay Director Dr. Devang Khakar and affiliated leadership made consecutive visits to Ohio State to meet university researchers and administration, survey labs and research facilities, and continue discussing the potential for a mutually complementary relationship.


In January 2015, a delegation from Ohio State, including Ringel and President Michael V. Drake, traveled to Mumbai to formalize the burgeoning partnership by signing a memorandum of understanding.


The partnership continued to grow as IMR and IIT Bombay developed a shared seed grant program hosted bilateral workshops for several years to enable faculty and student teams to gel.


Ohio State on April 10 launched the initiative that would soon form the Frontier Center.


Story by Mike Huson, IMR Public Relations and Frontier Center Communications


Follow: @OhioStateIMR | @IITB_OSU_FC