India could be manufacturing hub: DOD innovation chief

Ritu Jha-


“There is so much potential with our allies like India and I am excited that we are reviving the strength through [all four military services,” Michael Brown, the director of the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) at the U.S. Department of Defense told indica in an exclusive interview.

He was one of the speakers at “A New Agenda for Indian Competitiveness,” which focused on the role that critical and emerging technologies can play in India’s national security held May 6 at Stanford University.

Calling India a critically important nation, Brown said, “We look at each country for what it can bring. India has an incredible potential for manufacturing. As we look at other alternatives, if we are not in China for low-cost manufacturing, India could be a prime source.”

He said India produces top-quality engineers so Indians working with American graduates could be a source of untapped innovation in coming decades.

But, Brown said, “We need a formalized collaboration. We see India producing entrepreneurs and that is changing the economy. We are making sure we are in tune with that.”
As he put it, “The US is not a source of technology ideas to the extent it was 50 years ago. We have to be much more tuned to what is happening outside the US and tapping into that. I would like the Defense Innovation Unit to be sourcing ideas from foreign companies and our allies. That can help the US military.”
Asked Washington’s views about India buying Russian S-400 systems, given that the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, a federal law that targets Iran, North Korea and Russia, affects India’s purchase of Russian the missile defense systems. In addition, India abstained from voting against Russia over the Ukraine war.

Brown said, “The decision is for India to make. As an American I would love closer cooperation with India.” He said that because of China’s behavior, the US will look for a partnership with India based on trust and mutual benefit, not only in technology but national and international security. He added he sees potential in India.

“I think the US and India have a tremendous opportunity to collaborate further,” Brown said. “We are facing a country that has a very different view of how the world should operate – and that is China. In my mind, our interests will naturally ally over time.”

DIU, established in 2015, has leading-edge commercial capabilities to make the military faster and more cost effective than it used to be in defense acquisitions.
In 2018, India and the US signed a memorandum of Intent involving the U.S. DIU and the Indian Defence Innovation Organization.
Brown said India values education and technical excellence and that it would be to India’s benefit to develop new technology.

“We already benefiting from so many Indian immigrants who have helped make companies in Silicon Valley successful,” he said. “From a manufacturing standpoint, it’s a tremendous opportunity. The world needs more sources of manufacturing. I think India has some competitive advantages there. That would be a great outcome for us – to strengthen the relationship by buying products from India as India takes advantage of its benefits to revive modern goods at reasonable prices. We are not going to rely on China. India could be a market and a producer.”