Lockheed Martin reaches out to Indian innovators

April 30th, 2008 - 12:35 pm ICT by admin  

By Vishnu Makhijani
New Delhi, April 30 (IANS) Buoyed by the response to its initiative in reaching out to young Indian innovators to enable them translate their ideas into commercial products, US aerospace major Lockheed Martin is extending the programme beyond its original two-year timeline. “This year, we are excited that we have received 329 proposals that have been downselected to 30. We will be holding a competition among those 30 and then picking the 14 award winners,” Lockheed Martin’s chief technology officer Ray Johnson said of the company’s India Innovation Growth Programme that was launched in March 2007.

“Last year, we were only going to have seven winners, but we had so many positive projects that we decided to raise the number to 14,” Johnson, who is also the company’s senior vice president, told IANS in an interview.

Launched in association with the IC2 Institute of the University of Texas at Austin and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci), the programme has been created to enhance the growth and development of India’s entrepreneurial economy.

It aims to do this by accelerating innovative Indian technologies into the global markets by focusing on teaching and using world-class commercialisation strategies.

Sixty innovative technologies from sectors such as aeronautics, agriculture, biotechnology, chemistry, communications, computing, defence, electronics, environment, IT, manufacturing, marine, materials, medical/life sciences, nanotechnology, petrochemical, semiconductors and transportation were selected in the launch year.

This was brought down to 30 before the 14 eventual winners were selected. Nine of them have already inked 13 partnership agreements while the remaining are in the pipeline.

“Lockheed Martin provides the overall funding for the effort and the University of Texas and IC3 provide the training and business development process. Ficci has a major role in helping to connect businesses with the innovators,” Johnson explained of the manner in which the programme works.

Lockheed Martin was earlier this year awarded a $1 billion Indian Air Force (IAF) contract for six C-130J Super Hercules heavy-lift transport aircraft. The company is one of the six contenders for a $10 billion IAF contract for 126 combat jets, the bids for which were opened Monday.

Johnson hastened to add that the entrepreneurship programme was not linked to the contracts and that it would continue the initiative and launch other such outreach programmes regardless of whether or not it was awarded the combat jet order.

“Aside from any particular programme (contract), we are looking at long-term partnerships, especially in supporting science and technology,” he added.

“We last year met with IIT (Delhi) and we have some research projects put in place in the nano and bio areas. That research is continuing. So, we are looking for that growing partnership and not just programmes,” Johnson maintained.

According to him, the entrepreneurship programme “is widely recognised as being very successful in connecting the inventive ideas with the innovation that is required in the companies for enhancing their products and services.

“It’s been a very good process and because of that, we want to extend the programme into the future and continue building the partnerships, which is really the focus of the effort,” Johnson pointed out.

“That process is working very well and we’ll nature take its own course,” he added.

Johnson guides Lockheed Martin’s technology vision and provides corporate leadership in the strategic areas of technology and engineering that includes more than 65,000 people working on more than 4,000 programmes.

Johnson also leads the company’s Advanced Concepts Organisation and the Centre for Innovation, a world-class laboratory for collaborative experimentation and analysis involving Lockheed Martin, its customers, and industry partners.

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