By Abhishek Jain
Technology Development Fund (TDF) scheme has been promulgated to promote the development of defence and dual-use systems, subsystems, components, or technologies, for a product that is Indian Designed, Developed and Manufactured (IDDM). The idea is mainly to promote Micro, Small, Medium Enterprises (MSME) including Start-ups to develop innovative products for our forces. This article aims to provide an objective view of the scheme and encourage companies to apply for the projects.
Issues in Product Development
Few of industry’s concerns about their inability to develop indigenous products for the Armed Forces are listed below
- No funding for development or long term commitments
- Unavailability of Testing facilities to the private sector
- Lack of rigorous project monitoring and improper mix of technical and practical experts
- Failure by private industry frowned upon
- Low cost at any cost obsession (L1)
Government has its fair share of misgivings about industry
- Lack of clear cut understanding like TPCR (Technology Perspective Capability Roadmap)
- Lack of technical knowledge and over-promise by marketing. Authors have seen barrel pressure in Giga Pascals in guns (possible only during nuclear explosion!), 10,000 m/s air velocity in nozzle (possible 340 m/s), etc. Separate article with these examples will be hilarious!
- Asking for an extension all the time or disinterest in the project after sanction
- Putting spoke in tender/procedure if not winning
- Products appear beautiful on a computer but not practical/don’t fit
TDF – Nuts and Bolts
TDF is aimed at not only funding (through Grant-in-Aid) the technology development, but to solve the above issues. The first encounter with the scheme happens with the Expression of Interest (EOI). This is a very short document that does not give full specs. This is on purpose to force the industry to think about product specifications and what is feasible. This solves the “COMPLY ALL” problems. An EOI evaluation criterion is very transparent as numbers are allotted to each aspect of the response. 95 per cent marks are allotted to technical and design capability and only 5 per cent to financial. L1 is not preferred here, technology and written response matters.
TDF Scheme solves the problem of all the stakeholders at a single platform i.e. End User, Designer, Development, Mentor, Certification, Quality Assurance and Researcher. This Scheme allows the consortium of Industry with Industry, Academia or a combination of all of these.
Shortlisted companies are asked to write a detailed project report (DPR) which focuses on how the Industry (called as Development Agency) will develop the desired product or technology. Writing a DPR weeds out incompetent bids and since DPR is an evaluation by points, the process remains transparent. Funding of Rs 10 crore is given easily with due diligence to technically sound companies.
Technically best company is awarded the project and 90 per cent of the project cost is borne by DRDO. If technical progress hits a rough patch, DRDO, Project Monitoring and Mentoring Group (PMMG), Technical Committee and Empowered Committee helps in resolving the issue.
If the project is not progressing it is short closed/foreclosed. Expenses are still shared in the ratio as agreed ab-initio between DRDO and Industry. To provide the inputs on the operational requirement and field scenarios, end users are always part of review meetings holding equal responsibility.
Existing Systems are showcased to Development Agency wherever possible even before the submission of DPR. For mentoring PMMG consists of experts from relevant DRDO labs, Certification Agencies, Quality Assurance Agencies (involved ab-initio from the design stage to avoid the rework at later stages). TDF helps in getting all the testing facilities available in the country and acts as a nodal agency. Once the product is developed, it is marked as (Buy-Indian) IDDM product and gets first preference in procurement.
How to Succeed in TDF
The scheme favours and supports technically competent companies’ not with large balance sheets. Writing proper EOI response and DPR with a clear-cut approach to design and development is a recipe for success. The scheme believes in being transparent and avoiding extensions hence everything is online with no human dependence. DPR is like an exam paper where marking methodology is known. Avoid statements like “My company ABC is the best technology company in India”, these don’t go through. Calculations and experience in the relevant technologies are preferred to rhetoric. Finally the most important stuff – read the annexure on the TDF website that give all the details.
The scheme is giving all the resources i.e. money, testing support, monitoring support and every kind of support required. In return, the country gets a MADE in INDIA product. Industry and DRDO jointly hold the Intellectual Property Right. Start-ups are encouraged to apply and they do not have to shell out equity/collateral to get funding. So to end, we can paraphrase the popular FOGG scent ad – Paisa bheediya, testing bheekiya, Certification Assurance and hand-holding bhee diya, IDDM bheebanaya, aurkyachahiye!
For the more inquisitive, we leave you with the comparison of TDF scheme with schemes of USA, EU and Israel. At least here we are better!
The author is thankful to Shri Hemant Kumar Gupta (Director), Shri Arjun Kumar and Shri Dipak Gupta, DRDO for all the guidance during the TDF journey. Special thanks to Dipakji in making the figure and suggestions.
The author is VP Strategic Partnerships at Zeus Numerix. He is a CEMILAC certified design engineer with certification in propeller design and documentation. He handles marketing and customer communication and has a penchant for reading procedure and policy documents. Abhishek has more than 10 research papers to his credit and 30+ technical workshop lectures in fields of simulation and design.
*views expressed here are personal.