Space agency ISRO on Tuesday (18 September) opened its first space technology incubation centre in Tripura capital Agartala, which was unveiled remotely from the country’s tech hub Bengaluru in Karnataka. This first of its kind incubation center in India aims at developing innovative indigenous technologies that could be used in its future projects. At the same time it would work on significantly cutting down the cost.
The ISRO Space Technology Incubation Centre opened at the National Institute of Technology (NIT) at Agartala will incubate startups to build applications and products in tandem with the industry and they would be used in future space missions,” Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) Chairman K. Sivan said while remotely inaugurating it from Bengaluru.
First Space Technology Incubation Centre #STIC was launched (remotely from Bengaluru) today at National Institute of Technology, Agartala, Tripura. #STIC aims to encourage space-related research activities in NE Region. Five more #STICs to come up in phases.#ISROMissions pic.twitter.com/z0IzPF5jzL
— ISRO (@isro) September 18, 2018
The space agency also said it has identified five more locations – Jalandhar, Bhubaneswar, Nagpur, Trichy and Indore, which are also smaller cities – to develop five more such incubation centres for a pan-India participation of academics, start-ups and industry in space research, Sivan pointed out.
“We don’t want to go to places where space research is already going on. ISRO does not want to concentrate on vertical but horizontal growth of space research. We want to identify untapped potential from across the country for space research,” said ISRO Chairman.
Each of these incubation centre will be set up at a cost of USD 0.3 million (Rs 20 million), and will help the start-ups develop prototypes of components required for space technology, in partnership with the industry.
The ISRO chief, however, clarified that no start-up has yet been identified for this initiative.
Earlier in March this year, ISRO has also tied up with Kerala state government to set up India’s first of its kind ‘space park’ for which ISRO will provide the technical support. With this, ISRO along with Kerala government want to incubate and promote startups in the satellite and space technology sector by launching an incubator for spacetech startups in the country. However, instead of Kerala, ISRO has now launched its first incubator in Tripura.
The Indian space agency is also planning to set up regional academic centres for space research at state-run universities in Jaipur in Rajasthan, Patna in Bihar, Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu, Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, Kurukshetra in Haryana and Guwahati in Assam.A
“While the incubation centres will promote manufacturing and innovations along with the industry, the academic centres will focus on space research,” Sivan said.
The consumption of electronics across various sector, including space, will be a $800 billion market by 2026, but the country has a capacity to locally produce electronics worth only about $120 billion , according to India Electronics and Semiconductor Association chairman Anil Kumar Muniswamy.
“With India forced to import over 75% of its electronics requirements, there is a huge opportunity for Indian industry to expand their businesses, And if one has to take into account the space technology related market, it will be on a growth curve because ISRO is looking at sending at least two missions a month into space,” Muniswamy said.
“We believe that now is the right time to build the future ecosystem to nurture innovation and entrepreneurship in the space technology segment. Also with the Make in India initiative gaining momentum, we feel the setting up of space technology incubation centers in smaller cities will not only benefit the industry but also help cut down development cost,” he added.
The prototypes developed by the start-ups, which range from electronics items, to valves, to rocket engine parts, would be tested by ISRO and if successful, will be absorbed by the space agency for its various missions.