Context: The first-ever INDUS-X investors’ meet was organized by the Innovations for Defence Excellence (iDEX) under India’s Ministry of Defence and the US Department of Defence. This event, also marked the launch of the INDUS-X Educational Series (Gurukul). The purpose of the meeting is to conduct a comprehensive review of advancements in various facets of defence and security cooperation, technology value chain collaborations, and people-to-people ties.
- The genesis of INDUS-X stemmed from a commitment made by the US and Indian National Security Advisors in 2023, outlining plans for an ‘Innovation Bridge’ to unite defence start-ups from both nations under the U.S.-India initiative on Critical and Emerging Technology (iCET).
- On June 21, 2023, the alliance was officially launched in Washington, D.C. during an event hosted by the U.S.-India Business Council.
- A factsheet distributed during the event outlined the collaboration plan for INDUS-X participants, emphasizing two key themes: ‘Bilateral Cooperation Mechanism’ and ‘Public–Private Partnerships’.
- The collaborative efforts between the U.S. Department of Defence (DoD) and the Indian Ministry of Defence (MoD), spearheaded by iDEX and OSD, are poised to catalyse innovation within the defence industrial bases of both nations with the support of their governments.
The collaboration agenda below delineates the planned actions for INDUS-X stakeholders, aiming to propel defence innovation between the United States and India. This agenda is equipped with timelines and metrics designed to gauge the progress of collaboration initiatives envisioned under INDUS-X.
The intent is for INDUS-X stakeholders to advance this agenda through the following endeavours:
1.Bilateral cooperation mechanism:
- Advisory oversight:
- A Senior Advisor Group (SAG) will assess the advancement of the collaboration agenda and provide recommendations to the defence establishments and other INDUS-X stakeholders for future endeavours.
- The United States Institute of Peace (USIP), Carnegie India, USIBC, the U.S.-India Strategic Partnership Forum (USISPF), and the Society of Indian Defence Manufacturers (SIDM) will orchestrate subsequent programming to propel the implementation of the collaboration agenda.
2.Industry and academy led initiatives:
- Mentor-protégé partnerships for start-ups: The goal is to provide assistance in areas such as market access, business strategy, and technology expertise.
- Accelerator program for defence start-ups:
- Entities such as Hacking for Allies (H4x), the Information Technology Industry Council (ITIC), and the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Hyderabad, along with additional INDUS-X stakeholders, express their intent to explore opportunities.
- These opportunities include offering startups jointly defined problem sets, mentoring, and exposure in defence commercialization, business development, product refinement, technology advancement, funding opportunities, and more.
- Academic & start-up programming partnerships with universities and accelerators:
- Pennsylvania State University, IIT Madras, and IIT Kanpur express their intent to lead best practice workshops.
- These workshops will involve collaboration with Indian and American universities and accelerator partners, including labs, Technology Hub (T-HUB), IITs, and Hacking for India.
- The goal is to exchange best practices in defence innovation, fielding, and commercialization.
- Collaboration of Start-ups with Defence Majors’ Supply Chains: Indian and U.S. defence firms may explore options for collaboration within the supply chain with start-ups, fostering mutually beneficial relationships.
- The Department of defence (DoD) and the Ministry of Defence (MoD), in conjunction with external partners, will explore joint challenges tailored for U.S. and Indian start-ups, emphasizing shared dual-use scenarios.
- The DoD and MoD plan to explore avenues for start-ups to utilize each other’s dedicated research and development (R&D) centres and innovation labs, fostering collaborative initiatives among defence start-ups.
- IndiaSpora, IndUS Tech Council, Forge/Coimbatore, and T-Hub/Hyderabad will collaborate with private investors to garner support for investments in defence and dual-use start-ups.
- DoD and MoD will delve into potential models, such as public-private partnerships, to establish a fund aimed at supporting deep-tech defence start-ups.
- The MoD and DoD will explore the standardization of certification processes for technologies emerging from the defence innovation ecosystems of both countries. This exploration will concentrate on aligning Quality Assurance (QA) parameters, certification standards, and program success memoranda to expedite the assimilation of these technologies
- The initiation of INDUS-X marks a pivotal achievement in the collaborative innovation efforts between India and the U.S. in the defence sector.
- This endeavour is designed to fortify their defence industrial bases, and cultivate a more inclusive and resilient ecosystem for defence start-ups.
- With a comprehensive collaborative agenda and the involvement of diverse stakeholders, INDUS-X is positioned to propel substantial advancements in defence technology, laying a robust foundation for future cooperation.
- This partnership creates a platform for both nations to capitalize on each other’s strengths, nurture innovation, and jointly pursue strategic objectives.
About Critical and emerging technology collaboration:
- Initiative on Critical and Emerging Technologies serves as an agreed-upon framework between India and the U.S. for collaborative efforts in critical and emerging tech sectors, encompassing areas such as artificial intelligence, quantum computing, semiconductors, and wireless telecommunication.
- The framework was initially announced during the Quad meeting in Tokyo in 2022, emphasizing the shared democratic values guiding the design, development, governance, and use of technology.
- The iCET primarily seeks to position New Delhi and Washington D.C. as trusted technology partners, fostering supply chain development and supporting the co-production and co-development of items.
- Notable focus areas include establishing a research agency partnership for collaboration in AI, developing a new defence industrial cooperation roadmap, creating common standards in AI, accelerating defence technological cooperation, supporting semiconductor ecosystem development, strengthening cooperation in human spaceflight, advancing collaboration in 5G and 6G, and adopting OpenRAN network technology in India.
- Notably, a semiconductor sub-committee has been formed to review recommendations from an industry-led task force associated with iCET.
- Defence cooperation and future outlook:
- The establishment of a roadmap for Defence Industrial Cooperation and the initiation of a Strategic Trade Dialogue further demonstrate the dedication to removing regulatory barriers and enhancing trade collaborations in strategic technology under iCET.