Just last month, a task force submitted a report on using Artificial Intelligence (AI) for military superiority to the Defence Minister of India Nirmala Sitharaman. In continuation to this, Defence Minister now calls on the startups in India to come up with potential solutions for technological needs of defence establishments while launching the Defence India Startup Challenge in Bengaluru and urges them to play an active role in achieving self-reliance in defence production.
A total of 11 challenges by Ministry of Defence (MoD) are thrown open to provide solutions by the startup ecosystem. The challenge is is part of iDEX (Innovation for Defence Excellence) scheme, which is one of many schemes announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in April meant to build an eco-system of innovation and entrepreneurship in India for the defence sector to make India self-reliant.
The 11 challenges thrown open to the prospective startups include individual protection system with built-in sensors, see-through armour, carbon fibre winding, active protection system, secure hardware based offline encrypt or device for graded security and development of 4G/LTE based tactical local area network, among others.
The ministry of defence also launched the Support for Prototype & Research Kickstart (SPARK) initiative, which would enable calling for proposals to address specific technological needs of the defence establishment. Applicants showing capability, intent, and promise to be able to produce functional prototypes or to make products with existing technology will get up to Rs 1.5 crore under various schemes.
Defence Minister Sitharaman announced that the Promotion of Startups under Make-II procedure of DPP 2016, under which projects with estimated cost of prototype development phase not exceeding Rs 3 crore have been reserved for startups with no separate technical, or, financial criteria disbarring them. “We’re not disallowing you based on old procedures like technical and financial limitations. If you have an idea and you test it with us, it will find a market as we’ll place orders,” she said.
Additionally, a set of incubators are also recognized for these challenges and the MoD has also signed an MoU with 5 incubators. IIM Ahmedabad, IIT Mumbai, Forge IIT Madras, and T hub who will work in tandem to provide solutions for defence requirements in Airforce, Navy and for Army.
The launch of challenges will provide filip to the innovation potential in the country, partnering with the best minds nationally and internationally.
Notably, with this challenge India is trying to reiterate the Israel entrepreneurship model in the defence establishment. In Israel, an entire defence startup ecosystem exists in the country with the government, the military and the various defence companies and startups being stakeholders of the system.
The three largest industrial entities in Israel ecosystem are the government-owned Israeli Aerospace Industry, Israeli Military Industries and the Rafael Arms Development Authority. The Maf’at, which is a joint administrative body of the Israeli Ministry of Defense and Israel Defense Forces coordinates between the Israeli MoD, the IDF and the military industries and startups.
Israel also has the Yozma program, which is a fund of funds to invest in local venture capital funds, while India has Defence Innovation Fund (DIF). The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) actively encourages innovation in its units. Military veterans of the IDF use their acquired experience to launch their own technology start-ups for defence sector. This essentially form “a feedback loop” in the entire Israeli defence sector.
Other countries are also wising up to this approach of including small to medium scale innovation in the military industrial complex. The European Defense Action Plan, 2016 lays a sharp focus on engagement with and investment in SMEs, startups and midcaps for the defence industry.
[Top Image – Monecontrol.com]