Kitting them softly

DRDO's explosive detection kit makes it to the US. There's more where that came from

Perhaps for the first time ever, technology developed in an Indian defence laboratory has been licensed for production in the US, world leader in investment in military research. The explosive detection kit developed by a Pune lab of the Defence Research and Development Organisation, which is compact, cheap and easy to use in field conditions, will be supplied to the US military and Homeland Security. This is being described as a "reverse technology transfer".

The DRDO has always had varied interests. Some are dual-use like food preservation, convenience foods, materials technology, an acoustic detector for locating people buried under rubble, and a water filter that removes arsenic. Its food technology has helped companies like MTR venture into the ready-to-eat sector, but only one product, an energy juice made from sea-buckthorn designed for troops stationed at high altitudes, ever became a well-known brand in the marketplace. In contrast, the US defence research establishment has created technologies that are beyond brands phenomena like the internet and GPS, for instance. Work continues in diverse fields, some only incidentally related to defence biofuels, highly scalable mobile communications, systems integrity assurance in communications equipment, wider deployment of fibre optics, low-power computing using on-chip heatsinks and the man-machine interface.

From the Cold War era, when the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency was a major funder, spin-offs of defence research have steadily trickled into civilian markets. But in India, defence research has proceeded on a smaller scale and its fruits have been indifferently commercialised. The licensing of the explosive detection kit, facilitated by FICCI, is the first major success in a programme to accelerate commercialisation, and an international market for India's defence technology is no longer unimaginable.

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