Industrial Automation Research Center (IARC)
University of Moratuwa

Vision
To become a center of excellence in Industrial Automation Engineering research with emphasis on machine intelligence and man-machine co-existence.

Mission
To act as a catalyst in bridging the industry and academia to develop and integrate intelligent automation strategies for Industry.

Scope and Objectives

Scope
IARC is a center dedicated for the furtherance of technology in industrial automation and machine intelligence through research. It is committed to explore new technologies to broaden the horizons of research and academic activities in the field of industrial automation and man-machine intelligence. IARC thrives to popularize automation and machine intelligence and to develop it as a unified science. IARC will continue to be a home for researchers with diverse backgrounds.

Objectives

Structure of IARC

The center will be managed by a Board of Management whose composition is proposed to consist of the following academic members of the University of Moratuwa together with two (2) members from the alumni of the University of Moratuwa.

1. The Vice Chancellor or his nominee (Chair)
2. Dean, Faculty of Engineering or his nominee
3. Dean, Faculty of Information Technology or his nominee
4. Head, Dept of Computer Science & Engineering
5. Head, Dept of Electrical Engineering
6. Head, Dept of Electronic and Telecommunication Engineering
7. Head, Dept of Mechanical Engineering
8. Three (3) nominees from the academic staff of the University of Moratuwa (to be appointed after the first meeting of Board of Management)
9. Two (2) nominees from alumni of University Moratuwa (to be appointed after the first meeting of Board of Management)

The members from alumni are included in recognition of the fact that the IARC would like to develop strong links with other research organisations which are engaged in similar work. Such members may or may not reside in Sri Lanka. In case they are not available in the country, such persons are expected to take part in the IARC activities by means of communication channels available through Internet.

Resources

Finances:
The IARC will seek funding for its research activities from external agencies and from industries who have research grants.

Space:
The IARC will initially operate as a virtual centre where members would participate by communicating over electronic media. The research projects would be carried out by members on their own departments. However it is expected that once the centre has developed in to a fully fledged research entity, some small room would be required as office space.

Personnel: Upon securing research funding, the IARC would enroll post graduate students, under the existing by-laws of Faculty of Engineering or Faculty of IT. Such personnel are supposed to be funded entirely from the research grant or through third party financing.


SWOT analysis of Establishing IARC at University of Moratuwa

Strengths:

1. Diverse staff: University of Moratuwa is fortified with highly diverse academic staff in engineering disciplines. They are diverse in terms of the industrialized countries they have secured their postgraduate qualifications, which makes them unique in the fields of specialization and in terms of cultural exposure.

2. Divers engineering disciplines: University of Moratuwa hosts the largest number of engineering disciplines in Sri Lanka with modern laboratory facilities. At present various industrial testing and consultancy works are carried out in these laboratories.

3. Reputation of the University: University of Moratuwa has virtuous reputation, which is an immense value in collaborations, as the leading technical university in Sri Lanka. Foreign laboratories and researchers have already shown their interest to collaborate with IARC E.g. Laboratory of Computational Motor Control, Department of Biomedical Engineering, Johns Hopkins University, United States. Establishment of IARC within the premises of University of Moratuwa will open new grounds for international collaborations.

4. Close proximity to Colombo: University of Moratuwa is situated in close proximity to Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka that offers the best available infrastructure to carry out research, and to access resources both locally and internationally.

5. Existing positive attitudes: University of Moratuwa encourages industry-oriented activities through academic activities and consultancy.

6. Minimum bureaucracy: University of Moratuwa concentrates its resources mainly on engineering related academic and research work. It has a less bureaucracy, which is vital for efficient and smooth functioning of research work.

Weaknesses

1. Under developed economy in Sri Lanka: Sri Lanka is rated as a developing country. It will be difficult to obtain government funds for research.

2. Brain drain: As there are not enough carrier opportunities in industry, the general trend among Sri Lankan engineering graduates is to go abroad and settle there. Competent human resource can be scarce.

3. Lack of understanding and Cooperation: Lack of understanding and cooperation between the academic and non-academic staff in the university might be a drawback.

