by Manu Pubby

NEW DELHI: More than two years after announcing it, the government has finally kick started its defense technology fund scheme -- a cornerstone of the Make in India initiative that will fund research by MSMEs on urgent military technology projects up to a value of Rs 10 crore. In the first round, six projects have been identified for the Technology Development Fund (TDF) plan, in which the government will fund the development of technologies or a prototype by selected companies that has to be completed within two years.

The Defence Research and Development Organisation will oversee the execution. Among the projects chosen to initiate the plan are light weight bulletproof materials for the Army that can be used to make bulletproof jackets and vehicles.

Another project is to develop and demonstrate a series of fuel cells to meet different requirements of the Army. First announced in the 2014-15 budget, the scheme already has an annual allocation of over Rs 100 crore that is still to be utilized. “The program will cover improvements to existing systems, development of futuristic technologies and import substitution.

The idea is to encourage the private sector to undertake research and come up with solutions,” an official involved in the project said. Limited to a two-year developmental cycle to avoid delays, the plan is to make industry work in collaboration with the academia or research institutions for selected projects. A detailed standing operating procedure has been drafted and made public which lays out selection criteria for Indian companies wishing to apply for the funds. “Such chosen entities will be referred to as Development Agencies (DAs).

In cases where academia or research institutions are involved, their work involvement cannot exceed 40% of the total efforts required,” an MoD paper on the fund says.