Insights from IIT Madras' Energy Innovators - Satya Chakravarthy and Satyanarayanan Seshadri - India Renewable Energy Consulting – Solar, Biomass, Wind, Cleantech
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IIT Madras is widely regarded as one of India’s premier institutes fostering cutting-edge research and innovation. At the stakeholder session, we had the opportunity to interact with two remarkable faculty members deeply involved in the energy domain – Satya Chakravarthy and Satyanarayanan Seshadri. Despite sharing the same first name, their journeys and areas of focus are distinctly unique.

Satya Chakravarthy: Pioneering Combustion Research and Entrepreneurship

Satya Chakravarthy kickstarted his career as a typical academician, relentlessly publishing papers and attending conferences. However, a pivotal moment came in 2007 when IIT Madras secured substantial funding to establish the National Centre for Combustion Research and Development (NCCRD). 

While theoretical research was the norm, NCCRD’s mission was to tackle industry-relevant challenges at scale. “In our industry, unless you do things at scale, nobody will believe you,” remarked Satya Chakravarthy. This paradigm shift paved the way for NCCRD to undertake over 30-40 million dollars worth of industry projects, filing patents, and most importantly, enabling startups to commercialize their innovations.

Satya Seshadri: Catalyzing Translational Energy Research

Unlike the traditional academic path, Satya’s Seshadri journey at IIT Madras was shaped by his industry experience at GE and Forbes Marshall. Disillusioned by the short-term focus of industry R&D, he seized the opportunity to establish the Energy Lab at IIT Madras, entirely dedicated to translational research.

Leveraging the institute’s autonomy and support, Satya Seshadri built a team focused on developing market-ready solutions. The Energy Lab’s innovations span heat pumps for efficient electrification, micro steam turbines for waste heat recovery, and an Industrial Energy Assessment Cell to implement energy-efficient technologies across industries.

Engaging with the IIT Madras Ecosystem

Both Satya Chakravarthy & Satya Seshadri emphasized the unique autonomy at IIT Madras, which empowers faculty to pursue translational research and entrepreneurship beyond just publications. They encouraged startups and investors to engage with the institute’s ecosystem formally through incubation programs or informally by reaching out about specific problem statements they are working on.

Identifying critical opportunities that require fully functional, market-ready pilots with patient capital funding was highlighted as a key success factor for early-stage startups. Additionally, they advocated for conventional industries to establish venture arms, enabling them to invest in relevant IIT startups without deterring other VCs from participating.

The session provided valuable insights into the remarkable work being done at IIT Madras in the energy domain, fostering an ecosystem that nurtures innovation and entrepreneurship. As India transitions towards a sustainable future, the contributions of visionary researchers and their industry-driven mindset will be instrumental in driving impactful solutions. 

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About Narasimhan Santhanam (Narsi)

Narsi, a Director at EAI, Co-founded one of India's first climate tech consulting firm in 2008.

Since then, he has assisted over 250 Indian and International firms, across many climate tech domain Solar, Bio-energy, Green hydrogen, E-Mobility, Green Chemicals.

Narsi works closely with senior and top management corporates and helps then devise strategy and go-to-market plans to benefit from the fast growing Indian Climate tech market.

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