India’s second Moon mission Chandrayaan-2 lifts off onboard GSLV Mk III-M1 launch vehicle from Satish Dhawan Space Center at Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh in 2019. (Representational image/PTI) Exclusive
India’s second Moon mission Chandrayaan-2 lifts off onboard GSLV Mk III-M1 launch vehicle from Satish Dhawan Space Center at Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh in 2019. (Representational image/PTI)

With Space 2.0, India’s entrepreneurial odyssey has the potential to take off

Over the past 50 years, India’s space programme has contributed to the rise of an array of space technologies for socio-economic development, including, satellite-based remote education, remote health care, agriculture support, and weather forecasting
By Prabhu Ram
UPDATED ON JUL 19, 2021 06:55 AM IST

The year 2022 represents a significant milestone for India’s space industry. It marks the fifth decade since the establishment of the Department of Space (DoS). The Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) has been at the helm of India’s rich space heritage with several remarkable achievements, including successful space missions and development of technologies to foster India’s self-reliance and progress.

Over the past 50 years, India’s space programme has contributed to the rise of an array of space technologies for socio-economic development, including, satellite-based remote education, remote health care, agriculture support, and weather forecasting, among others.

For India’s post-pandemic future, SpaceTech represents an extremely vital, and as yet underdeveloped, cog. The space sector has the potential to truly mobilise India’s economy beyond the $5 trillion GDP target. Whether it be optimised navigation or data analytics, enhanced agri tech or health care, SpaceTech applications have significant potential to shape the future.

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Today, Indian space commerce accounts for less than two per cent of the global market. With Space 2.0, India has an unparalleled opportunity to leverage its rich competencies, skills and resources to stake its leadership in SpaceTech. Space 2.0 will unleash entrepreneurial spirit, and result in greater democratisation of SpaceTech.

It is well-recognised that a strong technology ecosystem with academia, private and public sector players can together foster economic development, and contribute to nation building. The government remains the key enabler with proactive policy initiatives to foster the technology ecosystem. Academia and public sector contribute to the rise of new fundamental space technologies. The private sector brings in entrepreneurial energy, with scientific know-how, strong business acumen, and access to capital and markets.

The government’s space reforms and establishment of new enabling mechanisms are aimed at furthering India’s SpaceTech successes in the Space 2.0 era. The New Space India Limited (NSIL), established in 2019, offers access to Isro technologies and spin-offs to the private sector for deep commercialisation. In 2020, the Indian National Space Promotion and Authorization Centre (IN-SPACe), a new facilitating agency, was established. IN-SPACe provides enabling policies, and simplified guidelines to the private sector, and the necessary access for using Isro-built space infrastructure.

These enabling policy mechanisms complement the rich research and innovation hotbed that the India’s institutes of higher learning represent. Indian institutions of higher learning have provided academic programs across undergraduate and post-graduate levels. They also provide the enabling incubation ecosystem and support for new SpaceTech entrepreneurs. Whether it be IIT Madras Research Park or Birla Institute of Science and Technology or Indian Institute of Science (IISc) or IIIT Hyderabad, many new SpaceTech entrepreneurs have come to the fore. With support from risk-averse angel investors, Indian SpaceTech start-ups are seeking to leverage the SpaceTech opportunities.

An array of SpaceTech startups, including Pixxel, Bellatrix Aerospace, Agnikul Cosmos, Skyroot Aerospace, and Digantara Space Startup, among others, are seeking to leverage SpaceTech. Start-ups have made tangible progress in their proof-of-concepts and developing prototypes, and are contributing to the rise of new products and services across the value chain, including upstream and downstream space technology development.

Standing on the shoulders of India’s SpaceTech Giants, Indian SpaceTech start-ups have the potential to make a dent in the universe. In doing so, they will script India’s SpaceTech leadership over the next 50 years.

Prabhu Ram heads the Industry Intelligence Group (IIG) at CyberMedia Research (CMR)

The views expressed are personal

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