Start-ups across India are leveraging new-age technologies to bring in a substantial change in the everyday lives of citizens; nearly 200 start-ups are helping the country to boost its defence capabilities, according to the government.
India’s Minister of State for Defence stated that 194 defence start-ups are registered with Startup India and are innovating in the aeronautics, aerospace and defence sectors.
Revealing plans about how the defence ministry is bolstering start-ups, the Minister said that the government had launched Innovations for Defence Excellence (iDEX) framework in 2018 to achieve self-reliance and to foster innovation and technology development in defence and aerospace sector.
Currently, India is the world’s leading arms importer and it is looking to reduce its reliance on defence imports with the launch of iDEX.
For the iDEX framework, the defence ministry works closely with MSMEs, startups, individual innovators, research and defence institutes and academia.
So far, 44 iDEX winners have been identified for 14 problem statements and now the government is now looking for solutions to three new problems with the third phase of Defence India Startup Challenge (DISC), recently launched under the iDEX programme.
In addition to iDEX, the defence research and development organisation (DRDO), defence ministry’s R&D arm, has launched Technology Development Fund (TDF) for meeting the requirements of the army, navy, and airforce. The programme was established with the aim to promote self-reliance in defence technology as part of the Make in India initiative.
In addition, the defence ministry has simplified the process — Make-II procedure — to promote innovative solutions working towards substituting defence imports. The simplification will encourage wider participation of MSMEs and start-ups for timely acquiring of equipment into Indian armed forces.
Moreover, DRDO has evolved a new industry-friendly patent policy for the transfer of DRDO developed technologies to industries. The policy will help Indian start-ups to get free access to use DRDO patents and work on innovative solutions aimed to improve India’s defence capabilities.
According to another article, the Indian government is currently considering to fund more than 250 start-ups over the next five years to achieve approximately 50 ‘tangible innovation’ for the Indian defence sector. To make this into a reality, the government is seeking approval for INR 500 crores (US$70.5 million) .
India’s Defence Minister, when talking about the Indian start-ups, said that India has the potential to emerge as a US$10 trillion economy over the next 10 to 15 years if innovation talent is harnessed.
It was also recently reported that India and the US developing a defence technology-sharing pact. The two countries are expected to sign a deal at the upcoming 2+2 dialogue in Washington on 19 December 2019. The deal will make way for the participation of aviation majors in the contest to manufacture and supply 114 combat jets to the Indian Air Force.
A key Indo-US industry body feels that the best way to go ahead with procurement — valued at about US$20 billion — is through a government-to-government deal to enable ‘Make in India’ and technology-sharing.
The upcoming dialogue will focus on renewed efforts to take forward the Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI) to include drone warfare, light-weight arms and virtual augmented reality.
It is expected that the two sides will sign the Industrial Security Annex (ISA) that will enable the transfer of technology by a US firm to its Indian partners in the private sector.
The ISA, sources said, would enable the transfer of key high-end technology pieces regulated under the US law and would have safeguards to ensure that the information is protected under Indian law.
One expert stated that simply put, an ISA lets the US industry share sensitive US information and technology with Indian companies. Used effectively, it will help India jump-start its indigenous defence industry through much more sophisticated partnerships with the US industry.