Interview with Dr Gopi Katragadda

AI technology leader Dr Gopi Katragadda became the President of the Institution of Engineering and Technology in October 2023.

Born in Bangalore in 1968, Dr Gopichand Katragadda comes from a long line of engineers on his father’s side, while his mother’s family background is in the arts. This combination has helped him bring a high level of creativity and breadth of vision to engineering achievements, he believes.

Studying a wide range of subjects at school in India, Gopi found his biology teacher particularly inspirational. “In an area such as AI, it helps if engineers have an understanding of the biology of neurons and cellular structure,” he says.

Gopi attended Iowa State University and did his doctoral research at NASA. In 2000, he returned to India as Chairman and Managing Director of GE India Technology Centre — the group’s largest R&D facility, which he helped become a world leader in intellectual property generation.

In 2014, he joined Tata Sons as Group Chief Technology Officer and Innovation Head, where he promoted collaboration with corporations such as Airbus and forward-thinking in the group’s subsidiaries and university partners.

He also focused on India’s needs, including the production of new materials such as graphene at lower cost, and hydrogen fuel cells that could function in heat and dust. Other projects explored AI to increase productivity and reduce pesticide use in agriculture, and wearables that improve health and safety of factory workers.

In 2019, Gopi set up Myelin Foundry, an AI company aimed at transforming human experiences and industry outcomes. AI is at a similar stage to the internet in the 1990s, he says, but we must be fair on monetisation and not exploit people who have contributed their data. He does not favour pausing AI development while we sort out ethical issues, because the bad actors won’t stop.