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High on innovation

Oct 18 2013, 04:00 IST
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SummaryOver fish and chips, Darlington Jose Hector and Ajay Sukumaran get the GE India Techonlogy Centre MD’s take on the good and the bad of innovation in India

It was a windy day that brought the mercury down by a couple of degrees, and Bangalore, which was reeling under the spell of heavy monsoon, felt even cooler. "Why don’t we all have some soup," suggested Gopichand Katragadda, waving at the bearer. It seemed like a good idea then, so we asked for some hot and sour chicken soup and some vegetable squash soup, as we sat down for a chat with the managing director of the GE India Technology Centre. "I did a lot of talking this morning. So, this could help," said Katragadda, as soon as the soups arrived.

Since its inception 13 years ago, over 2,000 patents have been filed by the centre, and Katragadda is a proud man who predicts even bigger achievements for GE in India. “In the last three years itself, we have filed 1,000 patents based on inventions in India. We have built GE in India up to a place where we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with any R&D organisation in the world. We are GE’s largest setup anywhere in the world and we are producing intellectual property (IP) that is solving some of the toughest problems across the globe and in India.”

Low-cost ECG machines, biomass gasification, baby warmers (a phototherapy system which uses LED technology) and wind turbines best-suited for Indian conditions have been some of the innovations that the centre came up with in the recent times. Affordable healthcare and distributed power are two segments that GE is partuclarly interested in. "We are working on reducing the cost of CT scanners and maximising value on the equipment which is produced in a large scale. In distributed power, we are also working on the usage of gas engines, apart from biomass,” he says, as we slurp the last dregs of the soup.

At GE’s technology centre in Bangalore, Katragadda heads a group of 4,500 scientists and engineers. About 90% of the work goes into products that have to get into the market in 1-5 years’ time. The remaining 10% is spent on projects with longer gestation, aimed at pushing the boundaries of technology—projects on which GE’s global research teams work in tandem. Like solid oxide fuel cells or sodium halide batteries. “As we go forward, many of the things that we work on the five-plus years timeline should have India and similar regions as the test markets because this is where energy is being added,”

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