Bangalore, August 5 2018: In a radical change from past practice, India's Defence Ministry invited startups to help make the national self reliant in military technology and innovate for the future.
Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman launched the Defence India Startup Challenge, identifying 11 technologies where it looked for innovation from the micro enterprises who make India the world's second largest startup ecosystem.
She told a gathering of 200 startups, 50 MSMEs and 12 incubators, as well as uniformed leadership of three wings of the armed forces:
"We have amended the required rules for startups. If you have an idea and you have tested it with us, we will not withdraw from the situation but we will give the orders. We are not going to disqualify startups in anything you want to approach us with. Whether it is a bid, tender or suo motu proposal. All three avenues are open for startups"
See the video clip of Defence Minister's remarks from the
Doordardhan TV coverage in our Tech Video spot on our home page
Translating words into action, the Defence Ministry's procurement department accorded approval in principal yesterday, to a proposal for a Night Fire Control System for the AGS- 30, a Russian origin grenade launcher, that emanated from the Bangalore -based Tonbo Imaging.
The 11 challenges posed to the startup community are: The challenges — Individual Protection System with built-in sensors; See-Through Armour; Carbon Fibre Winding (CFW); Active Protection System (APS); Secure hardware based offline Encrypt or Device for Graded Security; Development of 4G/LTE based Tactical Local Area Network; Development of Advanced Technology Based Desalination System (Water Purification) and Bilge Oily Water Separation System; Artificial Intelligence in Logistics; Remotely Piloted Airborne Vehicles; Laser Weapons and Unmanned Surface and Underwater Vehicles
Said Sitharaman: "Today unmanned drones with missiles on them are the envy of many countries. I already get the feeling that those are not beyound us to produce. You won't lose your skilled manpower if you can remote-control operations to finish your targets."
And she added a few challenges of her own : addressing cyber warfare and Space-related defence.
In his introductory remarks, Secretary Defence Production and IIT alumnus, Dr Ajay Kumar, who is known to be the driving force behind the outreach to startups, said: " Innovation is no longer the monopoly of big companies." He added that under SPARK or Support for Prototype & Research Kickstart in Defence, each startup which qualified stood to receive a seed grant of Rs 15 million which would be free from most regulations and would be routed through partners of the iDEX or Innovation for Defence Excellence. A Defence Innovation Office would also be jointly steered by defence public sector undertakings BEL and HAL.
The event reflected the seriousness that the armed services addressed the need to tap the talents of Indian startups. Presenting the specific challenges of their own arm of the service were the Vice Chiefs Staff of the three branches, Army ( Lt Gen Devraj Anbu), Navy ( Vice Admiral Ajit Kumar V) and AirForce ( Air Marshal S B Deo).
Innovation for Defence Excellence
Defence Startup Challenge