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Taking a major step towards self-sufficiency in product development, country’s largest two-wheeler maker Hero MotoCorp, on Thursday inaugurated an Rs 850 crore research and development facility. The company is banking on the facility to get a strong foothold in the premium motorcycle category.

An in-house R&D set-up became critical for Hero after it parted ways with Honda in December 2010. The Japanese auto major is now a competitor to Hero and also dominates the fast-growing domestic scooter market.

In 2013, the company decided to set up its own R&D centre. The sprawling 247-acre facility at the outskirts of Jaipur (in Rajasthan) claims to house the best global technologies in product design, development, testing and validation within a single campus.

Named as the Centre of Innovation and Technology (CIT), the facility also boasts of a 16-kilometre track with 45 different surfaces to simulate real world road conditions, Indian and global. The centre will have a team of 500 engineers and aims to scale it to 600 in a year. Prior to the new facility, Hero had a three acre R&D centre at its Dharuhera plant in Haryana.

“We have so far been importing technology for new products at a cost. Now, it is going to be much more economical. We will continue to focus on the current segments, which is our bread and butter. There will also be a focus on getting into the premium segment (200-250cc bikes and beyond)”, said Pawan Munjal, chairman, managing director and chief executive officer.

After the split with Honda, Hero took baby steps towards R&D and succeeded in launching two scooters , Maestro Edge and Duet, last year.

Hero, which also happens to be the world’s largest two wheeler maker by volumes, said it is no longer contented with remaining just a volume leader. “The dream is to make Hero number one in every dimension. We will strive to make this a reality”, said Munjal, who is the promoter of the company.CIT will be led by Hero’s chief technology officer Markus Braunsperger, who joined the company from BMW in 2014 after a 25 year long stint in roles in R&D, production and strategy. He also headed the R&D function for BMW motorcycles for several years.

Markus, who has relocated to the new facility said, “We will be able to launch many new products in a parallel manner. We will have to look at the premium segment where we are far away from what Hero is capable of”. The company has shifted all underdevelopment projects from Dharuhera to CIT and said that going ahead all new products will have a stamp of the new facility. However, a completely new product (from scratch) will take three-four years.

Hero’s plan of expanding presence in high-end bikes received a temporary setback last year when Eric Buell Racing (EBR), an American motorcycle sport company declared bankruptcy last year.

The two companies were working together to develop new products. In 2013, the Delhi-based company had picked up a 49.2 per cent stake in EBR for $25 million.

After EBR declared bankruptcy, Hero decided to buy certain tangible and intangible assets of the company for $2.8 million.