Unlocking the Synergy Between Indian DefSpace Technology and Startups

Indian Defspace technology and startups collaborate to bridge the innovation gap with established companies. Success stories like Dhruva Space and Bellatrix Aerospace highlight sector growth, positioning India as a key player in the global space market.

Punam Singh
New Update
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Collaboration between the Indian Defense Space Sector and Startups

The recent call for collaboration between academia, industry, and startups by the defense and space sectors, as emphasized by General Anil Chauhan, Chief of Defence Staff, Indian Armed Forces at the Indian DefSpace Symposium 2024,  has put the focus on the importance of leveraging collective expertise and resources to drive technological advancements.  This collaborative approach aims to bridge the technological gap, enhance capabilities, and promote the development of advanced solutions in the space domain.


This public-private relationship between the Government bodies and startups working in space technology is instrumental in driving innovation and industrial growth. The collaborative efforts between these stakeholders are essential for realizing the full potential of India's space sector and ensuring its continued success on the international stage.

The integrated collaboration between the Indian defense and space technology and startups is collectively working to foster an innovative ecosystem in India. With the Innovations for Defense Excellence (iDEX) scheme launched by the Department of Defense Production, Ministry of Defence, the government has taken a step forward to support startups and innovators for successful prototype development in the verticals of defense and aerospace.

iDEX as a program facilitates over 300 startups, MSMEs, and individual innovators by providing financial support. It manages to engage startups through open challenges and Defence India Startup Challenge (DISC) challenges and provides access to funding, co-development with the military, certification, facilitation of pilots, and integration of technologies and product development into military applications. The iDEX program has partnered with leading incubators in the country to provide technical support and guidance to the winner of iDEX challenges. These incubators such as Maker Village, IISc, IIT Hyderabad, MAGIC, and PIEDS, etc also play a pivotal role as partners in mentoring, deploying, and commercializing technologies and products for the Indian military and defense PSUs. 

 The iDEX program offers mentorship support, access to workshops and seminars, and access to infrastructures, allowing innovators to test the water without any fear of failure. This flexibility allows them to reach a stage where they have a product all ready to be utilized and brought in for commercialization.


Overall, the iDEX program acts as a catalyst and creates an ecosystem that fosters innovation and technology development in defense and aerospace by engaging startups, MSMEs, individual innovators, R&D institutes, and academia. 

How does the iDEX program play the role of catalyst to help startups collaborate with established companies in the space technology industry?

The iDEX program facilitates collaboration between startups in the space technology industry and established companies by simply providing a one-step platform for innovation, funding, and support.  To be a part of this synergy startups are presented with problem statements from the Armed Forces and OFB/DPSUs for resolutions through initiatives like the Defense India Startup Challenge (DISC).  These challenges come out as opportunities for startups to address genuine challenges that are being faced by the armed forces and collaborate with established entities.


Lastly, the winners of DISC challenges receive innovation grants in technological areas through prototype funding guidelines, enabling startups to develop and showcase their solutions to established companies in the defense and aerospace sectors.

Eligibility criteria for startups to participate in the iDEX program

The eligibility criteria for startups to participate in the iDEX program are as follows:

  • Startups recognized by the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP), Ministry of Commerce and Industry are eligible.
  • Any Indian company incorporated under the Companies Act 1956/2012,  primarily a Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprise (MSME) as defined in the MSME Act, 2006, is eligible to participate.
  • Research & academic institutions can use the individual innovators' category to apply for the program.
  •  The applications will be screened by a high-powered committee of defense and technology experts.
  • Selected applications will be funded up to ₹1.5 crores in the form of equity or other relevant structures, disbursed in tranches based on milestones decided by a selection committee.
  • Selected applicants may also get a chance to enter into accelerator programs run by iDEX partners, here they will be supported in technology and business development through mentorship under innovation and entrepreneurship experts.
  • Selected applicants may also be supported in terms of access to defense testing facilities and experts for their product/technology development.

Fundings Available for Startups under the iDEX Program

The different funding opportunities available to startups under the iDEX program are:

  • Support for Prototype and Research Kickstart (SPARK): This funding opportunity provides grants to startups, MSMEs, and individual innovators selected through the Defence India Startup Challenges (DISC) process. The grants are aimed at supporting the development of prototypes and products relevant to national security.
  • Innovation Grants:  Startups and individuals receive innovation grants in technological areas through the Prototype funding guidelines. These grants support the development of prototypes
  • iDEX Mission DefSpace Challenges: This scheme under iDEX focuses on the development of mission planning, satellite data analytics, and communication systems in the space and defense sectors. It offers grants of up to ₹1.5 crore and ₹10 crore for innovative projects.
  • Startup India Seed Fund Scheme: This scheme provides funding opportunities for innovative startups, offering grants of up to 20 lakh INR (Grant) or 50 lakh INR (Convertible debt).
  • Bharat Blockchain Yatra Hackathon: This scheme supports blockchain innovation and entrepreneurship in India, and offers funding for the top three blockchain startup projects, providing grants of up to $250,000 each. 

Some examples of successful collaborations between Indian Defspace technology and startups include:

  • Dhruva Space: Dhruva Space, a Hyderabad-based startup, has completed three space missions in less than a year, positioning itself as a key player in the Indian and global Space market. 
  • Bellatrix Aerospace: Bellatrix Aerospace, a research and development company building orbital launch vehicles and electric propulsion systems, exemplifies successful collaboration between startups and established companies. for collaboration and innovation within the Indian space sector.
  • Another example is the collaboration between HAL and L&T for the production of five PSLV rockets, signaling an expansion of capabilities in both the manufacturing and launch of reliable space vehicles. This partnership contributes to India's launch vehicle portfolio and underscores the growing synergy between the private sector and government entities. 

These examples highlight how startups in the Indian Defspace technology sector are collaborating with established companies to drive innovation, technology development, and advancements in the space industry.


The Indian space sector is expected to capture a larger share of the global space market, and could potentially be worth $40 billion by 2040.  It is forecasted to grow at a CAGR of 9 percent to attain a 4 percent market share globally, as demonstrated in a presentation at the Indian DefSpace Symposium 2024. With the government's proactive policies and initiatives, India is expected to gain recognition as a formidable player in the global space economy.

In summary, the collaboration between Indian space technology and startups has led to significant advancements in the space sector, with successful missions, cost-effective solutions, and a willingness to collaborate with private entities. This synergy has created a robust foundation for the space industry and continues to create opportunities for digital-age space tech.