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India Backs Innovation In Defense Amid Rising Global Security Challenges

Defense minister urges the private sector to contribute towards building a self-reliant defense industry.

NEW DELHI — Amid rising global security concerns, India’s defense minister Rajnath Singh has strongly pitched for a completely self-reliant defense industry.

He spoke after launching the Defence India Startup Challenge 5.0, an initiative under the Innovations for Defence Excellence (iDEX) that acts as an umbrella organization to promote technology development for the defense sector.

Addressing the event, Singh said the Defence India Startup Challenge 5.0 was another step towards self-reliance in the defense sector, fitting the spirit of freedom in the country’s independence week. 

“The launch of Defence India Startup Challenge 5.0 will be a massive leap towards leveraging the startup ecosystem to develop India’s defense technologies, equipment design, and manufacturing capabilities,” the defense ministry said in an official release

“These challenges also encourage startups to become more attuned to innovative concepts and inculcate the approach of creative thinking in India’s budding entrepreneurs.”

“With initiatives such as Defence India Startup Challenge and Open Challenges, iDEX can utilize the country’s strong science, technology, and research talent base to develop new capabilities in defense innovation.”

The event will leverage startups and micro, small, and medium enterprises to develop defense technology.

A total of 35 Problem Statements—13 from the service and 22 from the defense public sector undertakings were unveiled by Singh. This was the highest number of Problem Statements for any edition of the event so far. 

The Problem Statements are designed to ensure military advantage in the foreseeable future. The winners receive grants of up to INR 1.5 crore ($201,668), alongside support from partner incubators and guidance from the nodal officers, who are the ultimate users.

Over 80 startups, micro, small, and medium enterprises, and individual innovators had joined over the years as winners in more than 40 technological areas.

The iDEX initiative was designed to infuse the latest technology into military warfare closely intertwined with the needs of the Services and reduce dependence on imports, as per India’s defense production secretary Raj Kumar.

“The iDEX process has opened up a whole new ecosystem for Indian startups besides lending visibility to their work,” said Sanjay Jaju, joint secretary, defense production. 

“In the long run, this would help these entities build credibility and even corner foreign contracts.”

Singh recently approved a budget of INR 498.8 crore ($67 million) for the next five years to support over 300 startups and foster innovation in the defense and aerospace sectors, as per the ministry.

“These announcements have provided assurance of domestic procurement for the myriad of innovations and products being developed by young entrepreneurs while enabling India’s defense sector to contribute significantly towards $5-trillion economy goal by 2025,” the ministry said.

(With inputs from ANI)

Edited by Amrita Das and Krishna Kakani