IS THE high-tech research done in India by foreign companies more for use in the US than in India? Some experts seem to think so.
A study conducted by the National Institute of Science, Technology and Development Studies (NISTAD) says between 1990 and 2002, 266 patents were filed in the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) by companies for research done in India. More than half of these patents from India in the US were taken out by foreign companies. Most are for high-tech products that have a huge market in the US.
"The cost of research in India is one-tenth of the cost in the US. Therefore these companies have set up their R&D centres in India," said Dr A.D. Damodaran, former director, CSIR Regional Research Laboratory in Trivandrum.
Rajesh Kochar, former director, NISTAD, said: "The West is deriving financial gains from our scientific know-how." Done for the office of the principal scientific adviser to the government and finalised this year, the study says most patents registered in the US from a foreign country during 1990-2002 were from India -- 266.
followed by the electronics, pesticides, agrochemical products and food-and-beverages sectors. Of the 59 Indian firms involved, most patents are in the name of the parent foreign company. In all, these companies own 96 patents as against 93 by the institutions owned by Indians. The rest are owned by Indian nationals.
Compared to foreign companies operating in India, the record of Indian companies, including government institutes, at the USPTO has been dismal. The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) got some patents for hybrid varieties of plants but they do not have much market value in the US. “Indian institutions still lack the R&D expertise of established MNC foreign firms in matching fields,” said Damodaran.
The study mentions the poor innovation record of Indian universities but says most of the foreign companies relied on foreign universities for providing scientific inputs for research in India.
Dr Damodaran said the interest of foreign companies in Indian researchers saw an exponential rise after 1999 when India implemented a new TRIPS-consistent IPR regime.
Companies like Texas Instruments of the US obtained 40 patents, Hoechst Aktiengesellschaft of Germany obtained 30 and General Electrical Company of the US obtained 26 patents after 1999. “Some of the companies had only a small set-up before 1995. The result points to high degree of R&D and innovation activity of MNCs in India in the current period,” said Sujit Chatterjee of NISTAD in the study.