State-owned Misra Dhatu Nigam (Midhani), which supplies crucial alloys and castings for the Indian defence and aerospace sectors, wants to work in close co-operation with US companies to fast track the development of key materials in India aprt from jointly finding ways to reduce the dependence on China's rare earth resources.
A part of the defence establishment, Midhani has mastered the processes and production of hundreds of alloys based on nickel to tungsten in the past 40 years. However, it can hasten the process of development of many such alloys crucial to the defence and aerospace applications if the US can provide the data resources pertaining to the performance of these materials and extend certification, according to S K Jha, Director (production and marketing) , Midhani.
While participating in a panel discussion on innovation and co-production at US-India Defence Ties conference on Thursday, Jha listed out a range of areas, including nickel-based alloys, carbon fibre development, refractive materials based on cobalt and tungsten and some of the steels and titanium-based alloys for a possible collaboration with the US defence companies.
"We also need to feed the materials into the value chain. We can identify the gaps in materials technology through these kind of interactions and try to build collaboration and co-operation between the two countries to bridge those gaps for mutual benefit," he said.
Apart from knowledge sharing and certification of materials, Midhani is also looking for a collaboration with US companies for scale up and commercialisation of materials produced in-house so that these activities remain economically viable in the long term. Above all, it also wants the India-US ties to focus on developing alternate ways to reduce the dependence on China for rare earths having a wide range of strategic and commercial applications.
Referring to India's nascent efforts at finding alternate sources for rare earths, Jha said that the company has already prepared investment plans to produce tungsten and cobalt in India as the country cannot depend totally on import of these materials from one single country. "The steps taken by the US to reduce its dependence on China for its rare earths requirements was a move in the right direction. I think this is the right time India should also have such a plan. Even India and the US can join hands in this endeavour, " Jha said, adding that the future lies in cobalt, which has a wide range of applications, including EVs.
The participants at the US-India Defense conference, including private sector players, shared some of their experiences on how they were able to do better with collaboration with the companies of respective countries. Some of the participants also wanted a permanent platform to help explore opportunities for collaboration in continuation of the conference initiative.