New Millennium Indian Technology Leadership Initiative (NMITLI) Scheme

As a part of New Millennium initiative, the Government mounted a farsighted R&D Programme named ‘New Millennium Indian Technology Leadership Initiative (NMITLI)’ in Public-Private Partnership mode in 2000-01. The programme was announced as part of the Union Budget in the year 2000. The responsibility of conceptualizing, evolving and implementing the programme has been assigned to the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR).

The trigger for NMITLI programme was:

  • From incremental innovation to disruptive innovation;
  • Tolerance for risk taking and failure;
  • Best minds in India to take up the grand challenge for collaborative excellence; and
  • Technology leadership.

The NMITLI focus is to:

  • identify niche areas where India can gain leadership in about 10-15 years;
  • develop projects involving best brains of the country through a rigorous process;
  • build knowledge network of partners from public funded institutions and private industries;
  • develop new methods of working together for collaborative excellence;
  • focus on proof-of-concept; and
  • provide a pipeline of cutting edge Indian innovation for conventional technology financing bodies as against the ‘usual safe bets.

Today, the New Millennium Indian Technology Leadership Initiative (NMITLI) is the largest public-private-partnership effort within the R&D domain in the country. It looks beyond today’s technology and thus seeks to build, capture and retain for India a leadership position by synergising the best competencies of publicly funded R&D institutions, academia and private industry. The Government finances and plays a catalytic role. It is based on the premise of consciously and deliberately identifying, selecting and supporting potential winners. NMITLI has carved out a unique niche in the innovation space and enjoys an excellent reputation.

NMITLI has so far evolved 57 largely networked projects in diverse areas viz. Agriculture & Plant Biotechnology, General Biotechnology, Bioinformatics, Drugs & Pharmaceuticals, Chemicals, Materials, Information and Communication Technology and Energy. These projects involve 80 industry partners & 270 R&D groups from different institutions. Approximately 1700 researchers are engaged in these projects. These 57 projects cumulatively have had an outlay of approximately Rs. 500 crore.

NMITLI Achievements:

The programme has generated about 100 international patents and 150 publications in peer reviewed journals. The important achievements are:

  • Paradigm shift in leather processing-From chemical to biochemical route
  • Pilot plants for separating cellulose, hemi-cellulose and lignin from bagasse
  • Pilot plants for producing lactic acid from sugarcane juice
  • Bio-informatics software viz. Bio-Suite, GenoCluster, Bio-SuiteC and Darshee
  • Developed three variants of SofComp (Simple office Computer) devices including Mobilis
  • Anti-psoriasis formulation in Phase-III Clinical Trial
  • Lysostaphin in Phase-II Clinical Trial
  • Anti-tuberculosis molecule in Phase-II Clinical Trial
  • poly herbal formulations for diabetes, arthritis and hepatic disorder
  • Micro-PCR based immuno-diagnostics for detecting eye infections
  • Development of new plant varieties of Mentha piperita
  • Development of Triple-Play broadband technology

Key components of CCEA Note:

Enthused by the success of the programme and on the recommendations of several committees, Government has approved the expansion of NMITLI programme to experiment newer models of innovation development. The key components of the proposal are:

Funding along with industry (50:50 Initiative)

There are many Indian companies who are doing financially very well but do not have the necessary expertise and intellectual resources to develop focused network projects for development of technologies/products in their line of activities. Their efforts need complementation from suitable R&D institutions and guidance from recognized peers to develop and commercialize newer technologies/products. Therefore, NMITLI will leverage its experiential base to encourage and assist such companies for developing network projects for those companies in product/technology development through a specific scheme called ‘NMITLI 50:50 initiative’.

Co-financing with Venture Capital funds

Many venture capitals are limited in scope and risk taking, due to lack of domain knowledge within the organization. Venture Capitals are therefore interested in joining hands with NMITLI, which has strong domain knowledge base, to jointly finance projects. Such projects would be identified and evolved following the procedures established by NMITLI. The funding would be joint with pre-determined ratio, but not more than 50% contribution from NMITLI. These projects are envisaged to be monitored by a joint team of experts as per the NMITLI monitoring mechanism. The proposed funding would follow the venture funding norms. The successes and failures resulting from the projects will be shared on equitable basis.

