Vijay Sabre Safety Ltd, a manufacturer of fire safety and emergency rescue equipment, is set to launch an ‘air-breathing’ machine that claims to reduce the risk of hearing loss for people working in noisy environments.
The prescribed use of the machine, branded Carbogen, and carrying a mixture of 95% of oxygen and the rest carbon dioxide, is for 10 minutes before workers enter noisy workplaces such as steel mills, power plants and engine rooms of ships.
The promised result: reduced stress and avoidance of temporary deafness, caused by exposure to noise levels of 85 decibels, typical for a factory floor. Long-term exposure to such noise can eventually lead to deafness.
The company has sourced the technology for this first-of-its-kind machine, expected to hit the market by August, from the Defence Institute of Physiology and Allied Sciences (Dipas), one of Defence Research and Development Organization’s (DRDO) nine biomedical labs.
Dipas had developed the technology together with the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, to help soldiers using guns, mortar and missile systems or sailors who spend long hours underwater in submarines. Vijay Sabre and Delhi-based SB Equipments have licensed the technology for the Carbogen system from Dipas. This is the latest of nearly 60 products developed for the armed forces by its nine life science laboratories spread across India and transferred to the private sector for commercial civilian use.
“The technology is already proven (with soldiers). Our focus is just on building on the design and find customers,” said T. R. Bhanot, Vijay Sabre’s technical director. The company has sourced several technologies from DRDO in the past decade.
For Carbogen, DRDO charged Vijay Sabre Rs2 lakh for technology transfer and a royalty of 2.5% on each unit sold to the armed forces and around 3% (on units sold) to civilian customers.
Though small, the revenues from such licences are adding up. DRDO earned more than Rs170 crore in the five years from 2000 to 2005, from the sale of products, consultancy, clinical trials, royalty and technology transfer; this was around 58% of its spending of nearly Rs297 crore for the nine labs in the period, said W. Selvamurthy, chief controller, R&D, DRDO. In 2005-06, Rs98.43 crore was spent at labs but revenue figures for this period were not immediately available.
Some of the products used in everyday consumer lives, which have been sourced from defence technology, include readymade chapatis sold by companies such as Godrej Pillsbury and ITC Agro Tech Ltd, and instant rice and pulav mixes sold by ITC Ltd and Hindustan Lever Ltd.
Mysore-based Defence Food Research Laboratories developed these products for soldiers in high-altitude regions such as the Siachen Glacier, including processed ready-to-eat foods from fish curry to rasam rice packed in sterilized polymeric packs, and consumed after dipping the pouch in warm water to make the food hot.
Analysts said the potential for several more such technology transfers to civilian customers was enormous. “The industry needs some initial risk-sharing by the government. After the initial support and hand-holding, the private sector can take more products to the consumers,” said Anjan Das, who coordinates technology and intellectual property issues at the Confederation of Indian Industry, an industry lobby group.