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Research Ecosystem in Aerospace Industry

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While Aerospace and Defense is considered as safety critical engineering and product domains, technology and research has always been driven in the most regulated environment under the control and supervision of Government bodies. Due to the nature of complexity in technology and mission critical applications, the development cycle is long and cost intensive. The infrastructure needs of development and verification at various levels to ensure performance requirements like accuracy, reliability, robustness, safety, and security being very high it is perceived to be un-affordable outside the preview of government bodies.

Over the years, government has consciously invested in private sectors and partnered to build competencies in both hardware and software to accelerate component design, integration, packaging of sub-assemblies and has gradually matured to engage the private players for subsystem design, manufacture, and material development. Core research remains with in the programs run inside these organizations like space, defense, and avionic industries. Even though there is a notable interaction between industry and academia, the curriculum in the institute is still evolving to produce industry ready resources. The initiatives like AatmaNirbhar Bharat have opened opportunities for private and academia to access these core technologies and accelerate R&D in the country. Offset policies provide platforms for India Inc, academia, and startups to join hands with Global Aerospace System Suppliers, OEMs to engage in research, arrive at innovative solutions and contribute in the early part of product development. Aerospace Manufacturing and Engineering centers operating across the country are well positioned and exploring opportunities to cater for the R&D needs.

Opportunities for GCCs:

Expansion of Global Competence Centers (GCCs) in India have given rise to increased demand for niche skills. While we have developed significant skills in software design life cycle, there is a need for improving systems thinking, owning and execution of end-to-end products throughout the life cycle. While the technology is transforming in a very rapid phase, there is a pressing requirement for building skills in the areas of electronic design, embedded hardware, FPGA, digital technologies, avionics communication, cyber security, digital Twin, digital thread, Additive manufacturing, AI/ML, IoT and advanced materials. These capabilities help building mission critical applications like connected ecosystem, touchless travel, passenger facilitation, airport automation, autonomous aircrafts, electrification, eVTOL, prognostic health management and automation of manufacturing facilities.

The Right Strategy:

To build innovative mindset, research capabilities, skillsets to own & develop mission critical applications and take the advantage of younger brains and huge market opportunities in India, following approach becomes very important:

  • Increase the collaboration of industry & academia, where the curriculum is advanced with more practical approach, provide opportunity for students to solve real world/industry problems with an understanding of complexity, safety criticality and regulations in the aerospace industry.
  • Encourage and promote the startup incubation within the Premier Institutes and Government research agencies, leverage the design, test and manufacturing infrastructure to build prototypes through collaboration.
  • GCCs to adopt and engage young talent at their early career from universities including tier II and tier III institutes across the country as interns and provide them opportunities to explore new technologies, challenge them to solve industry problems with innovative approaches. Promote start up eco-system in developing new technologies and leverage the readily available competencies in specific niche areas instead of building inhouse from the scratch.
  • Create visibility to our competencies in the global market and partner with the companies, academia, and team with specific skillsets to develop complex systems, cross leverage infrastructure and build the systems in a rapid phase and cost-effective manner.
  • Work closely with Government agencies to understand the processes and policies and arrive at reasonable working environment.

Role of Industry in building the future of Aerospace:

GCCs, Indian multinationals and startups should increase to drive collaboration with universities and academia in talent development to create more industry ready professionals for campus / hiring of freshers, talent acquisition, joint R&D initiatives and promoting higher education to it’s employees. Industry partners should tie up with universities at various levels starting from IISc, IITs, BITS Pilani, NITs and other autonomous institutes in driving the above initiatives. GCCs should increase to develop and leverage Indian supply chain to source components within India, leverage test infrastructures for product pre-qualification and collaborating with start-up incubation centers in T-hub, IISc, IITs, IIITs and others for Niche capabilities like AI/ML, AR/VR, Robotics, Data Analytics and Computer-vision.

Way Forward:

India is uniquely positioned due to it’s population and geopolitical situations, we are among the largest commercial aerospace market and soon becoming 3rd largest international aviation market by 2024. The defense spending is increasing year on year. With a strong focus on Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), the Indian drone market is expected to reach $1.21 billion in 2022 and rapidly grow to multibillion dollar industry of drones in the next decade. India is among the most sought-after talent pool in terms of capabilities and cost by the US and Europe based technology companies.

Considering the above aspects, India has great opportunity to lead the way in delivering innovations with faster speed and affordable costs. We are excited to be in these interesting times in the Aerospace Industry.