India has a huge talent pool: Marc Jarrault, LAPP India

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A leading supplier of cable and connection technology, LAPP India is focusing big on research and development activities. It is extremely bullish on Indian talent pool and believes that young minds will be at the centre in driving innovation in the Indian wire and cable market. LAPP India has collaborated with the major engineering institutes across India, as well as developed a full-fledged Innovation and Engineering Centre to design, develop, manufacture and test products made in India for India. In an interview with Shweta Nanda of Machine Tools World, Marc Jarrault, Managing Director, LAPP India talks about the importance of industry-academia collaboration and India’s changing innovation system. Excerpts

Q. In your view, how can collaboration between academia and industry foster innovation? Tell us about LAPP India’s initiatives in this direction.

In the early days, industrial companies designed products and provided solutions to customers’ problems. But these days, customers look not only for solutions that address their issues but also for customization, efficiency, productivity and value for money. These kinds of customer demands can only be addressed with continual innovation. Formats such as design thinking competition and innovation competition, where one designs an innovative solution for the betterment of the industry/ society, have worked successfully for many companies.
LAPP, as a part of this initiative, conducts Innovation Awards, specially designed to motivate participants among its customers from various industry segments to display their innovation. The initiative is to recognize outstanding customers across industries, who use LAPP cables and associated products and solutions to develop innovative products. There is a strong impact on sales, productivity improvement, energy savings and sustainable development.

Q. How can partnerships between industry-academia contribute to the vision of making India the next manufacturing hub?

Technology around us is changing at a rapid pace and so are our demands and needs. India has a huge talent pool, and LAPP believes that young minds are the future of India’s growth when it comes to R&D in the Indian wire and cable market. The collaboration between industry and academic institutions will encourage innovation, better learning systems and produce an employment-ready workforce. Millennials, today, look for these collaborations, which provide them with an opportunity to showcase their ideas and learn about trends, technologies, challenges and problem-solving. Indian corporates are slowly beginning to realize this and are engaging in more research-based work. Such initiatives will have an impact on India’s competitiveness in the global market to help India emerge as the next manufacturing hub.

Q. Tell us about your successful R&D initiatives internally and collaborations with the institutes and colleges in India.

LAPP has been in India for over two decades now, and the company aims to drive and encourage innovation. As a part of our R&D initiatives, we have developed a full-fledged Innovation and Engineering Centre and a state-of-the-art laboratory in India. At these centres, we design, develop, manufacture and test products made in India for India. We encourage our employees to look at generating more efficient and advanced ways of transmitting energy, power and data and innovating better. Moreover, a substantial amount of the company’s annual turnover is committed to LAPP’s engineering centres and laboratory to innovate and launch products to meet customers’ requirements.
As a part of the industry-academia collaboration, we have established Centres of Excellence at reputed engineering institutions across India to foster and support knowledge creation, insights, implementation and imparting thought leadership. We, along with various institutions, also develop a curriculum for the students to have a greater understanding of cable and connection technology and impart application-based knowledge. This curriculum also provides students with hands-on practical experience of the industry.

LAPP’s vision with these partnerships is to enable multi-disciplinary research centres addressing nationally and internationally challenging areas related to cables. Our first-ever collaboration was with PSG College of Technology, Coimbatore, in 2006. This tie-up involves PSG academics, LAPP experts and companies from other industries who focus on product innovation and research on new trends of cables. Through this initiative, LAPP also sponsors a few PSG students to travel and study in German institutes for a year to gain international market knowledge.
The next tie-up is with RV College of Engineering, Bengaluru. This Centre of Excellence has been productive for both the institution and LAPP by providing product design and development about the latest trends and future prototypes. The centre consists of a laboratory facility with end-to-end cable research and testing equipment. It gives students an opportunity to develop sustainable and comprehensive cabling technology solutions. Apart from the involvement in the centre, LAPP also sponsored their hybrid car under the Ashwa Racing Foundation by providing them with cables for designing the car. This year, RV College won the second position at Formula Hybrid car race in the US.

LAPP has also signed a MoU with the Symbiosis University of Applied Sciences, Indore. We are in the process of collaborating with the institution to develop a curriculum for the students, aiding as knowledge partner, supporting joint research projects and providing internship/on-the-job training for greater understanding of the cable and connectivity solutions.

Q. Are there any R&D activities directed at the smart factories of the future?

We are actively re-thinking and re-defining the cable and connection technology to meet the challenges of the smart factory of the future. Our portfolio includes products and solutions that meet the global standards for the intelligent factory. As a step towards this initiative, we have developed the highly flexible ETHERLINE® FD Cat. 6A that can transmit high data rates with consistent reliability in drag chains that are under constant movement with a data rate of 10 Gbit/s. Another product for the new age factories is ETHERLINE® EC. These cables are 30% thinner than usual, yet robust solutions suitable for use at the sensor level, which allows the tightest bending radii.
To further strengthen our offering for smart factories, we have launched ETHERLINE® ACCESS, the managed and unmanaged switches. The switches, along with data cables and connectors from Lapp’s range of products, offer industrial network solutions to ensure reliable connectivity.

Q. What kind of talent are you witnessing in Indian universities?

The millennials in India are attracted to and engaged with more innovative methodologies of learning than under normal lecture-based classroom environments. They demand a more hands-on or experiential form of a learning experience. Hence, the educational institutes are designing their courses to include more practical knowledge and move away from traditional theoretical lectures. The institutions are now collaborating with companies in the industry and organizing competitions to bring out their talent.

Young minds, these days, have abundant talent in terms of creativity and innovation. The right guidance and knowledge on how to synthesise it into real-life applications would groom them. Companies, too, are looking for young talent with a fresh perspective to challenging situations that not only solves customers’ issues but also address areas like environment safety, better productivity, timeliness and value for money.

Q. Where does India stand regarding innovation vis-à-vis other countries?

Compared to India’s counterparts in Western and Asian countries, India has now moved away from older economy models where innovation was seen as an individual force. It has now adopted innovation economics, where innovation is viewed central to the manufacturing unit of every sector. Now is a great time for India to prioritize manufacturing and invest in research and development, invent better products and services, and develop new ones.
Companies should be supported by knowledge, technology and entrepreneurship to foster innovation. Prompting these factors should be the main goal of our economic policy,along with developing effective private-public partnerships that spark increased innovation and productivity. I think the Government’s Make-in-India initiative can make a mark if it also concentrates on fostering innovation along with encouraging companies to manufacture.

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