Indian Cluster of Mechatronics is akin more to clusters in developed countries where the focus is on innovation through collaborative models

Could you please brief us about the genesis of the Indian Cluster Of Mechatronics ?

During one of the Export Coaching Programmes (ECPs) for Engineering of CBI, The Netherlands, some concepts of emerging technologies and innovation came up for discussions. Most of us learnt for the first time that mechatronics was the principal innovation driver in industry in the last ten years. Since the discipline of mechatronics involved a huge amount of cooperative effort of different technologies and different entities, several Clusters of Mechatronics had been formed recently in Europe as a co-operative effort of SMEs and Institutions to contribute to innovation effort in a number of sectors. These European Clusters enjoyed active support of the European Commission, the local Governments, universities and the Developmental Institutions.

The concept of formation of Indian Cluster Of Mechatronics took birth at a dinner meeting of the CBI participants in a restaurant in Wurzburg in Germany. It came as a sort of revelation that each one of the participant present at the venue did constitute a an important constituent of Mechatronics. This prompted the European CBI Consultant to suggest that the participants having established some rapport during the ECP could stimulate creation of an Indian Cluster.

The suggestion received a very enthusiastic response and members agreed to work together to form a Cluster to drive innovation and automation in India.

Jagdish Mahajan - President, Indian Cluster of Mechatronics

 I was requested by the group to lead the Cluster and all the members agreed to extend their support and to give shape to this initiative. CBI, the Netherlands agreed to be a Partner Institution and extend support in the initial stages.

  • An Agency of the Dutch Ministry Of Foreign Affairs.

What is the legal status of the Indian Cluster and how do things stand today. in India, please briefs its journey and achievements..

From the very beginning it was clear in my mind that for a sustainable cooperation, the group must acquire a legal entity. This was made clear to prospective members. This idea received strong support from the CBI also. With active help from the steering committee, the Mechatronica Cluster was formally registered as a Society under the Societies Registration ACT 1860 towards the end of 2011. The Association has also been registered as a Public Trust under Mumbai Public Trust Act 1950 in 2012.

Some members started working together on some projects soon after the decision to form the Cluster. Initially it started with sourcing from each other and it quickly ramped up to developing projects of common interest. A number of companies who were not a part of the CBI ECPs have joined the Cluster and are making extensive contribution to its growth.

As we know most of the Clusters in India are around basic or traditional industries to help solve their problems and assist them in marketing. How is Mechatronica Cluster different? Why does your cluster have an all-India character?

You are correct. Most of the Clusters in India as in other developing countries are for labour-oriented basic industries like hosiery, furniture, leather, shoes, textile, agricultural products etc except for a couple of clusters like that for automotive sector.

All these clusters are very local l in nature . They address a specific business segment which historically is based in a particular region or area due to some local market or environmental conditions. They seek value addition through quality improvement or supply chain management or helping them in marketing. All such clusters are extensively supported by the state and central Government and in some cases by UNIDO.

While the focus of Indian Cluster of Mechatronics is on innovation, new product development, scalability and sustainability through optimization and functional enhancement of products and services. This Cluster is akin more to clusters in developed countries where the focus is on innovation through collaborative models. However, it is not easy in a country like ours where most of high-tech companies are based on imported technology and sources for development including financial assistance are quite limited.

Mechatronica Cluster is an All-India Cluster and its members hail from all over the country. Mechatronics is an interdisciplinary field, combining in a synergistic manner with the classical knowledge of mechanical, hydraulics, pneumatics, electrical, electronics, optics engineering and computer science. There is no single large related or supportive industry or concentration of industries at present in India that would support a network of such a large variety of component/system manufacturers for developing new systems or products for them or for their customers in the discipline of mechatronics . Most of the Clusters in Europe enjoy local support of some large industry groups besides the support by local Government and Institutions as well as of the European Commission.

The Cluster is an effort in uniting fragmented sectors of industry in mechanical , electronics and IT that are located in different parts of the country. Networking presents immense opportunities to participating companies and allows them to be more productive and innovative than they could be in isolation. It is envisaged that as the participative membership grows, we will also have regional co-operation to address the specific needs of some industries.

What are the requirements for the SME companies to become the member of Indian Cluster of Mechatronica?

Manufacturers, service providers and Institutions are eligible to become members. In Generally, the membership is by invitation or on the basis of reference by another member. This is basically done to retain cohesiveness of the group. However, we encourage all companies in the manufacturing or service industry and Institutions who are interested in promoting the discipline of Mechatronics to join the Cluster. Since ours is a multi-disciplinary system , we are always on the lookout for companies in the un-represented manufacturing sectors and system integrators to join the group.

New applicants have to pay a small admission fee besides the small annual subscription depending upon gross T.O..

How is the Mechatronica Cluster promoting the Cluster and its members in the global markets.

We are promoting mechatronica Cluster primarily in two ways initially, viz, by participation in international events including exhibitions/conferences/summits and by building cooperation with international clusters.

Since the character and objectives of our Cluster are similar to that in European Clusters, we are seeking active cooperation with similar clusters in advanced countries. A number of initiatives have been taken in the last two years for building international cooperation.

We have signed an MoU with two Clusters in Europe, viz., Mazovian ICT Cluster and Mazovian Photonic Technology Cluster of Poland to facilitate and build cooperation between members of the respective Clusters for creating and implementing new products and projects.

We have an informal arrangement of mutual cooperation for promoting technical information/development and events with the Mechatronik Cluster of Upper Austria, Lahti Mechatronics Cluster of Finland, Mechatronics Cluster of Italy, Brainport Industries of Holland and Meccatronica Cluster of Sicily.

