‘Our ambition is to make Tamil Nadu the R&D capital of India, if not Asia’: Dr TRB Rajaa

Dr TRB Rajaa, Tamil Nadu's Minister for Industries, Investment Promotions and Commerce shares plans to catapult the state as the country’s top Research and Development hub.

By Amit Vijay M calendar 10 Dec 2023 Views icon21127 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp
‘Our ambition is to make Tamil Nadu the R&D capital of India, if not Asia’: Dr TRB Rajaa

Dr TRB Rajaa, Tamil Nadu's Minister for Industries, Investment Promotions and Commerce is a man on a mission. And it is clear from the self assuredness when he speaks, that the mission is going well. Addressing the Autocar Professional India EV Conclave, and talking on its sidelines, Dr Raja outlined the blueprint for the state of Tamil Nadu to become the EV manufacturing and R&D hub of South Asia. In short, the administration of the state is on its way to create the complete ecosystem to make and market EVs on the back of a robust skilling policy and the intent to create multiple mobility zones. According to state data, Tamil Nadu accounts for close to 40 percent of all EV investments in India, and the Industry Minister has plans to double this in the next two years.

Keen on attracting more investments in the electric vehicles (EV) sector in particular, Tamil Nadu has outlined close to Rs 300 crore for a 300- acre, first-of-its-kind Future Mobility and E-Vehicle Park at Shoolagiri on the outskirts of this industrial city and plans to offer a plug-and-play business model for those setting up their units. The state already has EV OEM majors like Ather, Ola, TVS Motor Company, and Simple Energy, which have set up multiple manufacturing units in the Hosur[1]Krishnagiri-Dharmapuri (HKD) region. Plans are in place to connect the Sriperumbudur and Oragadam corridors to the existing mobility zones.

After attracting global carmaker Stellantis, which has a facility in Thiruvallur, the state is making rapid advances in battery manufacturing, with global majors like BYD, Lucas-TVS, and Li Energy establishing units in the state.

Here is a summary of what the minister said.

On attracting investments

When any investor walks into India, the first door they knock on is Tamil Nadu. It would be fairly realistic to say that Tamil Nadu is India's electric vehicle manufacturing hub. Our EV policy specifically focuses on developing cells and battery manufacturing, which is expected to draw investments close to Rs 80,000 crore up from the current Rs 40,000 crore. The state's base in electronic manufacturing encourages more electric vehicle companies to establish local operations here. We have a clear vision of inclusive, long-term growth. Our EV policy is comparable to, and even exceeds, what other states have to offer because we are "future-ready." The Tamil Nadu Global Investors Meet, which is scheduled for January 7-8, 2024, is where we will be making significant announcements on our EV policy.

On talent development

We need to preserve the head start that we have currently, and maintain the flow of talent into the sector. The quality of the human resources in the sector should be strong, and that is why there is a lot of focus on capacity building and skilling. To develop in-house competencies for skilling, the city of Coimbatore is developing an MSME EV Skilling Programme to equip Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) with the skills and knowledge required to thrive in the rapidly growing EV sector.

On job creation

Our target is to create about 1.5 lakh new jobs. We want to create an environment that contributes to sustainable development goals. We want to provide employment for women in rural areas around EV clusters. We want to create a multitude of opportunities for generation of employment.

On climate common sense

Here in Tamil Nadu, the government is inculcating a climate common sense in our people. This is an inherent understanding of what is good for the environment and what is not. We take a a practical and informed approach to addressing climate change that is based on a shared understanding of scientific evidence and the need for collective, responsible action. In Tamil Nadu, we are taking steps to achieve this systematically. We are reforming our school and college curricula to create climate consciousness. Our youth are leading the way in climate action, and we are enabling them.

We are even fostering a positive political fraternity environment in which professionals advise our legislators on the types of policies that we will need to develop in the future. I firmly believe that climate justice is also about social justice because it is understood that vulnerable communities are often disproportionately affected by climate change.

On fast forwarding waiting times

In some cases, the turnaround time for new proposals from the MoU to launch has been less than 60 days. Six months is a reasonable time for any investor to expect to hear back from TN state officials in larger proposals involving multiple departments and clearances. We intend to explore various opportunities and overcome challenges in the e-mobility domain by accelerating investments in the sector from a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to a business launch in less than 6 to 10 months.

On new R&D centres in TN

One key reason we see this happening is that the industry, the government, and academia are all in sync. Now, there is a need to push this to the next level, through a strong R&D ecosystem. Our ambition is to make Tamil Nadu the R&D capital of India, if not Asia. This is our primary goal moving forward. R&D will be critical, and we will develop an ecosystem centred on innovation.

On TN becoming a hydrogen hub

Tamil Nadu has been leading the green energy transition revolution and is in the process of developing a green hydrogen hub. I am pleased to inform you that more than half of the state's installed energy capacity is green, with the government aiming for 75 percent. The government’s commitment and efforts were acknowledged with the UN Promotion Award 2023 for Excellence in Scaling Up Energy Transition Investments.

On battery swapping

Battery swapping will also get support from the government and plenty of benefits are on offer for the EV ecosystem play, which as I said before, will be unveiled at the Tamil Nadu Global Investors Meet to be held on January 7 and 8, 2024.

On battery charging infrastructure

We have already outlined a plan to bump up our EV charging footprint to close to 2,000 EV chargers and bring about revolutionary changes in the way people commute. The government targets expanding its current 300–350 charging stations by fivefold over the next few years through robust coordination between the state's various departments and oil marketing companies. Currently, we don’t have enough EV charging facilities in the state. But soon, you are going to see a multi-fold expansion in the state’s charging infrastructure. We also plan to launch an EV portal, which will integrate all charging stations in the state. As we strive to become India's EV charging capital, we want to hand hold adoption, provide consumers with more charging stations, and eliminate range anxiety.

On the scrapping policy

The Tamil Nadu government is working on a scrapping policy for the state that will encourage consumers to give up their old vehicles while also incentivising consumers to switch to EVs and decarbonise road transportation. We will be announcing more details on this shortly.

On prioritising MSMEs

We have a strong MSME focus, with a multi-city plug-and[1]play facility for MSMEs created and conceptualised by the MSME department. The industry's needs are so progressive that we are looking to create demand-based interventions. Tamil Nadu's DNA is such that it competes not only with other states, but also with countries such as Malaysia and Vietnam, where global companies can shift their supply chains to India. We are constantly expanding the skill sets required as you transition to cleaner, greener vehicle manufacturing and building R&D capabilities.

On the new EV Park

The EV park will be located inside Hosur’s third industrial estate being developed by the State Industries Promotion Corporation of Tamil Nadu (SIPCOT), which has already acquired over 800 acres of land out of the planned 1,025 acres. It will house OEMs and component makers such as battery and charging infrastructure providers. The idea behind an EV park is to attract more EVs to Hosur and increase the presence of ancillary industries, which will give investors confidence to choose the location.

This feature was first published in Autocar Professional's December 1, 2023 issue.

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