Defence Minister Rajnath Singh launched Defence India Startup Challenge (DISC) 5.0 under Innovations for Defence Excellence – Defence Innovation Organisation (iDEX-DIO) through video conferencing. Thirty five Problem Statements – 13 from the Services and 22 from Defence Public Sector Undertakings (DPSUs) – were unveiled under DISC 5.0. These are in areas such as Situational awareness, Augmented Reality, Artificial Intelligence, Aircraft-trainer, Non-lethal devices, 5G network, Under-water domain awareness, Drone SWARMS and Data Capturing. The Problem Statements, designed to ensure military advantage in the foreseeable future, are the highest in any edition, so far.
Lauding the efforts of iDEX-DIO, Rajnath Singh, in his address, termed DISC 5.0 as another step towards independence in the defence sector as the launch comes at a time when the country is celebrating ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’. Stating that DISC 5.0 is a reflection of Government’s resolve of creating an ‘AatmaNirbhar’ defence sector, he exuded confidence that this challenge will move forward from its earlier editions and take innovation, design & development to newer heights. He shed light on the previous four editions of DISC and said that more than 80 startups, MSMEs and individual innovators have joined as winners in over 40 technological areas. He added that modern and futuristic problem statements launched in DISC 5.0 demonstrate the confidence of young entrepreneurs and innovators in DISC. The Defence Minister underlined the importance of creating a strong, modern & well-equipped military and an equally capable & self-reliant defence industry, given the rapidly changing geo-political and security scenario in the world. To realise this vision, he said, iDEX is playing a crucial role by providing a platform wherein the Government, Services, think tanks, industry, startups and innovators can work together to help the defence & aerospace sectors reach full potential.“Defence India Startup Challenge and Open Challenges provide many opportunities to our youth and entrepreneurs. They give a new direction to defence innovation and capabilities by highlighting the potential of India’s science, technology and research”, said Rajnath Singh. He added that iDEX4fauji is a similar initiative that gives an opportunity to the service personnel to showcase their talent in these fields.
Sharing his insights on the broad contours of iDEX, the Defence Minister stated that the initiative has succeeded in bridging the gap between talent and demand in the country. “iDEX provides a strong foundation of innovation, R&D to the industry. Initiatives like iDEX form a link between our youth, academia, R&D, start-ups and the Armed Forces,” he added. Rajnath Singh listed out measures taken by Ministry of Defence to promote innovation, such as including iDEX as a procurement avenue under Defence Acquisition Procedure (DAP-2020); earmarking Rs 1,000 crore for domestic procurement through iDEX for financial year 2021-2022 and approving a budget of Rs 498.8 crore for the next five years to support over 300 startups and foster innovation in defence & aerospace sectors.
The Defence Minister expressed confidence that iDEX will support five times more start-ups over the next five years as the aim is to accelerate progress, reduce costs and complete procurement in a time bound manner. For this, he said, there is need to adopt the concept of 5 Is (Identify, Incubate, Innovate, Integrate and Indigenise). Rajnath Singh also referred to a number of initiatives taken by the Government, including steps to increase partnerships with the private sector, technology transfers and restrictions on import of more than 200 items, to promote self-reliance as well as generate employment opportunities. Commending various stakeholders for indigenously developing world-class technologies, he called for identifying and developing new technologies to take forward the vision of ‘Make in India – Make for the World’. He called upon the private sector to come forward and contribute towards building a self-reliant defence sector and assured all possible support of the government.
In his welcome address, Secretary (Defence Production) Raj Kumar termed innovation and self-reliance as the two aspects of iDEX. He said India has the third largest startup ecosystem in the world and these startups are not just wealth creators but employment generators. He added that today the nature of warfare is technology-driven and these startups can play a crucial role in developing indigenous defence capabilities, reducing imports and improving exports.
Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat, Defence Secretary Dr. Ajay Kumar and other senior officials of Ministry of Defence were present at the launch of DISC 5.0. Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral Karambir Singh, Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal R.K.S. Bhadauria, Chief of the Army Staff General M.M. Naravane, Chief of Integrated Defence Staff to Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee Vice Admiral A.K. Jain; young innovators and representatives of the industry attended the event virtually.
The launch of DISC 5.0 by iDEX-DIO comes three years after the launch of DISC 1.0.
The launch of DISC 5.0 is a massive leap towards leveraging the startup ecosystem to develop India’s defence technologies, equipment design and manufacturing capabilities. It will encourage startups to become more attuned to innovative concepts and inculcate the approach of creative thinking in India’s budding entrepreneurs. The iDEX initiative was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in April 2018 to achieve self-reliance and foster innovation & technology development in defence and aerospace sectors.
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