Over one-third of funds distributed under an innovative public-private R&D initiative in the country may not come back to the public exchequer as the private firms that taken these soft loans have defaulted on payment as the projects failed to produce tangible results, the Lok Sabha was told .

The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) disbursed a total of ₹ 298 crore under its New Millennium Indian Technology Leadership Initiative (NMITLI) to 45 different projects since the inception of the scheme in early 2000s, but many firms failed to pay back the soft loan given at an interest rate of 3 per cent, leading to a loss of ₹ 102 crore, Union Science and Technology Minister Harsh Vardhan said in a reply to a question from Ashok Mahadeorao Nete, a BJP MP from Maharashtra.

One of the major defaulters was Ghaziabad-based Samtel Color, which was given NMITLI funds worth ₹20.63 crore for developing next-generation plasma display technology indigenously in 2006-7. The company became sick after availing of the loan and beginning to implement the project, Vardhan said.

There have been several successfully completed projects too under the scheme, which were also handled by many marquee firms like TCS, Cadila Pharma, Lupin and Biocon, among others.

However, what the Minister did not elaborate was that whether any steps have been taken for loan recovery. Technology development projects all over the world are considered inherently risky and the losses are often offset by successful projects.