India’s next big innovation in defence may come from soldiers as govt launches programme seeking ideas

By: |
September 29, 2020 6:50 PM

iDEX programme was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in April 2018 to boost defence innovations and also create an ecosystem for startups, MSMEs and innovators to provide the latest technological innovations for specific challenges experienced in operational environments.

During the first three challenges, over 55 startups and individuals were identified to offer innovation grants.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Tuesday launched the iDEX4Fauji initiative along with the fourth edition of the Defence India Startup Challenge (DISC) aimed at enhancing India’s self-reliance in the defence sector. A first-of-its-kind programme, iDEX4Fauji was launched to support ideas by members of the Indian Armed Forces. “There are more than 13 lakh service personnel working in the field and on borders, handling extreme conditions and equipment and would be having many ideas and innovations to improve such equipment. There was no mechanism to support such innovations,” said a statement by the Ministry of Defence. Services Headquarters will offer support to the soldiers and field formations across India to attract maximum ideas from soldiers.

On the other hand, 11 challenges from armed forces, Defence Public Sector Undertakings (DPSU), and Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) under DISC were given to prospective startups and MSMEs for their ideas on technologies that could have application in the defence sector. The challenges included autonomous underwater swarm drones, predictive, preventive & prescriptive machine, monitoring super-resolution for improving spatial resolution, AI-based satellite image analysis, prediction and forecasting of atmospheric visibility, computer-generated targets for virtual training, remote real-time in-flight health monitoring of aircrew, MF-TDMA based wideband SATCOM modem, foliage penetration radar, reduction of RCS of Naval Warships, and target detection in chaff environment.

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To enhance private sector participation for achieving self-reliance in defence, “we have taken certain steps like partnerships with the private sector, technology transfer, 74 per cent FDI through automatic route and the recently released negative list of 101 items for import ban after a stipulated period,” Singh said during the launch. The government had on Monday launched the Defence Acquisition Procedure 2020 to encourage the private sector’s contribution to the defence sector.

iDEX programme was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in April 2018 to boost defence innovations and also create an ecosystem for startups, MSMEs and innovators to interact with the defence establishment and provide the latest technological innovations for specific challenges experienced in operational environments.

During the first three challenges, over 55 startups and individuals were identified to offer innovation grants through prototype funding guidelines called Support for Prototype and Research Kickstart (SPARK). This entailed grants provision of up to Rs 1.5 crore to startups based on the milestones achieved. The Defence Innovation Organisation — a not for profit company funding and managing iDEX has adopted the “Product Management Approach to steer the prototype development to a market-ready product. These guidelines have been intended to monitor product development milestones achieved by iDEX winners based on the requirements by the services, DPSUs and OFB.

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