style="margin-top: 0px; margin-right: 0px; margin-bottom: 0px; margin-left: 0px; text-align: justify; ">This launch represents a significant milestone for the Aditya Birla Group. It places us among the very select group of Indian corporations to have its own full-fledged R&D Center. This center will be the hub of our global R&D network, supplementing the R&D footprint that already exists within our businesses.
Innovation is key to achieving our Group’s ambitious targets. And R&D is the vital leg of innovation. Our Group, I believe, has reached a stage where we need to step up, substantially our R&D efforts, in particular our focus on basic research. We cannot depend only on sourcing technology and knowhow through collaborations or licensing agreements for three important reasons.
First, licensing technology is expensive; second, licensees can’t always get the best available technology; and third, and most important, only by actively developing our own technology will we create the institutional knowledge that sets us apart from the pack.
A brief background of this Center. The Aditya Birla Science and Technology Company was set up in 2006. The idea of a state-of-the-art Research Center at the corporate level stemmed from the recognition that, while our businesses possess specialized applied knowledge, there exist platforms and core technologies that have applicability across businesses.
And that the development of these needed to be centralized in order to achieve critical size, as well as efficiency. I refer to technologies such as those relating to sustainability, energy conservation, resource optimization, reduction of the carbon footprint, alternate energy sources and recycling – which are cut across businesses and geographies.
ABSTC will be the hub of our global Group R & D network inclusive of Novelis and Colombian Tech centers in North America, the Thai Chemical Epoxy R&D Center in Rayong, Thailand, the pulp Laboratories of Domsjo in Sweden, and several others.
The R&D Center will undertake white space work, centrally, in some of the platform technologies. To date, we have spent in excess of Rs. 250 crore in creating this multi-disciplinary technology campus, to international standards.
The R&D team filed its first patent application in 2004, working out of makeshift facilities. Today, we have more than 55 patents filings and over 50 active initiatives.
The business payoffs of the R&D efforts have already started to kick in. The most obvious ones include innovative designs and control systems to increase yield, improve quality, achieve higher energy efficiency and raise capacities. They have also been key in creating consumer products such as Kara, environment friendly urea, innovative metal alloys, particulate aluminium matrix nano-composites, fiber cement blends, and geopolymers.
This campus boasts the best international talent from India and overseas, to engage in research. Building the critical mass of R&D talent is challenging. As of now, the center has over 100 scientists and engineers, many of whom hold doctorates. This talent pool will grow substantially as we press hard on the R&D accelerator, and as businesses increase their own R&D footprint here by co-locating their technology teams to be part of what will develop as an open innovation eco-system.
We encourage our scientists and engineers to initiate research projects internally and also collaborate with external institutions to bring in break-through applications, products, and processes. The Center also hopes to partner with technology startups in developing and commercializing new technologies.
On this occasion, I want to commend all the people who are the force behind this R&D Centre.
Rajiv Dube, Business Director responsible for Corporate R&D, will now give you an overview of our R&D initiatives.
Rajiv Dube - Director, Corporate R&D Centre
The concept of a Corporate technology Centre is unique for any Indian business conglomerate and was conceived as part of the vision crafted in the years following the assumption of office by our Chairman, Birla, and by his early recognition that the future would belong to those businesses that differentiated themselves on technology .
It is remarkable that in the 90s when the world had taken a dismal view of Indian manufacturing and IT and services were the flavours going around, the Aditya Birla Group chose to think differently and started laying the foundation of a research and development culture to take root within the organization.
It started with a small yet bold step in 2001 when the Group scouted for talent worldwide and hired an expatriate from the US, unheard of in those days, to head the initiative to seed the movement. From outsourced laboratories to makeshift facilities, a 2004 senior leadership taskforce was formed to develop the Group R&D concept.
The findings were presented to the Group Management Board in 2005 that endorsed the need for advanced research and development at the corporate level to improve capability building in future technologies and developing new, breakthrough products, applications and processes.
