TREND Setter Program 2024

The Energy Consortium is a recognized Institute of Eminence Center at IIT Madras. It is an umbrella initiative that spans the whole spectrum of research in energy generation, storage, conversion, and distribution. We are an industry-academia-government collaborative effort established with the aim of accelerating the development of technologies that shall enable the energy transition towards a low-carbon future. More details regarding our initiatives and activities are available at https://energyconsortium.org/

As per the charter of the consortium, a fair portion of the industry membership funding is intended for exploratory and collaborative research that enables the Energy Consortium to become one of the key technology hubs. The TREND setter[1] program aims to identify a few areas aligned with the long-range research initiatives of the industry and build capability within the consortium.

The Energy Consortium invites a team of faculty members to submit a crisp proposal aimed towards Exploratory R&D and Fundamental research that enables breakthrough innovation*[2]. It is anticipated the work done through this grant will enable the faculty teams to develop follow-on larger proposals for external funding. Industry and institutional partners can be identified and enabled by the consortium.

[1] Technology Research ENgineering and Development (TREND) setter program
[2] If multiple projects are received under the same topic that are close in intended outcomes, the PIs could consider merging the project with a larger outcome and budget

Areas of interest include the following:
  1. Improving energy utilization – grid optimization, energy storage, digital grids​
    • Use the concept of “digital grids” to support and use the data for microgrids using Digital Twin.
    • Study real time changes to analyze impact of savings on time and money
    • With wider EV adoption, the next significant natural steps for the industry would be to enable “Vehicle to Grid” (V2G). This is important as to bring in Grid Stability, generate newer revenue opportunities for consumers and enable wider participation in flattening the classic “Duck Curve”. In this context newer models and algorithms can be developed to support and enable V2G.
  2. Enhancing energy efficiency – industrial electrification, cooling & heating​
    • especially high T heating, >300 deg C, and if possible >650 deg C
  3. Materials for energy transition​
    • Life cycle analysis
    • Energy efficient carbon dioxide conversions to various materials
    • low carbon intensity hydrocarbons (e.g. conversion of CO2) for decarbonizing transport and industry
    • Establish bio-sourced raw materials to enable circularity in energy usage
  4. AI/ML for energy transition
    • Develop GenAI model that connects lab results with research papers. The model should be able to perform analytical reasoning and solve problems.
    • With the advent of Distributed Energy Resources such as rooftop solar, EV chargers, batteries and other ‘Behind-The-Meter’ resources, the traditional methods of Grid Modeling might not be sufficient or effective. In this context, can we look at applicability of “AI Driven Grid Modeling
  5. Synthetic biology or bio-mining for energy solutions
    • wild-type- and/or engineered-microbes for CO2 assimilation (fermentation) & such
    • leveraging the biotech talent in India that may be primarily focused on healthcare today
  6. Niche applications supporting sustainable living
    • waste-to-X, water management, non-edible and edible crop yield, environmental (soil) remediation for coal/mining industry belts, carbon- and nitrogen- fixation in soil for semi-arid lands
  7. India specific economic modeling for energy transition
    • green financing and viable gap funding for green projects, based on impact assessment of various green policies and incentives (focus on energy transition related technologies)
    • Economically viable closed loop operation of carbon capture systems in thermal power plants
    • develop secure and transparent trading mechanisms using newage technologies such as Block Chain.

The above are not limited and can be an area that can utilise the existing facilities and infrastructure available at the institute.

Process and timelines:
Themes of interest finalization with founding members 29th March 2024
Expression of Interest (Faculty) 19th April 2024
Solicitation of full proposals 22nd April 2024
Full Proposal Submission 10th May 2024
Reviews by Industry completed 5th June 2024
Final down-selection 12th June 2024
Announcement of Funded Programs 27th June 2024
Project Funding Begins 15th July 2024
Guidelines for applicants:
  • High Risk High Reward Track (Track 1):
    • Collective submission is encouraged, and grant awarded can be more than Rs 50 lakh and up to Rs 1 crore
    • 1 or 2 projects will be selected under this Track from the proposals received
    • Principal Investigators need to form a cross-disciplinary team (involving multiple departments or institutions/universities) and propose deliverables that bring meaningful contributions from all to the outcome of the project
    • Three or more founding members to endorse the proposed outcomes and the intended benefits, with optional co-funding. PIs are encouraged to work with Industry Advisory Board members in developing strong proposals
    • Project duration to be limited to a minimum of 12 and maximum of 18 months
    • Starting technology readiness level (TRL) should be at least at 3 and end of project TRL should have advanced to 4 and preferably 5
  • Early Career Track (Track 2):
    • Open to all early career faculty members (AP and ASP, up to 10 Years at the institute/university)
    • 5-8 projects will be awarded, each funded at 10 Lakhs, under this track.
    • Award can be considered as ‘seed grant’ to work on new research ideas within the proposed areas of interest
    • Objective is for the PIs to develop deeper collaboration with founding members of the consortium
    • Emphasis is on providing funding for human resources and consumables, while leveraging existing facilities and projects within the institute/university
    • Expected TRL after project completion is 3

Equipment spends to be minimal and allowed only for Track 1. Operational expenses and any add-on for enhancements can be considered on a case-to-case basis

Assessment panel:
  • IITM Panel: Faculty-in-charge for Energy Consortium and experts identified
  • Industry Advisory Board members (total of ten)

Please note: The individual comments from representatives from founding members will be considered for final evaluation. Decisions from the IITM Panel are final.

Assessment criteria:
  • All proposals will be assessed by the industry founding members individually via their appointed Industry Advisory Board members on four criteria as below
    • Alignment: Alignment of the proposed research work with your company’s long-range research and technology goals.
    • Impact: the proposed project proposal’s potential to generate significant impact in moving the needle while accomplishing global ‘net-zero’ goals
    • Approach: Is the proposed methodology/scientific approach appropriate and does it have the potential to become a gamechanger
    • Budget: Are the requested budgets and the timelines proposed realistic
  • All proposals will be assessed by the Energy Consortium’s appointee(s) from IIT Madras on the same four criteria.
  • All assessments will be collectively finalized in consultation with the Industry Advisory Board to select the strongest proposals from amongst all those received.
Eligible applicants would be those who
  • are permanent residents of India
  • belong to NIRF ranked institutions/universities
  • possess proven track record and expertise in the field of their application to the program
  • are able to meet all the necessary guidelines as demanded by the program.
  • are able to provide all information in their proposal that satisfies all the assessment criteria of the program.
  • are able to respond within the stipulated timeframes of the program.
All decisions by the Energy Consortium Industry Advisory Board will be deemed final.
Guidance on what would be successful proposals

Successful proposals would be those that possess high potential in terms of generating long term solutions to energy transition problems, and as adjudged in the near term based on possibility of developing intellectual property as well as attracting additional funding. The funding can ideally from within the industry founding members of the Energy Consortium or by extension from an industry partner or any relevant stakeholder that is willing to fund work further for maturing the TRLs (and CRLs). Energy Consortium is a willing partner in this endeavour and runs other flagship programs, other than TREND Setter to enable this.

Announcement of award:
  • Grant awardee’s will be informed around mid-June by intimation to lead PI of the final decision from the assessment panel including review committee comments.
  • Formal public announcement of the TRENDsetter grants will be at the Energy Consortium’s Industry Day planned on 27 Jun and to be held at the Ground floor, IC&SR Building, IIT Madras campus.
Contact Information
For submitting your Expression of Interest or proposals, as well as in case of any questions please write to Deepa Maria Alexander