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August 11, 2000
India lacks R&D base, laments DRDO chief
Josy Joseph in New Delhi
India lacks quality academic organisations and research and development institutions that breed inventions in technology. This is the major reason behind India's failure in breaking new ground in inventions and innovations, says Dr V K Aatre, scientific advisor to the defence minister and chief of the Defence Research and Development Organisation.
Addressing an audience of industrialists and armed forces' officers who have been debating the topic Military Communications: Role of Industry for the last two days, he said there are four Is to acquire new technology: Importing, Imitating, Innovating and Inventing.
"There is nothing wrong in importing," he said while pointing out that 'one doesn't get the know-how' while importing. Imitation results in an undesirable loss in quality, he said.
Inventing, he pointed out, should necessarily happen in academic institutions and research and development organisations which are 'conspicuous by their absence' in the public and private sector.
"Look at the West; technology seeding takes place in universities and specialised R&D institutions. Various companies then bid for these research projects for serial production," he pointed out. Even in information technology, where India is a leading world player, "we have not done enough in innovation."
Understandably, since "R&D is risky. And technology is very unkind, very ruthless," Dr Aatre said. He warned that if India does not join the pack of nations coming up with innovations and inventions, 'we are not going to be global players'.
"Currently, majority of the high-end technology in India is either imported or imitated," Dr Aatre said. To make matters worse, there have been few innovations unlike in the case of the Japanese who improvise on basic Western technology. Today, they dominate the consumer electronics market.
"If we do not invent, we should innovate," he argued. Even there, India lags behind. Consequently, India is forced to look up to the Western world for technology and as a result of which 'we have to suffer control regimes'.
Dr Aatre admitted that DRDO, which conducts massive research and development in military technology, 'suffers because of this control regime'.
The DRDO chief also argued that Indian defence forces should not import software. "It should be developed in India," he said. Software industry in the country is 'very good. Yet, software and systems are imported'.
He said the private sector should look forward to co-operating with DRDO in developing military hardware and software only if they are ready to share the risk involved in R&D.
Presently, there aren't many industrial houses that have reached the level of expertise (in R&D) to work with DRDO, he said.
"I couldn't locate anyone in the private sector for developing two electronic warfare systems, but we decided to include two private companies along with two public sector units," Dr Aatre said.
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