The Aditya Birla Science and Technology Company, or ABSTC in short, was formed in 2006 with shareholding from major Group Companies and in November that year the fledgling organization relocated to Taloja at this site, in the erstwhile Merck facilities. The groundbreaking ceremony for the new site that you see today happened in 2008 and the organization moved into the new facilities in mid 2010.
The unique, futuristic, architectural design that is a standout feature of this research centre is again to be credited to the vision of Birla. He entrusted a young architect to create a facility that spoke future in all its elements and had a work environment to draw the best of international talent to this otherwise sleepy, industrial suburb of Mumbai. And the results are there for you to see. ABSTC today is governed by a vibrant Board representing the Group’s major Indian and international businesses and I consider it a privilege to be associated in my role in helping shape not only the R&D future of the Aditya Birla Group but hopefully, in times to come, putting Indian research and development on the world map in areas of our endeavor. A multi business, multi-disciplinary confluence, the site has enough scope for expansion to meet the Group’s future needs.
Let me describe a few examples of the kind of work that this Technology Centre is engaged with along with the businesses.
At Hindalco, Renukoot a new energy saving bus-bar design for the smelting pot, has been brought about by combining ABSTC’s expertise in advanced simulation technology with Hindalco’s technical knowhow in aluminium smelting. The design is expected to save over 3% smelting energy per ton of aluminium produced.
Working with the Carbon black business, ABSTC has developed a new reactor design which has been patented. The new technology, developed for gaseous and liquid fuel, aims at improving yields in the range of 5-7% as well as improve the quality of carbon black.
ABSTC and Birla Copper worked together to reduce downtime and copper loss in waste discharge. Based on fundamental research in the area of process chemistry, a new advanced control strategy was developed in order to minimize copper loss in the discarded slag to global benchmark levels. This control strategy is scheduled to be fully implemented by July 2012. A new baffle design was developed and installed in 2008 in a waste heat boiler in a smelter resulting in 10% increase in plant availability.
Additionally, ABSTC has developed higher performance textile fibers with anti bacterial and perfumed properties, new alloys for our metals customers, and greener equivalents of traditional manufacturing processes.
In addition to our corporate laboratories that focus on long term research, fundamental understanding, and breakthrough technologies, Birla Carbon, Ultratech, Aditya Birla Retail and Novelis have also established business R&D footprints at this site, taking advantage of the existing infrastructure.
The Chemicals business is at an advanced stage of creating their footprint in support of the new Vilayat epoxy expansion. Grasim’s Pulp and Fiber business will also be locating their product and process R&D team at this site. Hence, we hope to have most of our major businesses base some of their R&D activities at this site. Several of our businesses’ global customers have visited ABSTC and have come away with a new perspective of our commitment to new technologies and innovation.
ABSTC, a DSIR recognized facility, strives to encourage scientists and engineers on this campus to work together, to initiate research projects internally and also collaborate with external institutions, to push for break-through applications, products, and processes in the spirit of open innovation. Over 40% of our technology staff are Phds. The center also hopes to partner with technology startups for developing and commercializing new technologies. We are in dialogue with technology institutions in India and overseas to determine the scope of collaborative Research in areas of mutual interest
India’s R&D spend is only 0.7% of its GDP. The comparable figures are 2.8% of GDP in the case of the US, and 1.4% of GDP in the case of China. In fact, India’s R&D spend, in terms of proportion of GDP, is below even that of Brazil. Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, has recently announced the intention to boost the nation’s R & D spending to 2% of GDP in this decade. We have a long way to go but the good news is that we have made a beginning.
The vision that has been adopted by ABSTC is ‘to be a world class R&D organization focused on enabling the Aditya Birla Group achieve technological excellence in its businesses’. It will do so by creating a multi disciplinary technology platform expertise for delivering competitive edge to our businesses through market insight driven application of advances in science and technology, innovation, internal and external collaboration.
We hope over time, that the Aditya Birla Group would add to the technology sheen of India in the manufacturing field as much as Information technology has done today in the services area.