Defence Minister Rajnath Singh launched the Defence India Startup Challenge 4 (DISC-4) during the iDEX event, featuring the initiatives aimed at expanding the horizons of Innovations for Defence Excellence (iDEX) ecosystem in New Delhi on Tuesday. iDEX4Fauji initiative and Product Management Approach (PMA) guidelines were also launched by the minister during the event. Each of these initiatives is expected to facilitate iDEX-DIO to scale up the programme qualitatively and quantitatively.
iDEX4Fauji is a first-ofits-kind initiative, launched to support innovations identified by members of the Indian armed forces and will bolster frugal innovation ideas from soldiers/field formations. 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. iDEX4Fauji would open this window and allow our soldiers to become part of the innovation process and get recognised and rewarded. Services Headquarters will provide support to the soldiers and field formations all over the country to ensure maximum participation.
Speaking on the occasion, Rajnath Singh said that the iDEX initiative stands out as one of the most effective and well-executed defence startup ecosystem created in our country and it would be a decisive step towards achieving self-reliance in the spirit of the Aatmanirbhar Bharat campaign. Singh said, “For the first time, an atmosphere has been created in the country when different stakeholders have been brought together to push for innovations in the defence sector. In order to further strengthen our defence system and make it self- reliant the participation of private sector is also crucial. For this we have taken certain steps like partnerships with private sector, technology transfer, 74 % FDI through automatic route and the recently released negative list of 101 items for import ban after a stipulated period.”
The defence Minister also mentioned, “that only yesterday the government launched Defence Acquisition procedure 2020 which seeks to encourage the private industry to participate in the defence sector. Raksha Mantri also exhorted the Armed Forces to make full use of the Defence Innovation Organisation (DIO) platform to meet their technological requirements and the Indian Startups to use this opportunity to become an integral part of our Defence enablers.” The launch was addressed among others by MoS Defence Shripad Yesso Naik, Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat, Defence Secretary Ajay Kumar and Secretary, Department of Defence Production, Rajkumar. Under Defence India Startup Challenge 4 (DISC4), eleven challenges from armed forces, OFB and DPSUs were thrown open to prospective startups, innovators, MSMEs alike to provide their innovative ideas on technologies which find their application in the defence sector. The challenges are as follows:
i. Autonomous Underwater Swarm Drones
ii. Predictive, Preventive & Prescriptive Machine Monitoring
iii. Super Resolution for Improving Spatial Resolution
iv. AI based Satellite Image Analysis
v. Prediction and forecasting of atmospheric visibility
vi. Computer Generated Targets for Virtual Training
vii. Remote Real Time InFlight Health Monitoring of Aircrew
viii. MF-TDMA based Wideband SATCOM Modem ix. Foliage Penetration Radar
x. Reduction of RCS of Naval Warships
xi. Target Detection in Chaff Environment In order to develop a ‘right product and the product right’, DIO has adopted the Product Management Approach to steer the prototype development to a market ready product. These guidelines are first of their kind and their release by the Defence Minister is intended to monitor product development milestones achieved by iDEX winners against the requirements set by the Services/DPSUs/ OFB. The iDEX initiative of the Department of Defence Production was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi 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. The iDEX initiatives are executed by Defence Innovation Organisation, a Section 8 company of DPSUs BEL and HAL. DIO has evolved and expanded the magnitude of its activities since inception in 2018:
a) iDEX-DIO has launched three rounds of Defence India Startup Challenge (DISC) with 18 problem statements from Armed Forces, DPSUs & OFB and identified 55+ start-ups/ individuals to receive innovation grants in technological areas through the Prototype funding guidelines called “Support for Prototype and Research Kickstart” (SPARK), which entail provisioning of grants up to Rs 1.5 crore to the Startups on the basis of milestones through multiple tranches, for prototype development.
b) DIO has entered into strategic partnership with leading incubators of the country and undergone international collaborations especially with Defence Innovation Unit (DIU) in US.
c) For efficaciously taking forward the activities, DIO is hiring manpower, doing outreach, launched own website (www.idex.gov.in) & portal, launched 2 cycles of open challenge for supporting suo motu innovations, SPARK II guidelines and an internship programme, etc, along with promulgating elaborate guidelines and Standard Operating Procedures.
d) DDP has 9 defence PSUs as pillars of defence production in the country and iDEX has enabled capacity building in DPSUs by seeding a culture of innovation and Research and Development.
The iDEX event successfully brought together the iDEX stakeholders on a single platform i.e. Ministry of Defence (MoD), iDEX selected startups, partner incubators, Defence Innovation Organisation (DIO), nodal agencies (Indian Army, Indian Navy, Indian Air Force), NITI Aayog, DRDO, DPSUs, OFB, think tanks, private industry and Industry associations. More than 500 startups and innovators participated in the event through video conference.