Special Correspondent

BANGALORE: The sale of F-16 fighter aircraft to Pakistan was a "government to government deal'' and the fighter that can meet optimum needs of Indian Air Force is currently used by the air forces of 14 other countries, Robert H. Trice, Senior Vice President (Business Development) of U.S. aviation technology major Lockheed Martin said here on Tuesday.

He was speaking to reporters after announcing the India innovation growth programme to develop export opportunities for Indian technology organisations, in association with the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI). The US Federal Government is among Lockheed's largest clients.

Both the F 16 and the transport aircraft C-130J are being displayed at Aero India 2007. Among Lockheed Martin products that could eventually be ordered by the Indian government are expected to be the F-16 multirole fighter, the C-130J transporter, the P-3 marine patrol aircraft, the MH-60 helicopter and the PAC-3 air and missile systems , the company anticipates.

"We intend to demonstrate we want to be a partner with the government and industries of India for many years to come,'' Mr. Trice said. "We will provide funding for this programme and will invite Indian technologists, researchers, inventors and entrepreneurs to participate as we begin a structured search for promising technologies with commercial applications on a global scale,'' he explained. In the innovation growth programme FICCI will have an academic partner too: the IC 2 (IC squared) Institute at the University of Texas, Austin, that will administer the programme on behalf of Lockheed Martin.

Applications are being invited from innovative businesses of all sizes, across India, and the shortlisted ones will be helped to launch early stage commercial technologies into the global market place. Approximately 30 Indian companies are to be selected to participate in an entrepreneurship workshop conducted by the faculty of the University of Texas, Austin. In the final phase, a select group of six companies will receive more intense business development training.

Advisor to FICCI Secretary General V. K. Topa said the U.S. aviation major's efforts to incubate promising technology companies will now get a boost. It will be able to commercialise innovations faster and export them.