Tata Industries, a promoter company of the Tata group, is ready to invest up to $350 million (about Rs 1,500 crore) in international start-up businesses.
"We are looking at breakthrough technologies. If there is an emerging business, we can consider getting into it," TIL Managing Director Kishore A Chaukar said.
In the past two years, according to Chaukar, TIL and Tata Sons have together invested Rs 125 crore in support of new technological research conducted by various individuals across the globe in the fields of solar energy, drug discovery, contract research, water recycling and biotechnology.
The investments ranged from a maximum of Rs 50 crore to a minimum of Rs 60 lakh.
For instance, he said, TIL extended financial support to the Zurich-based Institute of Polytechnic where research for development of flexible photovoltaic cells is conducted. "If the technology clicks, they can put up 100 MW solar power plants in which TIL would like to have a significant stake."
By 2010, TIL's plan is to set up a 120-MW solar power plant that would cost about Rs 600 crore.
Similarly, it has funded four persons from IIT Kharagpur and Kanpur, who were engaged in the development of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV). "We said we will give them Rs 20 lakh. But they wanted Rs 60 lakh and we gave them the amount," he said.
Chaukar said a top defence official recently saw the prototype of the UAV and offered to "purchase the entire production". Following this, the IITians wanted an additional funding of Rs 5 crore, which TIL is ready to give.
A Harvard University professor in the US is working on a 'fluid' technology through which one can know a person's health profile. "She has the technology, which has to be fine-tuned. If this happens, we can invest up to Rs 1,000 crore depending on the terms and conditions," he said.
In the area of drug discovery, which is on top of TIL's agenda, the company has invested close to Rs 80 crore. The research it supports pertains to diabetes and metabolic dysfunctions. TIL has also invested in biopharmaceutical company Indigene.