The Interim Union Budget released by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman February 1 has given a major boost to defence-related Deep Technologies. This includes plans to set up a corpus of one lakh crore rupees which will provide long-term financing at nominal or zero rates for those investing in defence and aerospace.
The budget announcement comes days after a report titled Deep Tech And National Security was released by Invest India, the National Investment Promotion and Facilitation Agency. Co-written by Anagh Singh and Ankita Sharma of Invest India, the report argues that India is poised to become a leader in the field of Deep Tech.
Deep-Tech or Deep Technology refers to scientific and engineering breakthroughs and potentially disruptive technologies which offer innovative high-tech solutions to complex economic, social environmental and strategic problems, including ensuring national security. Deep-tech domains include Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Bio and Nano-tech, Drones and Robotics, Photonics and Electronics, Internet of Things, Advanced Materials and Manufacturing, Quantum Computing and Space Tech. Many of these have both civilian and military applications.
“Technology should be used as a lever to prevent strategic surprises. Investment in military tech start-ups is booming and there is growing confidence that the government will give lucrative contracts companies making cutting-edge defence systems in the spirit of Atmanirbhar Bharat which is crucial to develop capabilities indigenously,” Anagh Singh, Assistant Vice President, Invest India, and co-author of the report, told StratNewsGlobal.com.
According to him, the “Indian government’s recognition of the indispensable role Deep Tech has for the future of warfare was bought out in the paper Invest India put on Deep Tech and National Security. Our work in the realm of National Security and the intersection of Emerging Tech gave us an understanding that the Government was already very bullish on taking steps in the field of Emerging Tech for Military, Paramilitary, Disaster response to be better prepared for the future. This is the cherry on the cake for the Deep Tech ecosystem.”
“India’s deep-tech ecosystem has grown 53 per cent in the last decade, and is now at par with that in developed economies like the US, China, Israel, and Europe,” the report highlights. “From drone delivery and cold chain management to climate action and clean energy, deep-tech start-ups are making their presence felt across sectors.”
“The timeless quest for national competitive advantage has accelerated with globalization. During the Cold War, the United States and the U.S.S.R. fought an ideological and a military race, but never one over consumer products: No American was interested in buying a Soviet toaster,” the report says. “Now, the lines are blurred; countries are fighting across their entire economies and every domain of warfare for advantage. Technological supremacy in consumer and enterprise products feeds directly into the great power race for air, land, sea, space and cyber.”
Deep tech and Al-driven technologies may offer solutions to a variety of concerns from a national security perspective.
India is well-positioned to dominate Deep Tech globally thanks to its vast pool of talent and rapid strides in research. Deep tech is capital intensive however, and government grants, innovation schemes, and patient capital from investors will be key to realizing India’s potential. Collaborations with nations like Israel are also bearing fruit.
“Space, cyber, electronic warfare technologies, and Al from the DeepTech landscape have the potential to improve the performance and efficiency of tanks, artillery guns, aircrafts, etc., while augmenting precision in decision-making for military commanders and enhancing coordination and sensor to shooter capabilities, thus helping track, identify, and annihilate the targets,” the report says.
“Network Centric Operations (NCO) is a term that refers to a form of information-based warfare, wherein computers and communication network technologies are made use of for shared information about the battlespace across entities separated by geographical distance and for command and control. It is a force-multiplier which has the potential to act as a game-changer in battle. DeepTech is thus vital to NCO as space, cyber, electronic and Al technologies assist in the achievement of the objectives of war by bolstering synchronicity amongst the different tactical units..”
“Augmented reality (AR)/Virtual Reality (VR), Internet of Things (loT), Artificial Intelligence, etc., have wide-scale potential applicability in a number of areas within the defence sector, ranging from simulation and training activities and automation to edge applications and vehicle to everything (V2X Communication), with applications like smart border control and automated patrolling. These technologies can potentially create solutions that will allow resolution of scenarios in real time as never before.”
In fact, several police forces, paramilitary forces and other government outfits dealing with security issues are already exploring the use of Deep Tech.
The Indian government has been supportive through initiatives like Innovations for Defence Excellence (iDEX). Last year, India became the top contributor globally to public code repositories for artificial intelligence, underscoring its tech depth. With the right funding and policy backing, India seems set to pioneer the next technological revolution.