Chennai: Indias first 16-seater light commercial aircraft, designed by the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), is expected to take off in December 2002. India, all these years, did not train its focus on developing commercial aircraft small or big. Hence CSIRs attempt is the first one in this direction.
This is a big and prestigious project for us. We have given a Rs 60-crore grant to the national research laboratory, says C Krishnan, principal adviser to the Technology Development Board (TDB), Department of Science and Technology.
TDB was constituted in 1996 by the central government to assist and develop indigenous technology, providing cheap finance. The board gets a share of 5 per cent cess collected by the government from technology importers or on payment of royalty to foreign outfits under the Research and Development Cess Act, 1986.
Before TDB came into existence, IDBI was the fund-disbursement agency and in 10 years it had disbursed money to the tune of Rs 26 crore. The balance cess collected found its way to central budget.
Krishnan says TDB, since its constitution in 1996, has assisted 103 projects and has disbursed around Rs 300 crore. The total sanctions stand at Rs 450 crore. The cumulative project outlay of the 103 projects will be around Rs 1,500 crore. Around 20 projects are promoted by first generation entrepreneurs.
The financial assistance by TDB is in the form of soft loans and the board, in line with softening interest rates, has reduced its lending rate by 1 per cent to 5 per cent simple interest. Generally TDB does not favour taking equity exposures in the venture assisted by it. But there are exceptions.
TDB has taken equity stakes in 21st Century Batteries, floated to make lithium ion batteries. What is interesting is that the board is assisting a company importing an American technology. The other venture in which TDB has taken equity stakes is UTI Venture Fund, floated partnering with UTI. TDB contributed Rs 25 crore to the corpus. Krishnan says UTI Venture Fund has assisted several IT-related projects in Bangalore.
About the repayments to the board by the entrepreneurs, Krishnan says: The repayment on our loans are likely to happen in a year or two after factoring the incubation period. Apart from interest on its loans the board will also receive royalties from the assisted companies. As regards royalties we dont specify the percentage upfront; that is left open to negotiations after commercialising the technology, he says.
Notable among the successful commercialisation of projects assisted by TDB is the hepatitis-B vaccine from Shantha Bio Tech, Hyderabad. The latest TDB assisted project that went on stream and holds good promise is the production natural beta-carotene project promoted by the Chennai-based ACL Chemicals.