The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), India’s lone military R&D agency, wants to soon get out of the upgrades business and let the state-owned and private sector industries take up that role.
This, DRDO chief Avinash Chander felt, would push the defence R&D agency to always work on high end technologies that are always one-step higher than what the industries are working on.
In a recent interview to ‘Express’ here, Chander said he was totally in favour of an industry suggestion that the DRDO should allow them to own the Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) on any upgrade they had achieved on military products for which they obtained manufacturing licence from the DRDO.
“We (DRDO) are very strongly in favour of it. We do not want to do or get into upgrades business,” Chander said when asked about a recent industry-defence ministry meeting where this suggestion had come up for discussion and has been proposed by the industry.
The industry wants the DRDO not to provide exclusive licence to any one industry on its products but to allow all industries, be they state-owned or private, to work on the technology upgrades.
Once upgraded, the industry should own the IPR for that better products and its manufacturing. This step is expected to energise the Indian defence industrial base.
“Today, the total design of the weapon is always owned by the government, if it is funding it. If private industry is funding the development of the weapon, it becomes the private industry’s weapon. It is purely a commercial, contractual understanding to what extent industry has participated; how much is its IPR in the product and so on,” he said.
Having said that, the DRDO chief said his organisation was very keen that they “do not keep wasting their energies and efforts on upgrades.”
“We are already going with the Defence Public Sector Undertakings and the private industries if needed. We have been very consistently saying that all future upgrades should be taken up by the industry itself,” he said.
Noting that the Indian industry’s capability “is well advanced” to take up such upgrade products, the DRDO chief assured that his agency “is always there to support” if the industries had any doubts or wanted something to be done by it.
“I do not want to waste my resources on incremental developments, which are well within the capability of the industry. We want to put our efforts on the next level of products,” he said.
However, he observed that the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Mk2 project had to be perforce done by the DRDO and its laboratories because of the “major change with then engine” itself from the Mk1 aircraft.
India has spent nearly Rs 7,500 crore on the LCA for the Indian Air Force (IAF) and another Rs 10,000 crore on its upgrades, naval variant, and the Kaveri engine, all as part of the LCA project.