Driving Innovation through R&D: The Rise of the LAB

By Subrangshu Kumar Das, Senior Director & Head - ISDC

Subrangshu Kumar Das, Senior Director & Head - ISDC

Headquartered in Gurgaon, Canon India is a leading technology innovator in the digital imaging space worldwide. The entity has pioneered in five technology 'imaging' engines - Optical Engine, Electrophotography, Bubble Jet, Semiconductors and Display which drives Canon's cutting-edge technology products.

The process of creating new products, processes and technologies that can be used and marketed for mankind’s benefit today and in the coming years, is termed as Research and Development (R&D). R&D is a process of ideas, the search for ideas and their development towards progressive products and technology. Experts agree that research and development (R&D) is the backbone of a globally competitive, knowledge-driven economy. R&D investment leads to the development of products and services, which in turn drive growth, create jobs, and ultimately contribute towards the improvement of the society.  Considering at Canon, our corporate philosophy is ‘Kyosei’, signifying ‘living and working together for the common good’, we believe in driving innovation through R&D in ways that complement the development of the society.

Speaking of the importance of R&D, I would like to share an observation that the importance of R&D to drive innovations is being acknowledged and worked upon. As per the latest report from U.S.-based HfS Research, India leads with 30 percent of the global engineering and R&D centers. NASSCOM, the Indian IT services industry body, said that engineering research and design’s (ER&D) revenue contribution will touch $45 billion by 2020. The ‘Make in India’ program will continue to accelerate this trend, making India an attractive value proposition which enterprises can’t ignore, the researchers believe.

Basic structural changes in industries, increasing investment in Research and Development (R&D) segment, initiating investments for R&D at university level itself and empowering India in terms of R&D at global level, are some major transformations that are leading to major shift in India’s R&D making a mark on the global map. 

The R&D processes and their costs vary from industry to industry, from country to country and from year to year. Speaking specifically of Asian companies, I can say that they look out for high growth markets and geographic benefits like proximity to manufacturers and suppliers. In fact, the 2016 Global R&D Funding Forecast quotes that Asian countries including China, Japan, India and South Korea experienced the most dramatic change in innovation spending, accounting for more than 40 percent of all global R&D investments, with North American investments now less than 30 percent and European R&D only slightly more than 20 percent.

The Benefits of Driving Innovation In-house

The Department of Scientific & Industrial Research (DSIR) is operating a scheme for granting recognition & registration to in-house R&D units established by corporate industry. There are number of fiscal incentives and other support measures provided to these companies by the DSIR, aimed at the development of expertise, technology and new products benefiting the economy and society.

The incentives range from zero customs and excise duty for purchase of R&D capital equipment on receiving R&D recognition certificate to income tax benefit for capital expenses and operating expenses.

There is also another fascinating benefit. If a product has been patented in two countries, which could be from India, USA, Japan or European Union, and has been launched in India, then it will be eligible from excise duty waiver.

The Importance of Aligning Research with Organization Objectives

Creating an R&D framework which is in alignment with an organization’s objects or having an in-house R&D wing provides a common platform for decision-making. It enhances the vision into what is needed from a broader perspective, thus promoting the conversion of expectations into reality; whilst also ensuring the targets in terms of time are duly met.

Also, the flexible budget structure allows for variability and effective reallocation of resources.

Innovation labs Driving Product Development

Innovation is often the result of a steady and persistent approach towards building upon the objectives. In today’s globally competitive world, it is imperative for organizations to adopt a mix between ‘significant leap’ and ‘leapfrog’ solutions, in order to ‘innovate’’.

Taking a ‘significant leap’ translates to identifying segments which are close to one’s line of business and thus building upon the required competences via research to successfully tap those segments.

By venturing into the territory of these related or adjacent markets from time to time, organizations can test the waters and prepare themselves for a potential ‘leapfrog’ in the future

R&D Strengthening the Foundation of ‘Make in India’

A competent R&D subdivision can be a key source of driving new technologies, hence contribution to both the organization and the economy.

In the next 15 years, India is poised to become the third-largest economy of the world. R&D will play a big role in this development leading to the provision of greater avenues for investments in various sectors.

R&D requires a visionary approach, with a set framework for at least the forthcoming five years, which provides the organisation with yardstick to measure the actual output against the plan. However, with all business decisions there is an inherent component of ‘gut feeling’ with innovation and therefore, the strategy should not be so prescriptive that it blocks flexibility.  

Thus, a systematic approach complemented well by the expertise of an experienced R&D leadership provides an absolute platform to make laboratories the home for innovation!

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