INAE Vision 2020-2025
We are living in exciting times. We will have to contend with the profound transformation of our society and our industry, because of two revolutions in the making – namely, the digital revolution and the impending transition to fossil fuel free energy globally.
The digital revolution is rapidly transforming the very nature of industrial enterprise today. Many disruptive transformations are maturing rapidly because of the advent of cloud computing and internet of things (IoT) and due to major advances and breakthroughs being made on several fronts such as artificial intelligence (AI) including machine learning (ML) and big data analytics, robotics, autonomy, drones, 3D printing, advance sensors and 5G technologies.
Another revolution in the making is the exciting possibility of fossil fuel-free generation of electricity in the coming decade. The availability of electricity based on renewable sources such as sun, wind and biomass, will cause a major disruption as well as an opportunity for creating a cleaner world, since use of fossil fuels (coal, oil or natural gas) currently, creates deleterious environmental consequences which need urgent attention.
While both these revolutions will cause major disruptions in how we live and work, the transition to the new world in the making is contingent upon the availability of new sources of critical raw materials.
Both digital hardware and generation of electricity from renewables (including the technological challenges associated with energy storage) require a host of new metals and materials for which the new value chains (also the appropriate global supply chains) will have to be established. Innovative processes for extraction of minerals and metals as well as recycling, which are more energy efficient and environment-friendly will have to be developed to produce these critical elements.
To facilitate this global transition, we need to create human resources with high level of domain expertise in different facets of engineering as well as the much needed engineering skill sets needed to deal with the problems of scalability, uncertainty, reliability, complexity, system engineering, ability to deal with variability and yet manufacture products and create solutions of uniform and reproducible quality, capability to design, develop and optimize engineering systems for a given set of inputs and for a desirable set of assured outputs of consistent quality.
Our engineering education has to be appropriately re-engineered so as to equip our future leaders with not only the domain expertise but also the skillsets to innovate continuously and consistently in the face of constant change and dynamic transformations. The human ingenuity and the preparing the well-trained minds, will be critical ingredients in responding to the challenges ahead.
It in this context, INAE has come up with the following areas for our focused attention in the next five years. We believe that these efforts will assist us in facilitating the smooth transition to the new world in the making.
1. Accelerated Discovery, Development and Deployment of Novel Materials, particularly for strategic sectors like Defense, Atomic Energy and Space
We have an urgent need of materials (metals, alloys as well as composites) development for the following sectors – auto sector (both electric vehicles as well as IC engines based vehicles), aerospace, ultra-supercritical power plants, nuclear power plants, renewable energy sector (novel PV materials, rare earth magnets, battery materials for both large scale energy storage as well as for electric vehicles and other electronic appliances, thermoelectric materials for converting low temperature heat into electricity), novel sensors for healthcare industry, materials for the defense applications and space applications, to name a few.
These materials will have to be engineered for India-specific applications. That means one must consider during the process of design & development itself, the kind of natural resources we have and the kind of supply chains we will be able to establish to source the starting raw materials, considering the complex geo-political scenario and vulnerabilities associated with dependence on raw materials from abroad.
The other important consideration is the speed of development. In order to remain globally competitive in this domain, we must leverage the state of the art digital platforms (equipped with advance modeling, simulation, data analytics and knowledge engineering tools) for accelerating the development cycle from conception to deployment in actual applications as well as the entire life cycle (cradle to cradle or cradle to grave in some cases), that is, even for the structural health monitoring of the structures where these materials will be deployed.
Another important consideration is the environmental impact of these materials, that is, we must undertake a life cycle analysis, both with respect to the environmental footprint as well as the energy efficiency (actual consumption as compared to the thermodynamic energy needed to accomplish the particular task), for every developmental effort.
It is now well established that integrated computational materials engineering (ICME) approach can help accelerate the materials development cycle.
INAE will work towards coming up with a national strategy to establish and institutionalize the ICME based approach for all material development efforts. The digital platform, thus created, must be equipped with knowledge engineering capabilities so that it can not only act as a knowledge repository of all past efforts made thus far but also continues to update the knowledge going forward.
2. Strategies for Energy Transition to Fossil Fuels free Renewable Energy Sources
INAE will focus on the following important sectors which will be disrupted in the immediate future and/or the areas of concern which we require a strategy for, urgently to facilitate the transition
- Large scale energy storage solutions – Solutions other than Lithium Ion Batteries which do not seem to be appropriate for a country like India for a variety of reasons including the fact that we do not have the basic raw materials – Liquid Metal Flow batteries (for example, Vanadium Flow Batteries) is another attractive option which must be explored.
