Hyderabad: Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), which develops technologies for the Indian armed forces, has been asked by the government to take its products meant for civilian use to Africa as part of an effort to boost India’s engagement with African nations.
DRDO is participating in the India-Africa Business Partnership Summit in Hyderabad, the research organisation’s first attempt to tap overseas commercial markets for its civilian applications.
“Our government is very clear that our engagement with Africa needs to be faster, deeper and stronger. We have got a very clear mandate from the cabinet secretary to share the technologies that we have developed for civilian use with the African countries,” said Avinash Chander, chief controller of missile and strategic systems at DRDO.
This mandate was given to DRDO a few months back by the former cabinet secretary, K.M. Chandrasekhar.
The government’s directive comes as India and China vie for control of natural resources and energy assets in African nations.
India has long-standing ties with many African nations, forged by its support for their independence movements.
“Africa will be our first overseas engagement. A lot of technologies that we have developed and patented can be used in African conditions,” said S. Radhakrishnan, director of industry interface and technology management at DRDO.
DRDO has in recent years shifted some of its attention to spin-offs—adapting some of its military technologies for civilian use.
Mint had earlier reported that a commercial arm will be created as a private limited company with a seed capital of around Rs 2 crore to deal with spin-off products and technologies meant for civilian use.
“Some of the technologies that we plan to market in Africa are phase-change material, also known as low-cost air conditioner, which provides a 15 degrees centigrade temperature difference and can be used in mines,” said Radhakrishnan. “Also, we plan to offer photo-degradable plastic, diagnostic kits, expandable containers, which can be used as portable hospitals and acoustic sensors that can detect life under rubble after a disaster.”
In an effort to catch up with the progress China, South Korea and Malaysia have made with their African plans, India has held two India-Africa summits—one in New Delhi in April 2008 and the second in Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa in May. India has set a target of $70 billion in trade with the continent by 2015.
DRDO is confident that there is a demand for its technologies in Africa and wants to showcase some of them at another industry event that has been scheduled in Lagos next year. With the increasing emphasis on spin-offs, the process of commercializing technologies at DRDO has been formalized.
In January last year, the research agency, along with the lobby group Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci), started an accelerated technology assessment and commercialization (Atac) programme. Ficci assessed more than 200 products from 26 DRDO labs and chose 45 for commercialization.