India-US Under Start-Up Collaboration Target Technologies in Maritime Domain

Foreign Affairs

New Delhi: The maiden INDUS-X investors meet organised on Wednesday, November 8 saw the launch of the INDUS-X educational series (Gurukul). The event, organised ahead of the 2+2 India-US ministerial dialogue is meant to orient and guide start-ups on both sides of each other’s systems and processes.

Launched under the ambitious joint initiative, India-US Defence Acceleration Ecosystem (INDUS-X) – two defence innovation challenges related to the domains of underwater communications and oil spill detection, are now in advanced stages where applications from start-ups on both sides have been invited and would subsequently be evaluated and shortlisted, officials said on November 8. The technologies pertain to the Indian Navy and Coast Guard respectively.

Speaking at the event co-ordinated by the US-India Strategic Partnership Forum, IndUs Tech Council, and (Social Alpha), Vivek Virmani, Chief Operating Officer of iDEX-DIO said, “Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises [MSME] constitute almost 90% of the industry in India. There is credibility in the system now. This year we hope to place several more orders.”

Responding to a question on lessons from the recent conflicts globally, Vivek Virmani said, “These conflicts have exposed the voids in iDEX. Small arms, cyber and space. These voids need to plugged in… .”

“The applications were happening now, and decision would happen very soon in a month or so for development of the two technologies, said Doug Beck, Director DIU.

According to officials, close to 300 start-ups have been registered through the iDEX initiative, with Acceptance of Necessity (AoN) granted for 30 cases and 10 contracts signed.

In October, two INDUS-X challenges – jointly finalised by Innovations for Defence Excellence (iDEX) of India’s Defence Ministry and Defence Innovation Unit (DIU) of the US Department of Defence under ‘INDUS-X Mutual Promotion of Advanced Collaborative Technologies’ (IMPACT) challenges were launched.

A Defence Ministry statement said that the first-ever INDUS-X investors’ event evinced the interest of the investors in the start-ups and MSMEs operating in the defence sector and the emerging opportunities under the INDUS-X initiative. “The interactive meet brought all the stakeholders viz. start-ups/MSMEs, investors, incubators, industry from both sides under one roof to discuss the collaborative agendas and opportunities thereon,” it said.

Besides the panel discussions on critical issues, the discussions cantered on setting up a joint innovation fund. The event also had focused panel discussions with a select audience of 50 thought leaders, including start-ups, investors, government officials and business leaders from the defence industry, in a major part exploring finding opportunities form venture capitalists and so on. The panel discussed on ‘Investment Opportunities in the Defence Sector’, elaborating upon establishing a sustainable commercial foundation for defence collaboration and co-production, the Ministry stated.

“The Gurukul (Education) series will have sessions for the start-ups/innovators by the experts from both sides including government officials, corporate leaders, industry forums, incubators/ accelerators etc.,” the statement said. The Gurukul initiative is aimed to help the innovators /start-ups to navigate in the defence eco-system of the US and India.

During the State visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the United States, India-US Defence Acceleration Ecosystem (INDUS-X) was launched in June 2023 to expand strategic technology partnership and defence industrial cooperation between governments, businesses, and academic institutions of India and the US. INDUS-X will be a defence innovation bridge which would inter-alia include joint challenges, joint innovation fund, academia engagement, industry-start-up connect, investment by private entities in defence projects, mentoring by experts and niche technology projects.