Setting up of NMITLI innovation centres in selected areas for long term sustained efforts

Some areas need long term sustained support with requisite human resource as well as infrastructure, assembled at one place to cross the threshold of intellectual barrier in order to generate globally competitive technologies and products, IPR, and high quality publications. It is envisaged to set up ‘NMITLI Innovation Centres’ in PPP mode for sustained efforts in some selected areas for example, Photovoltaics, Fuel Cells, White LEDs, Industrial Enzymes, Medical Implants, Vaccine development, Seed Development etc.

Support to post NMITLI projects

Despite the excellent R&D and developments, the technologies and products developed in the laboratory do need market seeding, pilot plant studies to refine the development. The companies need CSIR’s hand holding to develop and package the technologies/products further. The concept of ‘Post-NMITLI’ will fulfill the objective of providing financial and technical assistance for pre-commercialization related activities such as scale up, pilot plants, field trials, market seeding of products, market surveys, etc.

Acquisition of early stage relevant knowledge / IP for portfolio building

External ideas / leads / IP acquisition are assuming greater significance in the chain of innovation and mind to market. The availability of a large number of unencumbered IP (being developed in several laboratories globally) is providing a fillip to this approach. Several countries across the globe are striving to take advantage of the diversity of creativity available in different parts of world and integrate with its own developments to bring out new products / processes for global competitiveness. Since NMITLI aims to provide the Technological Leadership to the Indian industry, it becomes imperative for NMITLI to adopt such practices to achieve its objectives. Such acquisitions shall be in chosen areas with a view to creating a portfolio where NMITLI projects are in operation.

Crossing the geographical boundaries

It is increasingly being felt that to achieve leadership in niche technology areas, relying totally on internal expertise and capabilities may not be adequate. To achieve the objective of global leadership, it would be helpful to broaden the programme by bringing in international expertise. The international expertise may be in the form of expert advise of international experts at various stages of project development and implementation, involving international companies for product/technology development and commercialization at global scale, and engaging research institutions and/or CROs across the globe where Indian expertise need outside complementation.

Joint development and support of projects with other departments of science and technology as well as economic ministries

Many government departments are engaged in research and development activities in areas of relevance to them. These activities often have considerable degree of overlap with other scientific departments. However, these departments’s expertise is limited to undertake multi-disciplinary projects in cutting edge areas requiring wide-spectrum of intellectual and infrastructural inputs. Such multi-disciplinary areas need expertise, inputs and concerted efforts from all concerned government departments to generate IPR, technologies and products besides high quality publications. Therefore, part of the NMITLI funds will be utilized to generate inter-departmental projects in the XI FY Plan. The proposed scheme apart from generating intellectual capital, technologies and products in cutting edge areas would act as a catalyst to bring better co-ordination among various departments of government in the R&D sphere.

Relaxing the condition of more than 50% shareholding by Indians/Non-resident Indians

Many oversees companies through their R&D efforts using local resources, produce goods for local as well as overseas consumption and are thus contributing to the growth of Indian economy. They also employ Indian workforce. In some areas, such companies are better equipped to upscale the technology/products and sell it under their brand name. Further, they can become a vehicle for taking Indian technologies and products into global market easily thereby contributing more to Indian economy. The provision permits relaxation of the condition of more than 50% shareholding by Indians/Non-resident Indians to become an industrial partner in NMITLI projects.

Flexibility to convert loan into equity

Launching a new product or setting a knowledge based new venture requires investment on many fronts particularly for capital-intensive infrastructure, manpower, technology costs, working capital etc. Governments all over the world, particularly in developed countries endeavor to support entrepreneurs in different ways to ease the burden of initial investment. The industrial partner under NMITLI has to invest for commercialization of technology/products and at the same time has to return the loan to CSIR albeit in installments. This burden of loan repayment can be further reduced by converting loan into equity. Therefore, with this provision and on the request of industrial partner, loan given to it may be converted into equity.

Advantages of NMITLI Expansion:

As others are emulating, NMITLI is endeavoring to position higher in the innovation development. The proposal will therefore:

  • enable CSIR to experiment newer models of innovation development in Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) mode, which could later become models for others to emulate;
  • encourage to develop products / processes based on innovation and thereby help Indian industry emerge as a technology leader in the identified domain;
  • encourage venture capital funds to venture into more risky R&D areas;
  • act as a catalyst to bring better co-ordination among various departments of government in the R&D sphere and avoid unnecessary duplication, apart from generating intellectual capital, technologies and products in cutting edge areas; and
  • enhance national competitiveness.

Source : Press Information Bureau
Date : February 27, 2009

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