Recent years there’s a welcome focus on result-oriented applied research. The state is attracting investments in setting up sophisticated research institutions.
The Sugarcane Research Institute and the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU) have been making rich contribution to agriculture research. These have helped significant growth in productivity. The Rice Research institute Aduthurai generated a number of high yielding rice varieties. The Banana Research Station in Tiruchi focused on tissue culture and this helped in massive expansion of banana cultivation. The result: Tamil Nadu has emerged the largest producer of banana.
The Central Leather Research Institute (CLRI), Central Electro-Chemical Research Institute, Structural Engineering Research Centre and other units of CSIR have earned reputation for their rich contribution to application-oriented industrial research. CLRI has helped Tamil Nadu evolve as the leader in the production and export of leather and leather goods.
Industrial and academic research
Anna University, through the College of Engineering, Guindy and the Madras Institute of Technology pioneered higher technical education in the state. The advent of IIT-Madras with German collaboration six decades ago, further enhanced the reputation of the state as provider of quality higher technical education. IIT-Madras has been turning out top-notch under-graduates, post-graduates and doctorates in large numbers in a variety of engineering disciplines. The IIT Research Park is a great effort in bringing together students, faculty and scientists as well as scientists and engineers in private enterprises to focus in Research and Development. A number of corporates have set up sophisticated R&D centres in Chennai. One also notices large corporates stepping up their R&D spend.
Research in emerging areas
The sixteen decades old Madras University and later entrants like Madurai Kamaraj University, SRM and Sri Ramachandra Medical University have been researching into new and emerging areas. A C Muthiah set up the SPIC Science Foundation and also liberally donated for biotech research. SSF later catalysed the growth of the Chennai Mathematical Institute(CMI). With the passion and strong financial support of Shriram Group’s R Thyagarajan and Cognizant’s Lakshminarayanan, CMI is evolving into a global research centre in mathematics.
Down south at Tiruchi, BHEL has been spending handsome amounts on research on improving thermal efficiency and welding. The fluidized led boiler is one good example of research in combustion engineering. The Welding Research Institute is another major offshoot of BHEL’s handsome commitment to R&D.
Fast breeder technology
Tamil Nadu also has credentials for the pioneering work done in the country in nuclear power. The Madras Atomic Power Station, set up in the 1960s, had been among the earliest nuclear power stations in the country. Extensive research has been going on at Kalpakkam. The fast breeder technology promises to re-use spent uranium as also thorium available within the country as fuel. A breakthrough in this can help quantum growth of nuclear power generation.
The Kudankulam Atomic Power Station built with Russian assistance is slated to become the largest nuclear power complex in the country. The first 1000 MW unit has been generating power for over a year now. The second 1000 MW unit is expected to generate soon. Recently an agreement has been signed for the supply of third unit of similar capacity.
With the decision to set up a dedicated industrial park for aerospace components there will be further thrust in sophisticated engineering products. Tamil Nadu is poised to soar higher.