One international delegation form Meccatronica Cluster has visited us twice and a sponsored delegation of our Cluster was invited to Sicily to interact with the members of their Cluster.

We have taken part in several international summits and forums in the last couple of years to project the image of the Cluster and its members.

We are the only Cluster in India that is listed on the map of Cluster Observatory of Europe.

We have learnt from various sources that you are quite active on various fairs. How has participation at SPS IPC Drives Fair last year of benefit to the Indian members to promote their products visibility on global market, and generate leads? How the SPS IPC Drives platform will help them?

SPS IPC Drives Fair which is held every year is a unique high technology platform for promotion of Electric Automation systems and components. Most of our members at present are component manufacturers and system integrators .This Fair attracts the right visitors looking for quality products and components and gives a good opportunity to our members to showcase their prowess. Moreover, there are quite a few exhibitors who are prospective customers for components and system integration.

Our major effort has been to bring various member companies together for group participation at this international show to display the high calibre and excellent quality of products of our members.

Mechatronica Cluster took part in SPS 2012 with the support of CBI. Based on the good response at that event, the Cluster took part with 8 companies at SPS 2013. Hon. Mr. M. Sevala Naik, Consul General of India at Munich was kind enough to inaugurate our pavilion at SPS in 2013 and provide encouragement to Indian participants. Our display was considered superb even by CBI, Netherlands. All members received an excellent response with good leads at this Show, much beyond their expectations. A couple of members have already executed substantial orders based on the enquiries received last year. A lot of credit goes to individual participants for their own efforts and drive. It shows that there is good market for our products and services abroad if we take the right approach. This year too we expect a similar response. The Cluster has sent more than 1000 invitations to prospects in Europe. It is besides the invitations sent by individual members.

The unique feature of participation our Cluster at SPS is that unlike other fairs by India, there is no support or Market development Assistance for this Show by the Government of India and it is entirely the initiative of participating companies.

We have also taken part in Hannover Messe2014 with a few members. Our Cluster was a Partner Association with EEPC India in their Indian Engineering Sourcing Show(IESS) in Feb 2014 and took part with 20 companies. This Show attracted more than 1000 international delegates. We are again partnering with them in their IESS Show in Dec 2014. We will be Knowledge Partner with Hannover Milano Fair in Delhi in December 2014 and put up an Application Park on Mechatronics at the Fair. A large number of international visitors have been invited to these Fairs.

How Indian Cluster of Mechatronics associated with the CBI - Centre for Promotion of Imports into the European Union? Is there any other foreign organization/exhibitor with them Indian Cluster of Mechatronics is working together?

As mentioned above, CBI is the joint promoter of the Mechatronica Cluster. Initially a few companies from the Export Coaching programmes (ECPs) of the Engineering Components and Electronic Systems and Components came together to form the Cluster. Mechatronica Cluster is valued as a Partner Institution by CBI ( CBI helped us actively in building up the Cluster with their technical and moral support. It provided financial support for the first exhibition in Nuremberg by bearing part of the cost. It extended support in building relationship with some leading Mechatronic Institutions. However, the focus of CBI has shifted more to fragile countries from 2013 and India does not qualify any further technical or financial support. However, we still enjoy moral support and information support. There is no foreign organization associated with us at SPS. However, we have invited more than 1000 foreign delegates from our earlier contacts to visit our co-exhibitors at SPS 2014.

Please brief us about future of India’s engineering in automation, and positioning India as the global power?

There has been a tremendous thrust in India up to now to encourage labour-intensive industries with a view to provide employment to as many people as possible. There has been a myth that increasing automation would deprive creation of additional jobs. What is not appreciated that automation is essential for improving productivity , increasing accuracy , improving precision and optimising resources at the same time creating new opportunities for new businesses. Rapid developments in semiconductor technology and injection of artificial intelligence on account of phenomenal progress in IT has changed the face of manufacturing drastically in the last 10/15 years.

India has built a few unique competencies. We have built ahuge competence in IT which is acknowledged the world over. We have a large pool of high engineering skills rising every year and a large manufacturing base. Moreover, a large number of global companies have established their R&D centers in India to take advantage of its scientific and engineering skills. These critical attributes do provide an excellent base for becoming a global power in engineering business. The latest thrust on “Make In India” provides an excellent platform to build cooperation in high technology areas of automation and mechatronics, which in turn drive innovation in almost all fields.

This is going to provide a huge impetus to manufacturing industry and it may not be difficult to increase the share of our manufacturing sector from 16% of the GDP at present to 25% within next 8 year and create additional 100 million jobs for its growing young population.

What is your vision for Indian Cluster of Mechatronics? Please highlight the long term agenda.

We are at a nascent stage of development as a Cluster. As mentioned earlier our model is similar to European Cluster. We aim to stimulate effective cooperation first among the manufacturers of components and assemblies and system integrators and second between the manufacturers and Institutions. We are trying to build a critical mass of members to foster a visible cooperation within industries. Unlike Europe where such bodies enjoy natural support of the Government and Institutions, such is not the case in our country and institutions have to fend for themselves initially.

Our vision is to become a renowned world class institution in the field of mechatronics that will exploit the inter-disciplinary knowledge and expertise of its members and supporters to provide innovative, economic and sustainable that will be admired for optimisation of resources.

We are taking baby steps in building towards our mission and vision as outlined above. We are trying to build a culture of cooperation by taking part in cooperative events, participating in international events and summits and seeking cooperation with international clusters.

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December'15/January 2016