HAL Chief’s five-point agenda for Indian R&D
The ‘Make in India’ concept in the defence sector has potential to raise defence manufacturing in the country from present 30 per cent to 70 per cent in the next few years. “This could be achieved by making India hub of maintenance, repair and operations (MRO) business, by investing in research and technology processes and by focusing on development of skills in 70 plus trades related to the aerospace industry”, said Dr R.K. Tyagi, Chairman, HAL, at the Foundation Day Celebrations of Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).
Dr Tyagi outlined a five-point agenda for galvanising the research and development scenario in the country. The first step towards a better R&D set up is to increase the funding to the national research laboratories such as NAL significantly as they safeguard and protect the country’s IP.
The second point is to create an agency which is dedicated to disruptive research ideas within India on the lines of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) under the Department of Defense in US, Phantom works in Boeing or Skunk works in Lockheed Martin. This agency would help us achieve the success that atomic energy or space sector has witnessed. He urged that a serious attempt needs to be made to establish a National Aeronautics Commission to synthesise the learnings of the aerospace sector.
Dr Tyagi’s third point reflected the point made by the Prime Minister at Madison Square Garden in New York. He stressed that a lot of Indian origin scientists would be willing to work in niche areas to prop up the country’s capability. A policy framework for engagement of such persons of Indian origin needs to be formulated to fill up the critical technology gaps.
Stressing on higher degree of participation from industry in R&D, Dr Tyagi’s fourth point brought out that one each of the 37 labs of CSIR needs to be adopted by a specific industry or the company so that the lab work gets easily commercialised and is relevant to the needs of the aerospace industry. He commended the role of CSIR and the National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL) and urged them to open their laboratories to the industries such as HAL and others to exploit the hidden advantages of this scientifically well-established infrastructure.
Industry should nurture these labs as they have generated a significant intellectual property over the last 72 years of existence, he added. While complimenting NAL on doing pioneering work in aerospace, he stressed that with a budget of around ` 200 crore with half of it going towards salaries and infrastructure support, it is difficult for any organisation to do a path-breaking research and HAL would like to partner with NAL in all its endeavours and nurture it as an extended arm of HAL.
Lastly, he touched upon the need of having a vibrant skill development set up in the country. He said all efforts to have a meaningful R&D cannot succeed unless the country has a very strong skill base. India will have approximately 25 per cent of the world’s total workforce by year 2025. On the flip side, by 2022, India will require 500 million skilled workers across all sectors the country will see a skills gap of nearly 90 million workers—almost twice the current figure.