Saturday, October 29, 2005

The golden age of industrial R&D in India?

In the last 10 days or so, Rediff re-published two Business Standard op-eds on industrial R&D in India.

The first one, by Subir Roy, gives a broad overview of how far India has come, and concludes that 'India has never had it so good in R&D'. This is what he had to say towards the end:

The government still has an exclusive role, which is now limited to promoting R&D in the pre-competitive stage. One such area is nanotechnology, for which government funding is running at Rs 200 crore (Rs 2 billion). ...

Industry's new energy and the government's new thinking have most recently been supplemented by MNCs finding India an attractive platform for locating R&D (the previous column dealt with this).

To realise the full promise of all this, industry and the government need to do only one thing more -- keep improving the quality of education.

The second, by T. Thomas, a former Chairman of HLL, is on how to nurture R&D personnel so that they perform at a high level, keep churning out innovations, remain loyal, etc.. I found the article itself to be quite pedestrian. Why I am linking to it here is the following two paragraphs:

The other reason for [moving R&D scientists to general management jobs] is that like in all creative occupations, after a certain age, the innovative skills tend to decline. It is better for both the company and the individual to move scientists (barring some exceptional people) out of the purely creative function before this phase sets in.

Of course every scientist may not be able to make a success of such a transition. In such cases, it may be advisable to depute them to the academia with support from the company. [emphasis, of course, is mine!]