K. BHASKARAN looks back to the time when Prof. P.V. Indiresan motivated him to patent his inventions.

The academic-industry-innovation eco-system has lost a great mentor in Prof. P. V. Indiresan, who passed away recently. One of the earliest events for encouraging innovative projects and exhibiting the Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IITM) labs and facilities for visitors was a two-day event, in 1982, the first ever The IIT Open House. It was conceptualised by Prof. Indiresan, the then director.

The director himself had to his credit national awards for his patented inventions, and was known for trying out several innovative projects, in the IIT eco-system. (He invented the automatic signalling system for Indian Railways , which received a national award.) The open house brought in a number of visitors from Chennai into the IIT-M during those two days. This helped in creating awareness about IIT as an institution.

Prof Indiresan always had many progressive ideas on innovations in science and engineering. One of the earliest student patents at the IIT-M, as far as I am aware of, was an invention designed by a student and prototyped in an IIT lab — the design of an ‘improved murukku making machine’. This happened to be my invention in my fourth year of B Tech Chemical Engineering. I patented it after a formal official permission from the IIT-M. This hand-held device was demonstrated during the Open House at the Mechanical Operations Laboratory in the Department of Chemical Engineering and it was the only student patentable invention at the event.

I can vividly recall the appreciation of Prof. Indiresan, on seeing the demo of the machine, and the director’s personal advice and follow-up later. It was on Prof. Indiresan’s advice that I applied for the patent, after getting due permission from the IC&SR (Industrial Consultancy and Sponsored Research). He was a forerunner for student innovation and entrepreneurship support, incubation and mentoring.

Though my efforts at early commercial exploitation of the patent did not take off, after several meetings and discussions with companies, I was successful. Prof. Indiresan was a direct catalyst in this endeavour.