Large RE Market A Boon For India: Anadi Iyer, India Director, Fraunhofer

Highlights :

Anandi Iyer is the India Director for Fraunhofer, Europe’s largest application-oriented research organization. The organization has a presence in 82 countries globally. The German government also helps Fraunhofer financially for their research outreach. It has been working in India on several renewable energy projects. In an exclusive interview with Saur Energy, she speaks about the operations of the research entity in India, her views on the clean tech policies in India, the bottlenecks and the future plans. Excerpts:

Large RE Market A Boon For India: Anadi Iyer, India Director, Fraunhofer Large RE Market A Boon For India: Anadi Iyer, India Director, Fraunhofer

How is Fraunhofer’s helping the renewable energy sector in India?

Fraunhofer works around science and engineering, whether it is renewable energy, production technologies, material science, smart cities, smart manufacturing, and artificial intelligence, etc. We can make solar cell battery storage systems of high quality. We are also working on several technologies simultaneously, like thins cells. We possess capabilities far ahead of other companies. That is why the world’s leading companies come to us for research projects.

In India, Fraunhofer is working in renewable energy sectors like solar, wind, hybrid, electromobility, and now increasingly in grid systems. We are working in material sciences and will also work in microsystems. We have inked the Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) with the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), the Department of Heavy Energy Industry, NITI Aayog, and the Prime Minister’s Scientific Advisors Office. Fraunhofer recently signed an MoU with the Union Department of Science and Technology (DST) to become its Hydrogen Technology Partner.


What is the USP of Fraunhofer when it comes to renewable energy projects? Can you mention some of Fraunhofer’s key Indian projects? 

We are sector agnostic and when we look at any application, we look at it in a very cross-functional way. In Kochi’s Elamakkara, we identified 600 households to work around the rooftop solar, water management, and sustainable banks. It has showcased how a neighborhood can become sustainable, which does not require external energy and eventually becomes a sustainable neighbourhood.

We are also working on a water innovation hub to examine how water travels from groundwater to industrial wastewater systems to potable water to rejuvenating lakes.

Recently, Reliance acquired one of our spinoffs, where we are working on technologies, and we see that it meets a gap in the market. Every working day, Fraunhofer generates two patents globally. So, as part of the work, if we have developed a particular market patent, we take it to clients. Fraunhofer covers the entire value chain, whether research, market-driven technologies, or startups and spinoffs.


Could you share your experience of working with the Indian government and with states? 

The government portrayed a lot of energy in the past five years. The government has been trying to become a sustainable society and expediting the need for Indian manufacturing to increase tremendously. There are several interesting projects like the Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Electric and Hybrid Vehicles (FAME) scheme and the PLI scheme and others. 

The government recently approved Anusandhan National Research Foundation Bill, 2023 (NRF). It needs to get tighter in the implementation. Allocating funds is one thing, but monitoring and evaluating funds and ensuring that the money is spent quickly and in the right way is extremely important. Technology changes very fast and energy is dissipated if a lot of time is taken to deploy those funds. With NRF, India is certainly moving on the right track.


How do you plan to boost your relationship with the Indian govt and with MNRE? 

Fraunhofer and MNRE signed one M&U in 2015-16, but unfortunately, nothing significant came out of it. We have had small projects coming. However, doing transformative projects with the MNRE would be more interesting. The DST is looking at the hydrogen clusters and is supporting us to start working on storage, distribution of hydrogen, and some proof of concepts. The big transformation will come when MNRE steps in and takes projects on scale.

Germany has worked tremendously in the energy sector, and it possesses major technologies as well. Unfortunately, due to the Chinese intervention, Germany’s market and solar industry has almost died. There is a huge possibility for a robust collaboration between India and Germany to use the German advanced technology. India’s manufacturing acumen and market scale are huge.

We had done a report for the Niti Aayog where we looked at how we beat the Chinese price. If we bring in German technology and Indian scale, we can make a big pitch for a huge transformational change.


What India can learn from Germany when it comes to securing technologies?

India has done more than Germany because of its huge scale market. However, India needs to tighten up the after-sales service because it lacks quality standards. Some spurious products and technologies have come into the market, which is a cause of concern.

India has a huge advantage when rolling out something, as it does it very fast. If we can convince the market about lifecycle cost of solar, we can make a huge difference. 


The Indian govt has now net-zero plans. How Fraunhofer’s is planning to help India achieve those targets? 

Fraunhofer did a lot of proof of concept projects in India around agro-PV where one can look at large-scale agriculture as being very sustainable and net positive where they use solar energy and also use less water for plants.

We’re looking at partners who can work with us to understand the Indian context as one can’t pick up a technology from Germany and just implement it here. We are working with local partners and pushing these technologies to the market.

These are the most exciting times because the world recognizes that sustainability is important and if research and industry work together, one can crunch this time to market. If we work in silos as we’ve been doing in India, it takes a much longer time. 


Are you also interested in electric vehicles or circular economies?

One of the earliest prototypes of EV came out from Fraunhofer. We have our third-generation EV right now and we possess path-breaking technology to make the EV cars lighter because the cars must be much lighter if it is an electric.

We looked at the entire material and processes around light waiting, like forming technologies, and how one joins plastic and uses less steel to make the EV lighter. By doing this, the vehicle can offer much more space. We have done the entire feasibility for the grid for EV for the Delhi Metro. We have done a lot of work around EVs for large companies as well.

Fraunhofer has a good foothold in the solar market. We plan to bring a startup in the field of casting coils for which they are looking for technology partners from India to bring it into the two and three-wheeler segment here. Fraunhofer has several exciting technologies that it can offer to India.

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