International workshop drives collaboration for US-Indian defense innovation

Academic partnership, highlighted in US-Indian joint statement, underscores Penn State leadership in international cooperation and global security

September 18, 2023

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State, in collaboration with the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kanpur, hosted the first of a series of workshops on Aug. 29 focused on the India-U.S. Defense Acceleration Ecosystem (INDUS-X) Academia and Startup Programming Partnership. The initiative is designed to share best practices and foster defense innovation translation through academic collaboration and startups. 

U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and the Indian Ministry of Defense (MoD) recently launched the INDUS-X initiative, intended to stimulate defense industrial cooperation between the two countries and spur innovations in defense technology and manufacturing. The inaugural workshop was created to operationalize the academia-startup collaboration agenda of INDUS-X, led by India’s Innovations for Defense Excellence (iDEX) and the Office of the Secretary of Defense for the MoD and DoD, respectively. Co-sponsoring organizations for the workshop included the Association of American Universities (AAU) and the technology transfer organization AUTM.

The virtual event drew participation from over 100 stakeholders from India and the U.S, representing various government entities, startups and academic institutions. 

“Penn State in this initiative is able to share its expertise in defense research and technology acceleration between the two largest democracies in the world,” said Andrew Read, interim senior vice president for research at Penn State. “Through resources like Penn State’s Applied Research Laboratory and partnerships with the federal government, military and defense industry, the University is conducting $400 million worth of defense-related research. The INDUS-X workshops are a world-class example of how to transcend international lines to address the global security challenges of the 21st century.”

The event was moderated by Vijay Narayanan, the A. Robert Noll Chair of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and associate dean for innovation in Penn State’s College of Engineering, and IIT Kanpur Professor Abishek, who is also the co-founder of EndureAir Systems. Members of the Penn State event organization team included Distinguished Professor Chitaranjan Das, John Domico, Adeline Aelio and Shuchi Nalepa.

“The collective aim of the Academic and Startup Programming Partnerships initiative within INDUS-X is to leverage academic expertise and governmental resources to forge innovation hubs that will serve as crucibles of sustained ingenuity,” Narayanan said. “Starting with the insights and new pathways collected in this inaugural workshop, we are steadfastly working towards that goal to address unmet defense sector needs in both countries.”

Discussion topics ranged from underscoring challenges and opportunities spanning technology innovations, trans-national research teams, business startups and product validation to highlighting the vital role of policy adaptations to streamline defense industry progress. 

Penn State President Neeli Bendapudi spoke at the event about the importance of initiatives like INDUS-X and the role that universities play in the two nations’ defense operations.

“Institutions of higher education have a critical role to play in this work — a role that we stand ready to fulfill,” said Bendapudi, who was recently named one of the co-chairs of an AAU task force focused on building robust academic and research partnerships between universities in the U.S. and India. “I am thrilled that Penn State is also taking a leading role in strengthening the strategic defense relationship between our nations through the INDUS-X initiative.”

Vice Provost for Penn State Global Roger Brindley, also appointed to the AAU task force, echoed these sentiments.

“Penn State is excited to encourage closer research ties to India,” Brindley said. “As a collaborator in the AAU task force report that calls for new and dynamic partnerships across Indian and US research universities, we welcome new and visionary initiatives such as INDUS- X and are delighted to see the University take a leadership role.”

Narayanan and Abishek provided closing remarks, highlighting the importance of organizing bilateral academic programs through initiatives like INDUS-X and outlining potential outcomes of this workshop and those to come. A series of follow-up activities are planned and will be announced on the workshop series website.  

“This will pave the way for new programs among academic institutions, each carefully designed to nurture defense innovations and startup ventures,” Narayanan said.  

The workshop concluded just over a week before U.S. President Joseph Biden traveled to India for the G20 Leaders’ Summit and a second bilateral meeting in less than six months with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In a joint statement, the two leaders reaffirmed “the close and enduring partnership between India and the United States,” specifically commending the INDUS-X collaboration and the August workshop. 


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College of Engineering Media Relations

“Penn State is excited to encourage closer research ties to India." — Roger Brindley, vice provost for Penn State Global