About: Dr. K Subramanian - Executive Director
Dr. K. Subramanian obtained his PhD from Cornell University in Electrical Engineering with specialization in Micro ElectroMechanical Systems or MEMS. He obtained his Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from IIT Madras. He is currently Executive Director, R&D at Powergear Ltd., MEPZ, Chennai where he works on implementing several novel technologies in Energy, Aviation, Materials, Chemicals, Mechanical, Sensors and other sectors. He previously worked at GE’s Global Research Center in New York. Subramanian has filed more than 50 patent applications in his field. He managed a large program on MEMS at GE and received two prestigious awards for his research. One of them, the Hull Award, is presented to early-career researchers at GE Global Research. The other award, the Whitney technical achievement award is for a project that is viewed as a potential market game changer. Subramanian is a Six Sigma Black Belt. He has made significant contributions to multiple unique projects and has authored numerous publications and technical reports. The current contract R&D initiative at Powergear aims to showcase India’s innovative talents to the world.
1. What is Powergear's unique offering in the R&D space? Can you give us a general overview?
Powergear offers “by-industry, for-industry” R&D solutions and believe we may be a unique offering in the Indian market. This means that we are the extended R&D lab of many companies. If a company has a need where an invention is required, we do the work for them. This work is done in a very multidisciplinary fashion with a clear goal of converting research into the product. Say an electric vehicle company wants to invent a new battery that charges much faster than existing batteries, they would describe the requirement to us and we would form a team of scientists in chemicals, electrical and thermal sciences to invent a solution for them.
2. What about the engagement model with companies using Powergear as their R&D lab?
We have very flexible engagement models. We first sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement and brainstorm the customer’s requirements. This is based on the customer’s vision of what new technologies/products they would like to launch in the coming years. Once a requirement for innovation is described, we use our collective experience to estimate timelines, deliverables, and commercials. We then execute the project professionally with frequent engagement and steering meetings with the customer’s team. We finally deliver working prototypes of the invention and help the customer achieve cost, reliability, and transition to manufacturing.
3. What was the innovation within your project which made you win the Whitney technical achievement award? Also, please share your experience working on MEMS at GE.
The innovation relates to the world of power, where equipment is generally large. We proposed and demonstrated that there is a significant benefit to making some power equipment in extremely small form factors (of the scale of 1/1000th of a millimetre). Making these small makes them work very fast and the high-speed feature provides new value adds never before imagined.
4. What are the key strategies that you have deployed to reach the target audience of Powergear Limited?
We are actively letting people know through conferences, presentations and online forums that such R&D services exist. We are telling companies to use us for R&D when their internal R&D teams are busy with more immediate problems so that we can serve their longer-term vision. As we provide very diverse skills, it helps customers get their R&D executed without necessarily having to hire manpower in all skill areas. We also negotiate very friendly terms on Intellectual Property. Once our customer sees value in our offering, they often keep coming back to us for multiple projects. We also work with startup companies that may not have access to research facilities at all.
5. How does Powergear Limited differentiate its product offerings with its competitors?
Multidisciplinary research offerings, product-oriented research that includes R&D on cost/reliability/manufacturability/supply chain, innovative solutions, and IP-friendly contract terms.
6. How wide is the market of Power Gear Limited? What new regions do you wish to enter in the R&D solutions business?
We have worked with customers in India and abroad and are currently expanding our marketing efforts via lead generation engines and commission agents worldwide. We are not restricted to any geographical region.
7. What are the major industries that Powergear has been catering to?
Our R&D services span industries in Energy, Automotive, Chemical Process, Iron & Steel, Electronics, Consumer and Aerospace.
8. Moving forward, what is your vision for Powergear R&D?
To make Powergear R&D the premier destination for innovation and research in India and abroad and also the grander vision of showcasing India itself as a global destination for R&D.
9. Which are the biggest challenges you are currently facing? What type of new solutions or methods are you planning to introduce in your current and upcoming projects?
Since the nature of the service is new, we are doing our best to spread the word that such an R&D service exists and that there is no excuse not to perform R&D anymore. Though many of our customers are excited about R&D, the primary issue we face is that more risk-taking appetite is required in the industry and that R&D budget allocations need to planned. Moreover. the industry needs to have a clear vision of what is coming in their product line 1, 3 or 5 years down the line so that we can team up with them and work in reverse to plan what technologies need to be invented today to serve that vision.