Ministry of Defence allocates Rs 500 cr for designing innovative products

The allocation of Rs 498.8 crore is aimed at providing financial support under the Defence Innovation Organisation (DIO) framework to nearly 300 start-ups/MSMEs/individual innovators and 20 partner incubators
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced on Sunday an allocation of Rs 498.8 crore, over the next five years, for its indigenisation scheme: “Innovations for Defence Excellence” (iDEX).

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 allocation of Rs 498.8 crore is aimed at providing financial support under the Defence Innovation Organisation (DIO) framework to nearly 300 start-ups/MSMEs/individual innovators and 20 partner incubators, states the MoD-affiliated iDEX website.

“The scheme aims to facilitate rapid development of new, indigenised and innovative technologies for the Indian defence and aerospace sector to meet their needs in shorter timelines; create a culture of engagement with innovative start-ups to encourage co-creation for defence and aerospace; empower a culture of technology co-creation and co-innovation within the defence and aerospace sector and boost innovation among the start-ups and encourage them to be a part of the ecosystem,” stated the MoD.

The DIO is a Section 8 company through which the MoD administers the iDEX framework. The Department of Defence Production releases funds to DIO for setting up and managing the iDEX network in the form of Partner Incubators (PIs). The DIO communicates with innovators/start-ups/technology centres of MSMEs through the PIs.

The DIO organises various challenges/hackathons to shortlist potential technologies and entities. It also evaluates technologies and products developed by innovators/start-ups in terms of their utility and impact on the defence and aerospace setup. 

It interfaces with the military’s top brass to identify key innovative technologies and encourage their adoption into the defence establishment.

In the past, the DIO has launched three rounds of Defence India Start-up Challenges (DISC), under which entities were invited to provide solutions to specific problem statements that were put forth by service headquarters, defence public sector units (DPSUs) and by the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB). 

In those 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.

The DIO’s mandate also involves providing funding and mentoring support to candidates shortlisted in the DISC’s, to help take their proposal from “Proof of Concept” stage to successful prototyping and possible commercialization.

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

Channels for procuring innovative technologies

  • Innovations for Defence Excellence (iDEX). Projects by start-ups and MSMEs with low capital investment and high innovation.

     
  • Technology Development Fund (TDF) scheme. Projects supported through DRDO’s TDF for leveraging domestic capabilities in Indian industry, especially MSMEs and start-ups.

     
  • Indigenous Development by Services. Projects where the military develops prototypes through its internal R&D organisations, such as base workshops/dockyards/base repair depots, internal indigenisation organisations/design agency.

The iDEX scheme envisages:

1. Setting up the iDEX network as independent “Defence Innovation Hubs”.

 
2. Communicate with innovators through Defence Innovation Hubs regarding defence and aerospace needs.

3. Organise challenges / hackathons to identify potential technologies for defence and aerospace use.

4. Evaluate technologies and products coming from innovators / start-ups in terms of utility and impact.

5. Enable and fund pilot projects, using innovation funds.

6. Interface with the military top brass to identify key innovative technologies and encourage their adoption into the defence

establishment.

7. Facilitate scale-up, indigenization and manufacturing for successfully piloted technologies.



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