4. Restrictions in accessing resources: Resources such as laboratories, libraries etc. are inaccessible after official hours as per existing procedures. This hampers the efficient and smooth functioning of research activities and collaborations.

Opportunities

1. High return on scholarship funds: The major portion of research funds could be effectively utilized chastely for research activities since the cost of living in Sri Lanka is very low compared with many industrialized countries.

2. Links with international institutes and research centers: Collaborative links with international institutes and research centers is a excellent opportunity to enhance the technology transfer and exposure for both students and staff.

3. Opportunities for Higher studies: IARC offers academic and research opportunities for students and staff in the field of automation and machine intelligence.

4. Catering for industrial needs: IARC shall cater academic, R&D and consultancy needs of the industry. It would be a potential alternative against the expensive foreign consultancy.

5. Diverse expatriate research community: There is large and diverse academic expatriate population spread all over the world who are willing to take part in research and academic activities in Sri Lanka. IARC would be a forum for them to organize and cooperate in purview of promoting academic and research work.

6. Surrounding universities in Sri Lanka: University of Moratuwa is situated in between University of Peradeniya and the University of Ruhuna offering engineering based courses. Strategic location of University of Moratuwa provides a good opportunity to collaborate with those universities.

Threats

Public policies: University of Moratuwa is a national University. Some of the government policies applicable to national universities might not be conducive for collaborative activities and would adversely affect the long-term research projects.

 

The strategic plan based on the SWOT analysis

The strategic plan is aimed at exploiting the best of strengths and opportunities while minimizing the effect of weaknesses and threats.

The time-line of planned progress

1. First phase: IARC will promote researches that do not need sophisticated hardware facilities. An initial fund is needed to acquire minimum resources to set up computing facilities. Further, an adequate space is needed to physically establish the IARC.

2. Second phase: IARC will absorb researchers and research associates, and recruit its administrative staff. Researches will be launched at this stage with assigning a minimum publication target to improve the reputation of the center.

3. Third phase: IARC will interact with the industry by conducting workshops and seminars. CPD programs will be offered for the industry and partake co-sponsorships for research forums and activities. In this stage IARC will start developing its own funds and more towards self-sustenance.

4. Fourth phase: Modern laboratory resources such as sophisticated hardware and software in automation, and efficient computing facilities will be setup.

5. Fifth phase: IARC will offer subjects and experiments on automation to the ongoing postgraduate courses conducted by the University. The research component of postgraduate studies will also be facilitated in IARC.

6. Sixth phase: IARC will host international conferences and start its own periodicals.

Links with foreign research centers

Possibility of research linkages have already been explored with the following external institutions:

1. Industrial Automation Laboratory, University of British Columbia, Canada.

2. Laboratory of Computational Motor Control, Department of Biomedical Engineering, Johns Hopkins University, United States.

3. Department of Advanced Systems Control, Saga University, Japan.

Advantages to the University of Moratuwa and Sri Lanka in general

1. Sri Lankan technology: The center will help to develop a rich base of technological know-how in Sri Lanka. This will help to improve the quality of the courses conducted by the University, while being a technological gateway for Sri Lankan industries.

2. Attracting large-scale factories to Sri Lanka: IARC will be one of the positive factors to attract large-scale factories while developing links with existing industries. The industries coming to Sri Lanka will find it convenient to start collaborative research with the IARC.

3. Relative status among Asian countries: The research level of Sri Lanka compared with other Asian countries will be improved.

4. Benefit for staff members: Staff members will be benefited through involvement with academic and research work in IARC.

5. Better career opportunities: Researchers will be benefited with better career prospects. The center will offer researchers a better exposure to the latest technology and its implementations in industry. Moreover, it will work as a launching pad for the students who wish to develop their career as a researcher.

Acknowledgements

The concept of IARC was conceived mainly by the graduates and alumni members of the Departments of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and Engineering. Those members who are pursuing post graduate degrees abroad were instrumental in getting the initial proposal prepared. The Electrical Engineering Society (EESoc) helped with coordination of these efforts and getting the final version of the documents prepared.

05-03-2002