By Sangeeta Saxena
New Delhi. 11 November 2019. The Defence India Startup Challenge (DISC) – III was launched under which three challenges from the Army, Navy and Air Force were thrown open to prospective startups. An iDEX Open Challenge was also launched to provide an opportunity to innovators to come up with their technologies that may be adopted to the country’s defence requirements. Defence Minister of India Rajnath Singh handed over cheques of around Rs 1.5 crore each to two startups North Street Cooling Towers Private Limited and Chipspirit Technologies Private Limited for building on their innovative ideas. And all this at the Def-Connect 2019.
Innovation is not a new word but an in word in today’s defence arena and very popular in Narendra Modi’s Indian defence manufacturing scenario . Rajnath Singh has emphasised on the importance of ‘Ideation, Innovation and Incubation’in cutting edge-technologies to achieve the goal of indigenisation and self-reliance in the defence sector. He was addressing the inaugural session of the event organised by Ministry of Defence to showcase the accomplishments of the Innovations for Defence Excellence (iDEX) initiative in New Delhi . ‘Make in India’, ‘Startup India’ and ‘Atal Innovation Mission’ are some of the initiatives taken by the Government to provide the requisite environment to innovative minds in the country and all these resulted into the birth of iDEX.
For the uninitiated Innovations for Defence Excellence (iDEX) initiative of the Department of Defence Production started in April 2018 with the objective to encourage and nurture innovations in the Indian Defence sector and create an ecosystem where Startups, MSMEs and individual innovators could interact easily with the Indian defence establishment and provide the latest technological innovations for specific challenges experienced in operational environments through co-development and co-production of innovative solutions.
Two Defence India Start-up Challenges DISC-I and DISC-II were already launched under iDEX wherein more than 600 start ups had participated. Forty-four winners of these challenges are presently being provided with necessary funding for developing proposed innovative technologies. The winners of DISC-I & DISC-II were invited to the event and the 1st tranche of funding under iDEX was released.
“The human mind is the most powerful and creative laboratory which tests millions of ideas on a daily basis. And when ideas are given the wings of freedom and the flight of imagination, new and innovative solutions are created,” he said and further described ‘Incubation’ as the most critical challenge. “The idea may be great and the innovative mind can also find a solution. However, unless the process of careful and passionate incubation provides the ideal environment for nurturing and hand holding a creation, projects might fail,” he said.
The Defence Minister launched the new iDEX logo, its portal (www.idex.gov.in) and a dashboard for real time monitoring of the programme. A Compendium of iDEX Guidelines was also released. In the later part of the event Minister of State Defence Shripad Naik stated that iDEX portal launched would provide wider publicity and better visibility of iDEX activities and enable more efficient running of future challenges through better information management.
Memoranda of Understanding were exchanged between the three new incubators Indian Institute of Science Bengaluru, IIT Hyderabad and Maker Village. The winners of DISC-I and DISC-II Challenges also displayed their technologies/products being developed by them under the programme at the venue.
Speaking on the occasion, Chief Executive Officer of NITI Aayog Shri Amitabh Kant highlighted the potential of startups in disrupting all aspects of our life and praised the iDEX efforts and promised startups &innovators all support as they innovate for Indian defence. In order to provide an opportunity to innovators to provide their innovative ideas on technologies which find its applications in defence sector, an iDEX Open Challenge was also launched.
The stakeholders of the iDEX ecosystem are: Ministry of Defence (MoD), iDEX selected start-ups, partner incubators, Defence Innovation Organisations (DIO), nodal agencies (Indian Army, Navy, Air Force), DRDO, DPSUs, Indian Ordnance Factories (IOFs), MSMEs and Industry associations. More than 350 startups participated in the event.
Defence Secretary Dr Ajay Kumar said there never had been dearth of innovators in the country, however, iDEX has provided them with an opportunity to give the country cutting-edge technologies for the future. He also lauded the armed forces for innovating to meet their needs which are best understood by themselves.
Indian Army’s Infantry School and College of Military Engineering were the cynosure of all eyes at Def-Connect 2019 where the former showcased its prototype of 5.56 caliber rifle and the latter its full body bullet proof suit. Innovation in the forces eventually getting recognised.
Secretary (Defence Production) Subhash Chandra said the new portal of iDEX will be a one stop shop for all stake holders. The aim is to fund 250 startups and achieve 50 tangible innovations in the next five years. The Ministry of Defence (MoD)is in the process of seeking approvals of Rs 500 crore for the purpose which they are hopeful will begin from 2020 in the form of Rs 100 Crore every year in the next five years.
The event also enumerated the recent decisions taken by the Ministry including opening of Government testing labs and facilities for private sector; DRDO sharing its technologies with the private companies; and contribution of Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL)in progress of iDEX to encourage defence research and development. Joint Secretary (Deptt of Industrial Production) Sanjay Jaju elaborated the achievements of