A Brief History

The nascency of Mechanical Engineering at IISc can be traced back to India’s pre-independence era, in the year 1945, with the Department of Internal Combustion Engineering (ICE). A dedicated Mechanical Engineering section was established in the Power Engineering Department in 1951. This paved way for a full-fledged Department of Mechanical Engineering (ME) in 1956 with Prof. Arcot Ramachandran as the first Head of the Department. Prof. Ramachandran, who led the Department until 1967, moved on to IIT Madras as its Director and subsequently in 1973 became the Founder Secretary of the Department of Science & Technology, Government of India. Naturally, our Department owes a lot to Prof. Ramachandran, whose vision and leadership consolidated its activities to address the growing needs of the nation. During the following years, ME and ICE Departments were headed by Prof. M.A. Thirunarayanan and Prof. A.V. Sreenath, respectively.  These two Departments were merged together in 1972 to form the integrated Department of Mechanical Engineering with Prof. L.S. Srinath as the Chair. In 1994, the Department vacated the ICE building and the Foundry Science and Central Workshop building and moved into its present premises.

Over the years, the Department, through its constant endeavour to pursue excellence in mechanical engineering education and research, has made significant contributions to the field and earned for itself a place of pride in India and abroad. For decades, it has had a strong impact in the areas of IC engines, foundry science and engineering, turbomachinery, and thermal sciences. There has also been a continuous quest for new directions to explore in research, in teaching and in advanced design activities. Over the years, significant contributions have been made in the areas of technical acoustics, computer-aided design, fluid mechanics, turbomachinery, heat transfer, IC engines, manufacturing, materials science, metal casting, joining, refrigeration and air conditioning, robotics, solid mechanics, biomechanics and tribology.

In recognition of its expertise and experience, the Department has been supported generously by the University Grants Commission (UGC) of India under Department of Special Assistance (DSA) and Committee on Strengthening of Infrastructure for Science and Technology (COSIST) programmes. In addition, a number of research proposals in thrust areas and novel cutting-edge technologies have received funding from major Government funding agencies such as Ministry of Human Resources Development (MHRD), Department of Science and Technology (DST), All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), and Centre for Technology & Development (CTD).  The department was involved in two technology development national missions funded by the Planning Commission, in the areas of food process engineering and ceramic-metal composites. In 1998, with funding from the DST, the Department created the Facility for Research in Technical Acoustics (FRITA) and established itself as the hub of R&D activities in the field of acoustics and noise control. Subsequently, in 2004, with generous funding from the Ministry of Mines, DST and Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), the Department established the National Facility for Semi-Solid Forming (NFSSF) and pioneered the activities of developing light-weight automobile components through thixocasting.

Throughout its history, this Department has been actively engaged in industrial and socially relevant research in collaboration with public and private sector industries, multi-nationals, DRDO laboratories, Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), and the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) laboratories. Its faculty has undertaken numerous consultancy projects and provided advice and tu rnkey solutions to industries in the country and abroad. The Department has transferred technology to industry and other user agencies in the areas of IC engines, turbomachinery, casting, noise control, CAD, renewable energy and bio-medical engineering. The Turbomachinery group has been a pioneer in the development of microhydel power generator, designing and installing a series of cross-flow turbines across the country. The IC engines and Foundry group has transferred the technology and knowhow for geometrically identical cast crankshafts to industry. These are now being manufactured to replace forged crankshafts with savings of over 30-40% in cost and energy. As a first-of-its kind academia-industry collaboration, the Advanced Product Design and Prototyping (APDAP) initiative started in 1996 as a 50:50 joint venture between IISc and software major Tata Consultancy Services.

APDAP Advanced Product Design and Prototyping
ASTRA Application of Science and Technology for Rural Areas
BSSE BioSystems Science and Engineering
CeNSE Centre for Nano Science and Engineering
CPDM Centre for Product Design and Manufacturing
FRITA Facility for Research in Technical Acoustics
ICAME International Conference on Advances in Mechanical Engineering
ICE Internal Combustion Engineering
ICER Interdisciplinary Centre for Energy Research
IC-ICAME IISc Centenary International Conference on Advances in Mechanical Engineering
ME Mechanical Engineering
NFSSF National Facility for Semi-Solid Forming
PE Power Engineering
TCS Tata Consultancy Services


This was the first-ever commercial joint venture in India between a premier institution and an industry major. The shared objective was to leverage the academic expertise of IISc faculty and the strong technical skill-sets of TCS to be an India-focused high-end design and prototyping outfit. In the area of sustainable technologies, the Department was actively involved in setting up the Centre for Application of Science and Technology for Rural Areas (ASTRA) in 1974, which later became the Centre for Sustainable Technologies (CST). The goal was to undertake inter-disciplinary research and technology development in the areas of energy and environment, primarily dealing with bio-energy such as wood gasifiers and bio-diesel. Over the years, the Department has organized numerous national and international conferences and symposiums in various specialized fields of mechanical engineering.  Among them, two notable conferences covering all areas of mechanical engineering were held. The first one, held as part of the Department’s Golden Jubilee celebration in 1995, was the International Conference on Advances in Mechanical Engineering (ICAME), which featured almost all facets of mechanical engineering. The second one was held as part of the centenary celebrations of IISc with the IISc Centenary International Conference on Advances in Mechanical Engineering (IC-ICAME) in 2008. This conference attracted eminent researchers in mechanical engineering from across the world as well as a large number of participants from diverse industries and universities in India.

Several faculty members of the Department, over the years, have taken leadership roles in initiating new areas of research and teaching leading to the formation of new programmes and interdisciplinary centres in the Institute. In 1997, the Department launched a new Master of Design (MDes) programme in product design and engineering, which ultimately led to the creation of the Centre for Product Design and Manufacturing (CPDM) in 1998. The Department also played a leading role in establishing the Centre for Nano Science and Engineering (CeNSE) in 2010 to pursue interdisciplinary research across several disciplines with a focus on nanoscale systems. In the same year, th e Department played a pioneering role in launching the Energy Initiative at the Institute, which culminated in the formation of the Interdisciplinary Centre for Energy Research (ICER) in 2012. The launch of the Bio-Engineering Initiative followed by the consequent formation of the BioSystems Science and Engineering (BSSE) Centre was one of the most recent Department-led initiatives.

As the Department marches towards its semisesquicentennial, it is time to reflect on the pioneering role it has played in shaping postgraduate education, research and development in mechanical engineering in the country.  Throughout its illustrious history, it has been able to attract the best of faculty and students from all over India. It has periodically undergone necessary course corrections and adaptations to stay relevant to the changing technological needs of the country and the world. With an open-minded approach towards taking valuable feedback from all stakeholders and international experts in the field, there is no doubt that the Department will continue to strive for excellence in the decades to come.