ECE75 Inauguration


Future of ECE: Excellence in Leadership



The Electrical Communication Engineering Department is poised to celebrate 75 years of its establishment in 2022. The year-long celebrations started with a panel discussion inaugurated by Prof G Rangarajan, Director, IISc on Future of ECE: Excellence in Leadership held online on June 29, 2021. The Director mentioned the need for thinking big, and engaging in more intra-departmental and cross institutional projects for a larger impact of research.

The panel included Prof. Y. Narahari, (Divisional Dean, IISc, ECE Alumnus 1982), Prof. Anurag Kumar (Honorary Professor, ECE, Former Director, IISc), Dr. Y. V. S. Lakshmi (Exec. Director, CDAC, ECE Alumna, 1989), Dr. Aloknath De (CTO, Samsung Research, Bangalore, ECE Alumnus 1996), Prof. Himanshu Tyagi (ECE Faculty), Ms Anjana Mahesh (ECE Student) and was moderated by Prof. K.V.S. Hari (ECE Faculty). Prof. Hari introduced the main theme of the panel discussion and posed a question to the panel if the future activities of ECE Dept would be constrained by the past. Prof. Vinoy, Chair, ECE was invited to provide an overview of the ECE department’s rich history by taking the audience through the journey that saw inception of various academic programs and research initiatives in ECE that led to the formation of CEDT which became DESE, CeNSE, and RBCCPS. Prof. Vinoy stated that several faculty members are Fellows of IEEE, Indian Academies, members of editorial boards of IEEE and other reputed Journals. Chair also highlighted the formation of an Industrial Advisory Board in the department to provide inputs for planning the future of ECE.

In their opening remarks, the panel members highlighted that ECE should work on creating diversity by hiring the right candidates; enhancing collaborations with government agencies; more proactive Industry-University interactions and the role ECE can play in terms of expansion in research directions.

Prof. Himanshu Tyagi, ECE Dept, leading the activity of compiling thoughts to build the strategy document illustrated how the focus of ECE department changed with the focus of the country- from excellence in teaching during the first 25 years to excellence in research during the last 25 years. The assertion was that it is time to set the tone for the future by taking leadership roles and engaging more towards system building with a societal impact.

The moderator asked Dr. Aloknath De to describe the main differences between academia and industry on how industry views a “breakthrough”. It was stated that while the academic community focuses more on methods and technologies that lead to patenting and publishing, the industries mainly deal with products and business, that are more solution driven.

Professors Narahari and Anurag Kumar advocated the need for ECE faculty to engage in collaborative research problems with broader scope and larger impact. Prof Anurag Kumar mentioned that although the so-called publication throughput can be considered as laudable, they are becoming “dated” in the modern-day context. Dr. Lakshmi also highlighted the role of a dedicated project management team in transfer of technology, some initiative that the department can possibly undertake. Dr. Lakshmi also reminded about the country specific IPR policies, and the need for publicity of the IPRs filed. She also stressed on the need to engage with the business management department to generate more opportunities and cultivate a product-based thought process.

Dr. Aloknath De mentioned about the heritage of IISc, where there has always been a strong emphasis on the fundamentals, and research-led teaching, an aspect that has brought international repute to the Institute. He suggested that ECE must try to anchor on its rich heritage of electromagnetics research and take it towards the 6G for mm-wave and THz solutions. Synergy and cooperation with the industry may be emulated from European academic institutions. Compared to earlier years where big technological disruptions were coming from big industries, three-member startup teams seem to surprise everyone!! Dr. Aloknath pitched for an interdisciplinary approach in structuring academic courses, and recommended more computer science and programming content in communications courses.

Based on a question posed by Prof. Rama Chellappa, Chair, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering University of Maryland, College Park, on ECE focusing on the theoretical aspects of AI and ML subjects, Prof. Narahari mentioned that ECE is indeed in the best position to do this, and pointed out about the M.Tech. in AI program, the inter-departmental approach and various layers of this AI/ML technology and remarked that ECE must scale up in terms of quantity and quality in the number of M.Tech. and Ph.D students in the Department.

Prof. Hari asked each member of the panel to guess what would be a breakthrough technology from an ECE perspective in the next five to ten years. The responses were: Quantum technology (in next 10 years), Molecular communication, Robotics and Human-machine interactions, inter-operability of systems, technologies to enable and empower the marginalized populations, specifically in the area of agriculture.

During the year, the Dept of ECE will continue to engage with its alumni, to receive constructive suggestions and feedback that would help to shape up the department’s future. ECE75 celebrations will continue in the year ahead with webinars, workshops, panel sessions and culminate with a conference in the summer of 2022.

Please visit our youtube channel for a recording of this event.

We invite your suggestions on various activities related to ECE75 celebration using the form.