A hexapod robot named “Odie” delivered the first brick of a new global research facility Thursday, solidifying a partnership between Carnegie Mellon University and India-based information technology giant Tata Consultancy Services.
The facility, aptly named “TCS Hall,” is slated to open in 2018 and will feature four floors and 50,000 square feet of space to promote next-generation leaps in science, technology, education and mathematics. It is being funded through a $35 million grant from TCS.
“We’re looking at a collaboration of mental skills,” said Ratan Tata, former chairman of Tata Sons Limited, a multinational conglomerate that owns Tata Group, home to TCS and 29 other public companies, which exceed $120 billion in market capitalization.
The storied Tata family has a history of philanthropic endeavors; in 2007, CMU honored them with a Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy.
CMU President Subra Suresh noted that “in India, they say Andrew Carnegie is a Tata of the U.S.”
But endowments are not the only commonality between the Carnegie and Tata names.
During the first Industrial Revolution, Tata Group founder and patriarch Jamsetji Tata visited Pittsburgh in the early 20th century, studying the coking process. Soon after, Julian Kennedy, an engineer and consultant in Pittsburgh, drew up plans for a massive plant, which is now home to Tata Steel.
At the fulcrum of the “4th Industrial Revolution” — a period of expansion in automation, machine learning and artificial intelligence, drawing on the discoveries of past innovation — it’s only appropriate that Tata and Carnegie connect again, said Mr. Suresh.
TCS’s grant, which is the largest industry donation CMU has ever received, will benefit research and collaboration among not only CMU’s Pittsburgh-based faculty and students through scholarships and fellowships, but extend globalization to India — home of the second largest pool of CMU alumni — and beyond.
Rajesh Gopinathan, CEO of TCS, said that the top floor of the new building will dedicate some space to TCS researchers, which will allow the company to “engage in multiple parts of the ecosystem at once,” he said.
He added that there are three key areas of interest that TCS would like to develop alongside CMU students and faculty: cognitive sciences, robotics and the ever-evolving autonomous vehicles industry. Specifically, the India-based company wants to adapt autonomous vehicles to icy conditions, he said.
“We are living in a really interesting time in the evolution of businesses,” said Natarajan Chandrasekaran, chairman of Tata Sons. “The talent that will innovate the future is going to be extremely critical ... and CMU has been at the cutting edge of all these technologies for a number of years.”
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