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Research & Development- The first step to creating a future-ready company

Shujaul Rehman, CEO, Garware Technical Fibres shares his thoughts on how strong R&D helps in sustainability of the company in longer run

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Garware Technical Fibres, Atmanirbhar Bharat, National Gross Expenditure on Research and Development, Globalisation, Covid pandemic, Global salmon aquaculture industry

Globalisation and digitization has compelled organisations to innovate in order to survive and grow. Research & Development (R&D) is the first step of any process that leads to application oriented innovation and is key to stay ahead of competitive pressures.  Research has many facets; and applied research will not only give an organization the edge, but can enable humankind reach higher realms.
The Covid pandemic has brought back focus on the importance of research. Every business is adapting to the new normal created by the pandemic and are now hard pressed to adapt, change and innovate.  The true importance of the R&D function is ever more being felt by the world today. In today’s circumstances, organisations that had invested in R&D are better equipped to handle changes, adapt to the emerging challenges and manage to convert them into opportunities.

While those who invested ahead of time in R&D know and understand its importance, the current pandemic is now forcing most organizations to critically look at R&D as a key purpose. Successful R&D activities result in new or more efficient products or processes gained from customer insights. Today, it is time to inoculate R&D into the very vision of a company and make it the cornerstone of long-term strategy.

R&D thrives in an open-thinking environment and allows the organisation to challenge standard processes and products. It encourages the organisation to blend and integrate new concepts and processes with the current precepts and practices. Additionally, the improvements often are concomitant with a reduction in cost and time, both necessary to ensure improved profitability for organizations.

Garware Technical Fibres (GTFL)’s mission of providing innovative application focussed solutions to enhance value of customers globally enabled in-depth interaction with customers for understanding their needs and pain areas. Today, GTFL is proud to have filed 54 patents, and most of these are a result of deep insight mining through a rigorous capture of the voice of customer. We bring these challenges to our R&D innovation centres and develop differentiated products and solutions that have value added impact to our customers’ businesses.

Application-focused innovation is part of GTFL's DNA. Our understanding of polymer sciences and the marriage of this to the customers’ requirements propels us in designing innovative products and solutions that add profit to our customers. For example, GTFL’s innovations for the global salmon aquaculture industry have propelled it to be the world’s largest salmon cage nets supplier. GTFL’s V2 technology based nets reduce costs related to bio fouling by up to 50% whilst preventing copper-oxide pollution have proved a runaway success in several international markets. Likewise, GTFL’s X12 skirts, which act as a shield against harmful marine pests whilst allowing water exchange and thereby better dissolved oxygen for salmon, have showed excellent results in field operations. In the pipeline, we have several innovations and are confident that customers will always find us as a value-adding partner to their businesses.

If one looks at country wise spends on R&D, the National Gross Expenditure on Research and Development (GERD) as a percentage share of India’s GDP is estimated at only 0.7 per cent, much lower compared to other Asian countries. In absolute standardised terms, highest spending on R&D is done by China, followed by US and the European Union whose spends are 6-8 times more than India. In brief, all developed countries spend a minimum of 2%of their GDP on R&D.

How much should a company spend on R&D is a question asked often, especially in the current times. It is perplexing to read reports about reduction in R&D spend considering the current lull and the short-term focus on cutting corners. There is no better time to invest in research than now and every spare paisa invested in R&D would insulate organisations from future shocks.

The Indian government's Atmanirbhar Bharat initiative coupled with the focus on revival of economic activities holds potential for growth through innovation. Overall, looking at it from an organisational perspective, one can decisively say that R&D has to become a strategic pillar of every organization to stay relevant and surge ahead even in challenging times.

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