View from India: Bangalore, the fourth-largest technology cluster in the world

Karnataka in general and Bangalore in particular has kick-started several scientific and biotech initiatives of global significance. An abiding ecosystem, robust R&D and a confluence of multinationals and educational institutions has made the city a leader in telecom, aerospace, software and consumer electronics, among others. This has resulted in many home-grown success stories, such as Mission Mars, BT Cotton and Diagnostic Kits.

Karnataka is home to premier educational institutions like the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS), Institute of Bioinformatics and Applied Biotechnology (IBAB), which have given rise to biotech startups, apart from doing path-breaking research in science and engineering, backed by technological innovations and harnessing an entrepreneurial spirit among its people. Private public partnerships, interdisciplinary research and industry-academia collaborations are among the hallmarks. 

“Bangalore has made certain great strides that have brought several large funds as foreign investment into the country. The mature ecosystem of the city has attracted MNCs [multinational corporations] to invest in the city to conduct their R&D operations here that would in turn lead to enhancing their global strategies,” said Gaurav Gupta, the Principal Secretary, Department of IT, BT and S&T, Government of Karnataka, speaking at the Global R&D Summit 2017.

Bangalore has emerged as the fourth-largest technology cluster in the world and is home to over 200 engineering colleges and has over 400 R&D centres. It’s a challenge to go beyond a local mindset to become a sustainable global model and Bangalore is credited for going beyond the horizon. In 2016 the Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre (MaGIC) decided to look at Indian shores for collaborative entrepreneurial investment by picking out startups in India for its four month-long accelerator programme. MaGIC is Malaysia’s vision to nurture a vibrant entrepreneurial hub. In 2017, MaGIC has been in talks with the Government of Karnataka (GoK).

It’s important to leverage the innovation quotient, invest in R&D in order to create solutions for the existing problems in society. R&D outcomes should be piloted before they are nurtured as scalable commercially viable models that will benefit the society. R&D calls for large investments and wherever possible private-public partnerships and a consortium approach need to be taken.

“Karnataka is a place where more than 400 MNCs are placed and the state of Karnataka was first state to bring start-up policy in the country,” highlighted RV Deshpande, minister for small, medium and large industries and infrastructure development, Government of Karnataka. The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) which is the voice of India’s business and industry, has a vision of starting an Incubation centre in Bangalore. The proposed incubation centre will seek to identify and support entrepreneurs working towards creating jobs and livelihood opportunities for the people of Karnataka.

Several global MNCs have contributed towards Bangalore’s R&D landscape. A case in point is General Electric, whose presence in India began in 1902 when the company installed India’s first hydropower plant in Mysore, Karnataka. Over the years, driven by the needs of Indian customers, GE has partnered with a number of Indian companies like BHEL, SBI, Wipro and Triveni to meet requirements across verticals like energy, infrastructure and financial services. JFWTC in Bangalore is GE’s largest integrated multidisciplinary R&D Center and the first to be located outside the US. Over 5,300 scientists and engineers work at the R&D centre here and have filed more than 2,250 patents.

While GE’s technology applications include healthcare, locomotive engines, heavy earth-moving equipment and equipment for the energy sector, the company has bagged a big ticket project under the Prime Minister’s Make in India initiative. GE has bagged a contract with the Ministry of Railways to develop a factory to supply and maintain 1,000 diesel locomotives. As per the private-public partnership, GE has announced the establishment of the factory at Marhowra in Bihar and maintenance facilities at Bhatinda in Punjab and Gandhidham in Gujarat.

The Summit also witnessed the launch of FICCI-Edelman Knowledge Report on ‘Towards Making Bengaluru as R&D Capital of India.’ According to the Report, Bangalore is home to the highest number of multinational R&D centres and a talent pool of young engineers. A study by research firm Zinnov Consulting in 2015 estimated that nearly 48 per cent - 155,000 - of the MNC R&D workforce of 323,000 in India reside in Bangalore. 

At the Global R&D Summit 2017, the Government of Karnataka has been the State Partner and Russia, the country partner. The Summit also saw the signing of the Joint Declaration between The Department of Science and Technology, Government of India and the Ministry of Economic Development of the Russian Federation to stimulate cooperation in the field of promoting innovation activities between the two countries.

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