To improve the image of the country in petrochemical exports, the Indian government has instituted a national policiy to provide impetus to research and development (R&D) activities in this field. Currently, the industry’s R&D expenditure stands at around Rs 220 crore, about 1% of the total industry turnover.
Termed as “centres of excellence in the petrochemicals sector”, the policy entails creation of R&D set-ups for modernisation of the petrochemical industry at an estimated cost of Rs 440-660 crore. With the scheme, the government aims at a low-cost high-return intervention in the petrochemical sector through public-private participation to promote the development of new applications of polymers and plastics by setting up Centres of Excellence (CoEs). Under the scheme, existing educational and research institutions working in this field will be encouraged to set up CoEs for updating product applications, innovate new design and technology, recycle process technology, and develop biopolymers and biodegradable polymers, among others. The thrust will be on new process technologies for high performance polymers through green technology. The CoEs will emerge as internationally recognised centre for path-breaking R&D efforts, which would be subsequently transferred to the industry for commercial development. The funding of the scheme will be only in the form of a one-time capital expenditure for the government to set up such CoEs. Thus, the total government support for a single project will be either 50% of the total investment or costs of the project, with an upper limit of Rs 6 crore over a period of three years. Each CoE should finish the project within a period of three years. The rest of the amount will be met from resources of the applicant institute and its industrial partners. The policy note is of the view that India has a large and growing domestic market but low per capita polymer and synthetic fibre (plastics) consumption. It states that while the upstream petrochemical products are technology-intensive for which technologies are imported from global investors, the downstream part of the industry needs major technological upgrade. This scheme proposes to come out with technological innovation in both products and processes for both upstream and downstream petrochemical industry.