India up close - country focus

Materials World magazine
,
24 Jul 2012

Despite rising operational costs at the Indian centres of global technology companies, the country is becoming a valuable hub for the aerospace, automotive and defence industries.

Rise of the car 

With the ranks of the middle classes swelling, India has one of world’s fastest growing automotive sectors. Having launched the Nano late last year, billing it as India’s most fuel-efficient petrol car, Tata Motors seems to be meeting growing demand. After recently proving the technical concept of its air engine technology, the company is now working with Luxembourg-based Motor Development International from to industrialise the innovation. Meanwhile, French company Faurecia SA has opened a technical centre for interior systems in Pune, Maharashtra. The company intends to use its TechCenter – started with 800 Indian automotive engineers – to expand its consumer base on the sub-continent.

Golden years 

One research area in which India is lacking is gold mining. India holds 9% of the world’s gold reserves – around 14,000 tonnes – but struggles to generate significant wealth from it due to a lack of investment in exploration and mining activities, leading to insignificant amounts refined. A boost in R&D would see gold production increase, reduce dependency on imports and increase reserves – which would represent a protective asset in times of economic instability.

Stimulating innovation 

Although small do-it-yourself companies may work on the cutting-edge of technology research, multinational companies seem to be the big drivers in India. Chinese equipment maker Huawei – which currently employs more than 2,000 engineers and other professionals in the country – is set to pump US$2bln into India over the next four years. Huawei intends to use the money to market consumer devices and set up a global R&D centre in Bangalore, Karnataka.

Lock and load 

India’s cash-rich Defence R&D Organisation (DRDO) has been focusing on convincing Western powers to trade cash for military R&D knowhow, using western governments shrinking defence budgets as leverage. Elsewhere, the DRDO has been focusing on developing India’s fifth-generation aircraft that integrates condition monitoring systems such as avionics, structural health monitoring, air-conditioning and pressure regulating systems, using nano, micro and biotechnology. The DRDO has also recently opened the Defence and Development Establishment – a state of the art chemical defence laboratory in Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh.

Test match 

Earlier this year, The Welding Institute (TWI) opened a facility in Chennai focusing on non-destructive testing and inspection techniques. The centre will provide training and technical support and serve a range of industries, in particular the energy sector, which is crucial in a country that is now the world’s fourth largest power producer. Services on offer include inspection of austenitic steel components and dissimilar metal welds, structural monitoring of cracks and failures and ultrasonic detection.