- Electricity Grid Infrastructure – current grid will not be able to cater to intermittent and distributed electricity inputs; the concept of smart grids which is adequately robust to cater to both supply side challenges (renewable energy sources) as well as demand management (dynamic pricing to take care of its peak loads).
- Transportation (electric mobility, both for people as well as for goods).
- Mining, Mineral Processing and Extractive Metallurgy Industry (which currently depends totally on fossil fuels not only as a source of heat but also as a reductant to convert metal oxides to metals).
- Recycling of waste by-products including municipal waste, tailings and smelter slags including steel slag, red mud and spent pot lining, electronic waste and hospital waste.
- Supply chains for raw materials needed for the transition – sourcing strategies from other geographies, urban mining, deep sea mining and space mining.
- Finding alternative technology options for the manufacture of steel and cement to reduce the environmental foot-print – currently these two materials which will continue to remain the backbone of the Indian economy for the foreseeable future and the consumption is likely to increase by an order of magnitude in the coming decade.
- Waste-water treatment and recycling.
- Water purification technologies including desalination.
3. Excellence in Engineering Education
Several groups including other academies globally, are working on the new curricula for engineering education so that our young emerging leaders are adequately equipped with necessary engineering skill sets to face the challenges in the coming decades.
Various deliberations within India as well as abroad have emphasised the need of providing hands-on design experience, problem solving skills and exposure to the systems engineering concepts, tools and technologies to the engineering students. The curricula also need to be updated with the advancements in digital technologies.
All engineers must be familiar with the sustainability paradigm and must be able to do life cycle analysis for every engineering product. They must be equipped with knowledge and the experience with various digital platforms and modelling tools such as computational materials engineering (all the way from atomistic scale to macroscopic scale), computational fluid dynamics, structural analysis tools, life cycle analysis modelling tools, engineering scale up, robust design methodologies to take care of uncertainty and complexity, machine learning and data analytics tools and algorithms, multi-objective and multi-variate optimization tools and technologies.
It is important that the professional ethics is part of the engineering course curricula. A multi-disciplinary systems perspective to all engineers will certainly broaden their horizons – much needed to face the emerging world scenario. Good communication skills and ability to work in teams, are also prerequisites for engineers to succeed in the real life.
All engineers must possess basic IT skillsets and it is a given since digital technologies are transforming every aspect of our lives.
A multidisciplinary INAE Expert Group will critically examine the current status of engineering education, identify gap areas and strive to fill those gaps with appropriate action plans.
4. World Class Infrastructure
INAE will come up with an action plan in consultation with all stake- holders to upgrade our national infrastructure within next few years. This will include
- Requirements, technology options and the investments needed to create a few smart cities in the country – including mobility, healthcare facilities, e-governance, access to affordable housing, utilities (electricity and water), waste collection, processing and recycle, education, communication, maintenance of infrastructural facilities, disaster management infrastructure including extreme events (for example, excessive rain and floods) etc.
- Requirements, technology options and the investments needed to create a rural infrastructure so that they can enjoy access to certain basic amenities where they are located – digital connectivity for example can provide them with access to healthcare, online education, information dissemination, financial inclusion, logistics warehousing and agriculture and farm productivity with engineering focus etc.
5. Cyber-physical Systems
Globally innovations are taking place at the interface of digital technologies and domain expertise. For example, manufacturing is being transformed as a consequence of the following – robotics and automation, Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing, 3D printing, AI, machine learning and data analytics (Digital Twins), structural health monitoring of built structures and engineered products, drones, autonomy, data analytics based predictive asset maintenance systems, blockchain technology to facilitate complete traceability of the products, digital platforms for integrated design, development, deployment and monitoring of materials and products and knowledge engineering platforms for capturing, retaining and context sensitive retrieval of knowledge to solve challenging problems.
Similarly leveraging the advanced digital technologies, the infrastructure available in a given locality or a city can be upgraded for easy accessibility – for example, healthcare facilities, e-governance, utilities (electricity and water)
It is now possible to make most of healthcare facilities available to the citizens at their place of residence (particularly important for senior citizens living alone) through the intervention of digital connectivity, sensors and IoT solutions. Provision of healthcare and affordable Medicare facilities through technological interventions is a key focus area.
INAE will select certain areas for focussed attention during the next five years and develop strategies to create infrastructure to facilitate digital transformation for achieving a set of desirable objectives for example, higher productivity, higher efficiency, better quality of life and better quality of products, reduced cost of services, higher safety of workers, etc.