April 16, 2008
It calls itself a science company that wants to increase its “marketfacing innovations for the global marketplace.” For the US-based $29.4-billion (Rs 1,17,600-crore) DuPont, India will play a crucial role in that endeavour. That’s why it has chosen to set up its first knowledge centre in India on the outskirts of Hyderabad. Recently, Thomas M. Connelly, Executive Vice President & Chief Innovation Officer, DuPont, visited the knowledge centre that’s expected to be ready soon. “I expect the DuPont Knowledge Center to be a global Centre of Excellence for DuPont. This will enable us to increase our ‘speed to market’ with products that come out of our R&D and innovations pipeline, not only for India but also for other growth regions.”DuPont, which began as an explosives company 200 years ago, has today emerged as a global agrochemicals giant with operations across 70 countries. It offers a wide range of innovative products and services for markets that include agriculture and food, building and construction, communications, and transportation.
Connelly, who has been to India several times over the past 15 years and sees dramatic acceleration in the last five years, says: “Today less than 40 per cent of our sales are in the US.” About a fourth of DuPont’s sales come from emerging markets.
Connelly points out that the company is working more closely with its customers and spending more research dollars on new products and services than just on increasing productivity of its existing units.
“Two-thirds of our R&D resources are working on growth (read: new offerings in terms of products and services). Today, he says, the company is already hitting its initial goals of 6 per cent revenue growth and 10 per cent profit growth; over the next 2-3 years DuPont is looking at between 6 and 8 per cent revenue growth and 10-13 per cent profit growth; and it is working towards ensuring that new products get to peak sales in 2-3 years as against 4-5 years earlier.
The mission of the DuPont Knowledge Center in Hyderabad, according to its Director, Homi Bhedwar, is to work in some of the cutting-edge disciplines of science. There is a unique combination of research skill-sets, with agri-biotech specialists and industry biotech scientists getting to work under one roof. Research outcomes are not just aimed at global markets but are also designed to be relevant to India.
The centre has already started working out of its leased facility on some of the cutting-edge areas of agricultural biotech, industrial biotech, material sciences and nanotechnology. It is also leveraging some of the learnings in technology gained from its centres abroad. The aim is to use that to leapfrog and drive innovation. The centre is to be the second-largest research and innovation centre of DuPont outside the US. It is being designed to house 600 scientists in a unique ambience where various streams of researchers can exchange thoughts and also work seamlessly with the other global centres of DuPont.
Some of the unique things that the centre will initially get involved in include: developing unique traits of seeds—say with improved drought tolerance or improved nitrogen uptake. The focus in industrial biotech is on renewable resources for energy or biofuels—but with use of Indian feedstock. Work in nanotechnology could hover around how to extend UV degradation of some plastic products. Cutting edge, indeed.
— E. Kumar Sharma