Editor’s Note: Since the article’s original date of publication, Virginia Tech’s partnership with MARG Swarnabhoomi has dissolved, ending plans to inhabit the 6,000-square-foot lab in the Amrita Research Park. Virginia Tech’s major enterprise has since moved to Maduravoyal, Chennai, about two hours away and close to Mahindra World City. In Chennai – and at a new site at the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center in Blacksburg – Virginia Tech researchers and scientists are collaborating with Mahindra engineers to create next-generation “smart” farm equipment. 

The university’s effort to extend its global campus was detailed during the research committee meeting of the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors this week.

Taking the spotlight was the VT, India Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science Innovation Center at MARG Swarnabhoomi, a 1,000-acre city on the southeast coast of India.

“We’re the first American university to have an engineering research center on the Indian subcontinent,” said Guru Ghosh, vice president for outreach and international affairs at Virginia Tech.  “In the 21st century, research has no borders.”

University and Commonwealth of Virginia leaders are committed to establishing Virginia Tech as a global leader of innovation and education. Establishing a headquarters at MARG Swarnabhoomi — a hub for research, education, industry, and residential living in India — is a natural step forward.

“Our faculty and graduates work with counterparts in India, China, and beyond to move innovation and industry forward,” said Roop Mahajan, director of the Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science. “We have a duty to prepare our graduates for a global marketplace, and we begin by establishing research relationships.”

Mahajan was at the institute’s facility at the Virginia Tech Research Center – Arlington during Ghosh’s presentation to the Board of Visitors.

In May, former Virginia Tech President Charles Steger, with Ghosh, Mahajan, industry leaders and local government officials, formally opened the ICTAS Innovation Center in India.

Since then, new personnel and state-of-the-art equipment moved into over 6,000 square feet of space, with expectations that the facility will expand to about 45,000 square feet.

Initial efforts will focus on Virginia Tech research strengths, including sustainable energy, nanotechnology, and cognitive radio communications.

Energy-harvesting, for example, dovetails with Virginia Tech’s existing global effort under the umbrella of a National Science Foundation Center for Energy Harvesting Materials and Systems.

The goal is to create seamless, interdisciplinary programs that span continents, but retain Virginia Tech’s hallmark standards.

With that in mind, new recruits to the Innovation Center at MARG Swarnabhoomi have ties to Virginia Tech, including Ashok Kumar, an engineer who had been a postdoctoral associate with Shashank Priya, the director of Center for Energy Harvesting Materials and Systems.

Others include Shashaank Gupta, who received a doctoral degree in materials science and engineering at Virginia Tech, and Alok Mullick, an alumnus associated with the development of green energy projects in Auroville — another experimental township in India.

On the horizon, Ghosh said researchers will be experimenting with the reel-to-reel manufacture of flexible, dye-sensitized solar cells — a promising wearable technology for renewable energy, and the development of cost-effective power sources for wireless applications.

Also ahead, VT, India will begin recruiting doctoral students, developing coursework, and creating continuing education opportunities.

Dedicated to its motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), Virginia Tech takes a hands-on, engaging approach to education, preparing scholars to be leaders in their fields and communities. As the commonwealth’s most comprehensive university and its leading research institution, Virginia Tech offers 240 undergraduate and graduate degree programs to more than 31,000 students and manages a research portfolio of $513 million. The university fulfills its land-grant mission of transforming knowledge to practice through technological leadership and by fueling economic growth and job creation locally, regionally, and across Virginia.


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