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Thursday 19 August 2021

MoD challenges defence industry innovators to produce 35 high-tech products


By Ajai Shukla


Aiming to harness the innovation capabilities of government, services, think tanks, industry and startups for defence products, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Thursday launched the 5th edition of the Defence India Startup Challenge (DISC 5.0), under the Innovations for Defence Excellence - Defence Innovation Organisation (iDEX-DIO) scheme. 


This involved unveiling 35 “problem statements” – 13 from the armed forces and 22 from Defence Public Sector Undertakings – to which these agencies are challenged to provide innovative solutions. 


These problem statements are focused on high-tech areas such as situational awareness, augmented reality, artificial intelligence, aircraft-trainers, non-lethal devices, 5G networks, underwater domain awareness, drone swarms and data capturing. 


The iDEX initiative was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in April 2018, with the aim of fostering innovation and technology development in defence and aerospace. This is achieved by engaging and funding micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), start-ups, individual innovators, research and development (R&D) institutes and academia.


The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has included iDEX as a procurement avenue under Defence Acquisition Procedure (DAP-2020). It has earmarked Rs 1,000 crore during the current year for domestic procurement through iDEX. 


The MoD has also approved a budget of Rs 498.8 crore for the next five years to support over 300 startup firms/MSMEs/individual innovators and 20 partner incubators, according to the MoD-affiliated iDEX website. 


“DISC and Open Challenges… give a new direction to defence innovation and capabilities by highlighting the potential of India's science, technology and research”, said Rajnath Singh. 


Another initiative iDEX4fauji gives an opportunity to military personnel to showcase their innovative ability.


In the previous four editions of DISC, Rajnath Singh said that more than 80 startups, MSMEs and individual innovators have emerged winners in over 40 technology areas. 


The defence minister expressed confidence that iDEX would support five times more start-ups over the next 5 years. He said that in order to accelerate progress, reduce costs and complete procurement in a time bound manner, there is need to adopt the concept of 5-Is: To identify, incubate, innovate, integrate and indigenise. 


Rajnath Singh also cited a number of government initiatives, including steps to increase partnerships with the private sector, and technology transfer from government agencies such as the Defence R&D Organisation (DRDO).


He also mentioned the restrictions on import of more than 200 items, in order to produce them indigenously, thereby promoting self-reliance and generating employment.


In the first three DISCs, the DIO selected 18 entities to receive MoD funding, which typically amounts to Rs one to one-and-a-half crore each. In the first DISC, 11 entities were selected to tackle challenges such as individual protection suits, see-through armour, unmanned surface and underwater vehicles and laser weaponry.


In DISC-2, four small companies were selected for challenges that included finding measures to counter the illegal use of drones and data analytics for air trajectory.


In DISC-3, three winners were selected for challenges that included “identification friend or foe systems” (IFF) and a portable spoof emitter for air defence systems.


In parallel with iDEX, the DRDO has launched a “Technology Development Fund” (TDF) to encourage and fund participation by domestic industry, especially MSMEs, for meeting the requirements of the three services.


  1. Broken nation India is surviving on 3td hand and refurbished military equipment

  2. It's pretty good that such an initiative has been launched by the MoD. The govt should also directly approach IITs, and the IISc on such matters. This would be be better for such institutions, rather than just being very open and general towards all about it. Can a dedicated department of Military Engineering be opened in all the IITs and of Military Research be opened at IISc? Can the DRDO be expanded in size and scope, to be more general and specific in the field of defence research?
    The challenge is to be as completely cost effective as possible, and also to have as many defence research projects taking place as required.


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