Former programme director and chief designer of the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), Dr Kota Harinarayana, said one of his biggest takeaways from the LCA project was that a huge amount of talent is available in small and medium industries and they need to be supported. He opined that if government agencies and big industries treat small-scale industries as partners, India will be at the forefront of innovation.
Dr Harinarayana was speaking at a conference on the Future of Aviation and Aerospace hosted by IIM Bangalore on Saturday.
“The role of the private sector, especially the small and medium-scale industries, in the LCA project was important. In fact, 70% of the equipment required for the LCA was met through the private industry. Enormous talent is available, but they face serious problems when it comes to funding and testing prototypes. Testing facilities are extremely costly. If the project team holds their hand and helps them to move forward, I find they succeed,” he said.
“Government agencies and big industries should recognise that small-scale industries are not sub-contractors, but their partners. These small industries have innovative capabilities. I am 100% sure if we build these vertical missing links, India will be in the forefront of innovation, not only to meet India’s requirement, it will be the supply chain for the rest of the world,” he pointed out.
Dr Harinarayana also emphasised that indigenisation does not mean blindly copying what has been developed elsewhere in the world, but to come up with innovation in order to meet current requirements. “Indigenisation is indigenous, design, development and manufacture. Even if some equipment is available elsewhere in the world, we still have to make it so that it becomes more cost-effective and it can be not only sold in India, but elsewhere in the world also,” he added.
He also suggested that India needs to strengthen its testing facilities.
The Technology Development Fund (TDF) scheme of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) promotes the development of defence systems and aims to encourage MSMEs and start-ups to develop innovative products for the armed forces.
Emphasising the need to fund start-ups to convert ideas into prototypes, Dr Harinarayana added, “When we started the LCA project, there was hardly anything called legacy. We have created an LCA ecosystem. For military programmes, the certification process is quite cumbersome and the intent behind it is safety. There is a long payback period so it is necessary to find a way to fund the systems. The Technology Development Fund, which DRDO has, is very important in order to convert ideas into prototypes.”