Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Infosys co-founder Kris Gopalakrishnan gives away Rs 300 million to set up three brain research chairs at IISc

Infosys co-founder 'Kris' Gopalakrishnan and his wife Sudha have set up three research chairs at the city-based Indian Institute of Science (IISc), continuing their push for brain research in the country's top institutions.

The first of the three chairs — K Vaidyanathan Distinguished Chair named after Sudha's father — was launched on Monday. Each chair will be set up with a corpus of Rs. 100 million funded by Pratiksha Trust, a charitable organisation Kris founded with his wife.

The Pratiksha Trust has endowed three similar chairs at IIT-Madras, where Kris studied. The 60-year old billionaire hopes the chairs can bring distinguished researchers in the areas of computational neuroscience, machine learning, data science and neuromorphic engineering to the IISc to enable collaborative research.

"I hope the launching of these distinguished chair positions will help push the frontiers in these areas. It would be excellent if the collaborations lead to highly creative, new computing architectures and algorithms inspired by the functioning of the brain. These three chairs along with three more at IIT Madras will create critical mass in the area of neuromorphic computing and machine learning in India," Kris said.

The K Vaidyanathan Chair at the IISc will be occupied by Shihab Shamma, a professor at the Institute of Systems Research of the University of Maryland. An expert in neuromorphic computing, neural signal processing and representation of speech signals in the brain, Shamma holds a PhD from Stanford University.

"I am sure these distinguished chair positions will add a new dimension to research collaboration in key strategic areas between IISc researchers and star contributors to these areas anywhere in the world," IISc Director Anurag Kumar said. At IIT-Madras, two of the three chairs — Prof Mahabala Chair and N R Narayana Murthy Chair — on computational brain research have been launched.

Both chairs are occupied by US-based scientists of Indian origin. In early 2014, the Infosys cofounder announced a Rs. 2.25-billion grant over a period of 10 years to develop a Centre for Brain Research (CBR) at the IISc. This philanthropic act is widely-considered one of the biggest contributions to pure science in the country, and one of the single largest donations by an individual to the IISc.

A few months later, Gopalakrishnan doled out Rs. 110 million to foster a partnership between the CBR and Carnegie Mellon University.

Source: The Economic Times, June 23, 2015

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