Currently, the largest R&D centre at the institute is with the Damodar Valley Corporation (DVC), towards setting-up an energy park over a five-year period beginning 2007. The estimated cost of this project is close to Rs 100 crore.
Union Railway minister Mamata Banerjee recently said the Railways will sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with IIT-Kharagpur on February 13 to rope in students of the institute for research work involving her ministry. Officials at IIT-Kharagpur, however, point out that the establishment of a R&D centre would be central to the arrangement.
"The Indian Railways will set up an R&D centre at the IIT Kharagpur campus. The MoU to this effect is also for a long-term framework for advanced training for railway staffs," an official said on condition of anonymity.
When contacted, P P Chakraborty, dean - sponsored research and industrial consultancy, IIT-Kharagpur, confirmed the development but refused to share further details.
IIT-K is expected to carry out research on behalf of the Indian Railways on areas like equipment, manufacturing and technology upgradation for building a modern rail eco-system.
The Railways is also looking at sponsored research and staff training in collaboration with IIT-Kharagpur.
Last year, Banerjee had said that the Railways intended on forging a stronger relationship with instituions such as IIT-Kharagpur and IIT-Kanpur. Currently, almost all Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) handle sponsored research projects for Indian Railways.
But IIT-Kharagpur would be the first to partner for a dedicated R&D centre.
During the 2008-09, IIT Kharagpur received 167 research projects from the government, private and international funding agencies for a total value of Rs 158 crore and 142 consultancy projects worth Rs 13 crore, aggregating to a total of 309 projects for Rs 171 crore.
This is a record for the institute. Over 60 per cent of the funds have come from the industries in India and abroad.