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Defence India Start-up Challenge 5.0

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  • 21 Aug 2021
  • 8 min read

Why in News

Recently, the Ministry of Defence launched the 5th edition of the Defence India Start-up Challenge (DISC) under Innovations for Defence Excellence - Defence Innovation Organisation (iDEX-DIO).

  • Thirty-five problem statements – 13 from the Services and 22 from Defence Public Sector Undertakings (DPSUs) – were unveiled under DISC 5.0. Some of which are:
  • Situational awareness, augmented reality, Artificial Intelligence, aircraft-trainer, non-lethal devices, 5G network, Underwater Domain Awareness, Drone SWARMS and data capturing.

Innovation for Defence Ecosystem (iDEX)

  • About:
    • It was launched in 2018, as an ecosystem to foster innovation & technology development in Defence and Aerospace by engaging innovators & entrepreneurs to deliver technologically advanced solutions for modernizing the Indian Military.
    • It provides funding/grants to MSMEs, start-ups, individual innovators, R&D institutes and academia to carry out research and development.
    • iDEX is funded and managed by “Defence Innovation Organisation”.
  • Core Objectives:
    • Indigenization: Rapid development of new, indigenized and innovative technology.
    • Innovation: Creates a culture of engagement with innovative startups to encourage co-creation.

Key Points

  • About:
    • DISC aims at supporting Startups/MSMEs (Micro Small and medium Enterprises)/Innovators to create prototypes and/or commercialize products/solutions in the area of National Defence and Security.
    • It is meant to achieve self-reliance and foster innovation and technology development in the defence and aerospace sectors.
    • It was launched by the Ministry of Defence in partnership with Atal Innovation Mission.
    • Under the program, the start-ups, Indian companies and individual innovators (including research & academic institutions) can participate.
    • DISC 5.0 will be a massive leap towards leveraging the startup ecosystem to develop India's defence technologies, equipment design and manufacturing capabilities.
  • Vision:
    • Prototyping: Help create functional prototypes of products/technologies relevant for national security, and spur fast-moving innovation in the Indian defence sector.
    • Commercialization: Help new tech products/technologies find a market and early customer in the form of the Indian Defence Establishment.
  • Significance:
    • It forms a link between youth, academia, R&D, start-ups and the armed forces.
    • These challenges will also encourage startups to become more attuned to innovative concepts and inculcate the approach of creative thinking in India's budding entrepreneurs.

Indigenisation of Defence Sector

  • About:
    • Indigenisation is the capability of developing and producing any defence equipment within the country for the dual purpose of achieving Self Reliance and reducing the burden of imports.
      • Self-reliance in defence manufacturing is one of the key objectives of Department of Defence Production.
    • Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO), Defence Public Sector Undertakings (DPSUs), Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) and private organisations are playing a critical role in indigenisation of defence industries.
    • The defence ministry has set a goal of a turnover of USD 25 billion in defence manufacturing by 2025 that included an export target of USD 5 billion worth of military hardware.
  • Need of Indigenisation:
    • Reducing Fiscal Deficit:
      • India is the second largest arms importer in the world (after Saudi Arabia).
      • Higher import dependency leads to an increase in the Fiscal Deficit.
    • Security Imperative:
      • Indigenisation is critical to National Security also.
      • It keeps intact the technological expertise and encourages spin-off technologies and innovation that often stem from it.
    • Employment generation:
      • Defence manufacturing will lead to the generation of satellites industries that in turn will pave the way for generation of employment opportunities.
    • Strategic Capability:
      • Self sufficient and self-reliant defence industry will place India among the top global powers.
      • Nationalism and Patriotism can increase with indegenious production of defence equipment, that in turn will not only boost the trust and confidence of the Indian forces but will also strengthen a sense of integrity and sovereignty in them.
  • Challenges to Indigenisation of Defence Sector:
    • Lack of Private participation:
      • The defence manufacturing has been dependent on DRDO & Defence PSUs only.
      • The participation of the private sector has been allowed only recently.
    • Lack of expertise:
      • In the Navy only, the naval architects were recruited from IITs & were provided training in foreign countries.
      • However, the army & air force does not have such a capacity building programme.
    • Hurdles in manufacturing:
      • Bureaucratic hurdles, Political hurdles, Shortage of human & technical resources, Lack of timely delivery.
    • Inefficient budgeting:
      • Most of the defence budget goes towards salaries, perks & maintenance of equipment.
    • Corruption:
      • Arms sales & lobbying reduced efficiency and effectiveness of defence spending.
    • Lack of Coordination:
      • Lack of coordination between academia, military & industry and poor R&D due to lack of government funding and poor industry-academia collaboration.
  • Other Related Initiatives:
    • First Negative Indigenisation:
      • In august 2020, the government announced that India will stop the import of 101 weapons and military platforms like transport aircraft, light combat helicopters, conventional submarines, cruise missiles and sonar systems by 2024.
    • Positive Indigenisation List:
      • It places import restrictions on 108 military weapons and systems such as next-generation corvettes, airborne early warning systems, tank engines and radars.
      • It is planned to be implemented progressively with effect from December 2021 to December 2025.
    • New FDI Policy in Defence Sector:
      • In May 2020, the government announced increasing the Foreign Direct Investment limit from 49 % to 74 % under the automatic route in the defence sector.
    • Defence Acquisition Procedure 2020:
      • It contains policies and procedures for procurement and acquisition from the capital budget of the Ministry of Defence in order to modernise the Armed Forces including the Coast Guard.
    • Defence Industrial Corridors:
      • The defence corridors will facilitate a well-planned and efficient industrial base that will lead to increased defence production in the country.

Way Forward

  • Private Sector boost is necessary as it can infuse efficient and effective technology and human capital required for modernisation of indegenious defence industry.
  • In⎯house design capability should be improved amongst the three services, the Navy has progressed well on the path of indigenisation primarily because of the in⎯house design capability, the Naval Design Bureau.
  • The government can provide an autonomous status to DRDO which will improve the number of sub-contracts to the private sector and also instil confidence to private sectors.


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