The academic and research accolades achieved by the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, (IIT-Delhi) makes it look like everything is hunky-dory at India's premier engineering institute. But, one of its key concerns at the institute is a sustainable revenue generation model, says IIT Delhi Director V Ramgopal Rao. "Internal revenue generation has become a very critical need for our institution right now," he says.
IIT-Delhi has a total loan of Rs 580 crore under the Higher Education Finance Agency (HEFA) Scheme, of which it needs to pay Rs 58 crore every year. As per the policy, these funds can't be utilised from the money coming from the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) but its own internal revenue sources. "In addition to the loan repayment, the grants from the MHRD are never sufficient. We have to add on at least Rs 100 crore of our internal revenue to run the campuses and that is an issue," says Rao.
IIT-Delhi needs a minimum of Rs 700 crore every year to run its campus, maintain utilities, pay compensation, amongst others, he says. To meet the shortfall, it is now exploring new models to generate revenue. Among all, one is to launch an online certificate programme for the working professionals in the new age areas of artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, digital marketing, strategic innovation.
The university authorities are also working with the MHRD to finalise a mechanism to ensure the overhead expenses for research projects get funded. The faculty members come up with research ideas, submit their proposal and receive funds from the Department for Science and Technology (DST), the main funding agency for IITs. But, the problem is once the project is over, there is no monetisation of those research facilities and the institute has to pay for its upkeep and maintenance.
The DST pays 5 per cent as an overhead cost, which is not sufficient, says Rao. For instance, the sponsored research projects worth Rs 1,172 crore are currently undergoing at IIT-Delhi but its overhead funding is just 4.67 per cent when the actual overhead cost to the institute is 10 per cent. "We are in discussions with the MHRD to convince funding agencies to give overheads or they pay the balance that the institute doesn't receive," says Rao.
In the US, it's a common practice for institutions to charge 50 to 60 per cent as the overhead cost for any research project. In India, that model doesn't exist. "DST gives overheads, but that money is so small that it doesn't help us to build any kind of a corpus," he adds. IIT-Delhi launched its global alumni endowment fund in October 2019 with an initial commitment of Rs 250 crore by over 10 founder alumni.
It also started looking at generating revenue by intellectual property licencing. In 2019, IIT-Delhi filed 150 patents. While patents in themselves don't generate revenue but they open up the possibility of their commercialisation. When the faculty member starts the company, institute licences the patents to that company and holds equity in the firm. IIT-Delhi does that through its Section 8 firm, Foundation for Innovation and Technology Transfer (FITT), and holds equity at least in 50 companies right now.