A favourable FDI regime will accelerate our India investment, says Rolls Royce CSO

Thomas K Thomas New Delhi | Updated on July 09, 2014

PAUL STEIN,Chief Scientific Officer, Rolls Royce Plc

As the Chief Scientific Officer of Rolls Royce Plc, Paul Stein is responsible for driving innovation at the British company.

The company, with focus on aerospace and marine and industrial power systems, had launched an India open innovation programme in 2013 in a bid to tap into Indian talent.

Business Line met Stein to discuss the company’s plans in India and global innovations being driven by Rolls Royce.

How has been the response to the innovation programme?

We have had some good successes. We were looking for two-three game-changing ideas and we got those.

What ideas have you received from Indian companies?

We had a challenge to produce a tool to remove a sealant and we found it hard to remove it mechanically or chemically. An Indian company has come up with a clever way of doing it. It’s a simple idea but it saves us a lot of money.

A more complex challenge was detecting cracks under coatings.

We were worried about cracks on metallic components under the coating. An Indian company has come up with an idea and we are developing some experiments that’s going to be a game changer.

I can’t be specific about the actual technology or the companies. But there are reasons for us to come back again in autumn with new set of challenges.

What’s your view on FDI in defence?

I think it’s good to have 51 per cent. But this should be linked to technology. When you have cutting edge technology, people are worried about what its going to be used for. Currently, it’s a blanket 26 per cent irrespective of the technology. One should look at what technology is coming in and have a flexible mechanism in structuring the FDI.

If the FDI regime is favourable, will Rolls Royce invest more?

With or without FDI, India is a focus area. FDI is just one piece.

We will continue to invest. Mechanism like FDI helps accelerate these.

What are the interesting innovations you are working on?

In the area of civil aviation, we have identified a collection of technologies that make it lighter and efficient. We have announced two major advancements. In the marine division, we have been doing some thinking about unmanned ships.

These are big container ships. There are many advantages unmanned ships won’t be target for pirates as there won’t be any hostages to take. It’s also cost-effective as the shipping company won’t need a crew. But it’s at a concept stage and we are exploring whether it might be worth developing further.

Are you interested in India’s civil nuclear energy programme?

We are working on deals, but we have to work with the Government. We have the products, but we have to clear a lot of hurdles. But India is not the only country which is moving slow on this because of the economics. There’s greater good to be done by making civil nuclear safer than the risk of using fossil fuels.

There have been investigations into deals done by Rolls Royce. How has this impacted business?

Incidents like these have afterburn. We are working with all the stakeholders to get this behind us. We are cooperating with the Government. Rolls Royce won’t tolerate any such conduct and we take ethical behaviour extremely seriously. All senior managers have been on ethical straining and we all live the talk. I can’t comment on the past, but I believe we have to win right.

As the CSO, what really worries you the most?

We are living in an information- centric world where the impact of Internet of Things or advance capability of tablets is having a big impact. So, we have to keep pace with this. We're doing a lot on this front, but what worries me is if we have covered all bases.

Published on July 09, 2014

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