Tuesday, December 29, 2009


Development of technology has many facets and the innovators invariably leave the task of converting new ideas into commercialization to others better equipped to give "flesh and bone" to the basic concepts. Classical route to transform a concept into a viable technology involves proving the technical viability, laboratory scale process development, pilot production for basic data generation for designing a production system and setting up the manufacturing version with all necessary service inputs. In established industries which specialize in specific areas of food, new product development is closely related the existing product lines and very little deviation is encountered in bringing the new products into production. Such developments do not take long time and new products can be launched with least run up time. But diversification has totally different logistics and many a time external assistance may be required to evolve new production-worthy technologies.

When the R & D is done in a public funded institution, both development and transfer of technology call for greater cooperation and mutual confidence. In India as the public food R & D agencies have very little interactive relationship with the user industry, even concept generation is seriously flawed. Working on new concepts and novel ideas will have some relevance only if the ultimate user of the technology eventually viz the industry is convinced about their relevance and need from the market end. These R & D institutions with a large body of scientific personnel have ample funding from the government and since annual work out put has to be shown, they generate their own ideas based on their own perception. Such a situation is responsible for the "claimed" development of hundreds of "technologies" within the four walls of the organization with very little scope for commercialization by the industry. No hawking around will find any buyer for such technologies.

Industry has severe limitations in buying technologies from such institutions because of lack of confidence on the credibility of the scientists, most of whom would not have seen even the gate of a processing facility, let alone the production floor! As industrial ventures are investment oriented, the potential for failure of new technologies from the government agencies weight heavily with the users and in absence of any "guarantee of performance", the technologies developed in "isolation" will continue to remain on paper with no chance of transfer. It is not realized by the industry that unless there is a synergistic relationship with the technology generators, it cannot expect a matured technology to emerge from them. Unless industry appreciates the limitations of the R & D agencies and be prepared to work on the technology offered on "as is where is basis" for building up further, it is unlikely that they will succeed.

A shining example is the fruit bar process, developed in sixties of the last millennium at CFTRI, Mysore which remained as an unwanted technology for more than 3 decades, till Natura Foods, then part of the Nurtrine Confectionery group took it up for commercialization. Though it took lot of time to design the plant and start regular production, to day it is a shining example of how a responsible industry can make use of a lab process for setting up a profitable venture. The batch scale process was modified by the company into a continuous one for increased productivity and sizable exports were achieved through impeccable quality assurance creating the necessary confidence. Recent launch of sugar free fruit bars from fruits like Mango, Apple, Strawberry and others is another feather in its cap. Even the scientists who developed the original process were not able to concede that fruit bar production can be made continuous or it is possible to make it with out addition of sugar.

Though it is too much to expect every industry to play the role model, at least there must be some realization about the limitations of public research while the scientific world must come out of its "ivory tower" research mode to meet the industry half way. It is more easily said than done. For this to happen the R & D agencies must not be headed by "tunnel vision" scientists who tend to ignore the interests of industry in their pointless pursuit of so called "excellence" and industry must loosen its purse strings to support research on well identified areas of interest.


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