Defence Minister Mrs Nirmala Sitharaman unveiled the Defence India Startup Challenge, an initiative to tap startups for finding safe and futuristic Indian solutions to critical needs of the three Armed Forces. Mrs Nirmala Sitharaman released a list of 11 technologies that the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force need, to begin with. They included remote air vehicles, laser weapons, secure and safe communication systems and bandwidth, precision targeting systems, sensors, and protected and informed movement of soldiers in battle tanks. Those that come up with prototypes of usable products would be supported with ₹1.5 crore each and friendly procurement procedures from the Ministry under SPARK or Support for Prototype & Research Kickstart in Defence. “This time, we have come to you for ideas. We want a lot of disruptions. Advancements [needed for the defence sector] should happen in India itself. We look forward to your ingenuity to keep our citizens safe,” the Minister told 200 startups in the presence of service brass and heads of defence PSUs. Earlier, respective Vice-Chiefs spelt out the requirements of their Forces: four for the Army, five for the Navy, and two for the Air Force. Startups participating under the Make-II or indigenous production procedure of the Defence Procurement Policy 2016 projects would be entitled to get a prototype development cost of up to ₹3 crore. The schemes are part of Innovations for Defence Excellence initiative launched at the DefExpo held in Kanchipuram in April. They would be supported by a ₹100-crore Defence Innovation Fund kick-started by defence PSUs Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. and Bharat Electronics Ltd. The Defence Innovation Organisation signed MoUs with four of five selected incubators to mentor entrepreneurs and small and medium industries to create technologies for the military. The four are the Centre for Innovation Incubation and Entrepreneurship, IIM Ahmedabad; Society for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, IIT Bombay; T-Hub, Hyderabad; and FORGE under the Coimbatore Innovation & Business Incubator. IIT-Madras is the fifth partner. Bengaluru-based Tonbo Imaging received a first of its kind certificate of accord of approval in principle for its proposal, Night Fire Control System for AGS-30.
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