Itilekha Podder: driving AI innovation from academia to industry

Itilekha Podder’s journey from EIT Digital Master School’s student to doctoral candidate at Eötvös Loránd University (ELTE) highlights how a blend of technical education and business acumen can spur innovation. Now deeply involved in AI research for semiconductor manufacturing, Podder's career trajectory was shaped by her time at EIT Digital, where she began her master's in Digital Media Technology in 2017, studying at TU Delft in the Netherlands and BME in Budapest.

"Encouraged by a friend, I applied to EIT Digital based on her enthusiastic endorsement of the programme's content and opportunities," says Podder. The programme’s combination of technical excellence and emphasis on entrepreneurship aligned perfectly with her aspirations. This unique curriculum gave her skills in business development, market analysis, and entrepreneurial thinking, which proved invaluable during her PhD.

In 2020, Podder joined the EIT Digital Industrial PhD programme, collaborating with ELTE, EIT Digital, and Bosch to develop AI-based methodologies for semiconductor manufacturing. “The programme enriched me with knowledge about business development and instilled an entrepreneurial mindset,” she reflects.

Podder's research focuses on integrating AI into semiconductor manufacturing processes. A notable project involved wafer map clustering in Reutlingen, Germany. Using advanced algorithms, Podder and her team identified patterns in semiconductor production data, enhancing business strategies and strategic decision-making. "These findings not only surpassed traditional analyses but also led to the creation of a service-based model," she explains.

Her work with Bosch demonstrated the transformative potential of AI, showing that AI-driven solutions could reduce production time by up to 47%. "We are not trying to remove humans from the loop but to aid them, automating tasks prone to human error," she notes.

Looking ahead, Podder aims to launch her own startup, Neuronets, focused on democratizing AI development and paving the way towards a more inclusive and accountable future for artificial intelligence.

Podder and her team are preparing for their first seed round. "Right now, we are connecting with VCs to get the funding. We have already pitched our idea to four to five VCs, and there will be follow-up sessions with some of them. It is still very niche yet," she says.

Podder credits her success to the holistic education at EIT Digital. "I could think a step beyond, not only to solve a problem but to translate it into a product," she says. This blend of technical and business training has equipped her to contribute innovatively to the semiconductor industry and beyond.

Her academic contributions include eight publications in leading journals, supervising three master’s students, and instructing four courses.

Now, Podder gives back to the EIT Digital community by teaching master's students. "I share practical insights on market analysis, competitor assessment, and business model innovation," she says, emphasizing her goal to bridge the gap between technological innovation and successful commercialization.

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Co-Funded by the European Union