Fulfilling long standing demand of the industry, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has created a corpus fund of ₹750 crore for three years, beginning from FY 2023-24, to develop about 30 deep-tech critical and strategic technologies in a proposed timeframe for capability enhancement of tri-services and Defence Space Agency, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said today.

Additionally, the Ministry has also enhanced the funding from ₹10 crore to ₹25 crore for start-ups for research, innovation and development of defence technologies, Rajnath Singh said while launching the Acing Development of Innovative Technologies with iDEX (ADITI) scheme at DefConnect 2024 here.

“The scheme will nurture the innovation of youth and help the country leap forward in the field of technology,” the Minister said in his address to a gathering of industry leaders, entrepreneurs, innovators and policymakers.

‘Technology watch tool’

The ADITI scheme, which falls under the iDEX (Innovations for Defence Excellence) framework of Department of Defence Production (DDP), MoD, also envisages to create a ‘technology watch tool’ to bridge the gap between the expectations and requirements of the modern armed forces and the capabilities of the defence innovation ecosystem, the MoD stated.

In the first edition of ADITI, 17 challenges – three from Indian Army, five each of Indian Navy and Indian Air Force and four of Defence Space Agency - have been launched.

Singh asserted that to motivate young innovators, iDEX was expanded to iDEX Prime, with the assistance increasing from ₹1.5 crore to ₹10 crore. Following the encouraging participation in providing solutions to the challenges given by the Services and DPSUs, ADITI scheme has now been launched, he said.

The 11th edition of the Defence India Start-up Challenge (DISC) was also launched at the event, rolling out a new chapter in the collaboration between the defence establishment and the start-up ecosystem. The DISC 11 introduces 22 problem statements - Indian Army (4), Indian Navy (5), Indian Air Force (5), Armoured Vehicles Nigam Ltd (7) and Hindustan Shipyard Ltd(1) - aimed at addressing critical defence challenges, inviting innovators to propose innovative solutions that can enhance the country’s defence capabilities and contribute to national security, the Ministry informed.

Strategic partnerships

As part of its ongoing efforts to foster investment in defence start-ups, iDEX announced Memorandum of understanding (MoUs) with new investors under the iDEX Investors Hub (IIH). These partnerships will facilitate increased investment in defence start-ups, providing them with the necessary capital and support to scale their ventures and drive innovation in the sector. These strategic partnerships have now taken the pledge to funds, from ₹200 crore to more than ₹500 crore, as per the Ministry.

On self-reliance, the Defence Minister said while in 2014 our domestic defence production was around ₹44,000 crore, today it has crossed the record figure of ₹1 lakh crore, and growing continuously. He suggested to the DDP that “in the coming 4-5 years, the Ministry should come out with a short negative list containing items that will be imported and we should strive to eliminate that list to achieve complete self-reliance”.

As part of DefConnect 2024, a technology showcase was also organised by iDEX-Defence Innovation Organisation (DIO) with a diverse range of technology start-ups at the forefront of innovation in the defence sector.