At a recent workshop on India-US defence cooperation, former DRDO chief S Christopher advocated for deeper collaboration between startups from both nations to boost joint production in the defence sector. He emphasized the need for a dedicated forum to facilitate funding, academia-industry interaction, and streamlined project execution to overcome existing limitations.
Highlighting the cost barriers impeding Indian companies' entry into the US defence market, Christopher called for a more accessible process. He proposed joint projects involving startups from both countries, spearheaded by DRDO and DARPA, as a cost-effective and technologically superior alternative to traditional company tie-ups or MRO setups.
Furthermore, he stressed the importance of academia, suggesting the participation of universities from both nations. This would enable US companies to bid on Indian projects and vice versa, fostering knowledge exchange and innovation. Christopher also underscored the need for research and exploration of alternative solutions beyond expensive options, citing the example of Agnikul, an IIT-based startup pioneering AI applications in defence.
Wg Cdr Madusoodhanan (retd), representing Tamil Nadu Industrial Development Corporation, acknowledged the capabilities of state MSMEs, exemplified by their contribution to software development for the B787 aircraft. However, he highlighted the need for better access to niche technology and design involvement to elevate these companies from their current role as low-rung suppliers.
Air Marshal M Matheswaran (retd) broadened the scope beyond military collaboration, advocating for co-development and co-production in wider domains like aviation and space, opening up a plethora of opportunities beyond the traditional defence sector. Christopher Hodges, US Consul General in Chennai, echoed this sentiment, emphasizing the need to harness the full potential of talent and businesses on both sides for a flourishing India-US defence partnership.
The workshop served as a platform to explore the immense potential of India-US startup collaboration in defence manufacturing. Key takeaways included the need for:
Simplified funding mechanisms: Streamlining access to capital for joint ventures.
Joint startup projects: Facilitating collaborative projects led by startups from both countries.
Academia involvement: Encouraging participation of universities in research and development initiatives.
Focus on research and innovation: Prioritizing the exploration of cost-effective and technologically advanced solutions.
Expanding collaboration beyond military: Leveraging opportunities in broader domains like aviation and space.
By addressing these crucial aspects, India and the US can unlock the true potential of their combined startup ecosystems, paving the way for a more robust and mutually beneficial defence partnership.
Edited By: Brahmastra Services