Defence India Startup Challenge: Maker Village Firms Begin Tryst with Military

The third edition of Defence India Startup Challenge (DISC 3) got unveiled at Maker Village here today, giving innovators a rare opportunity to engage directly with the military and showcase their technologies.

The programme got off under the iDEX (Innovation for Defence Excellence) where Maker Village is a partner, having been inducted one-and-a-half months ago as an official partner with the Defence Innovation Organisation (DIO) under the union government.

Rear Admiral R J Nadkarni, Chief of Staff, Southern Naval Command, unveil,ed the Defence India Startup Challenges, while D V Swamy, Development Commissioner of Cochin Special Economic Zone (CEPZ), launched the Defence India Open Challenge.

The event was attended by a team of 15 senior officers from Kochi-headquartered Southern Naval Command, the Army and the Air Force besides top officials from iDEX. Also present were deep-tech startups from across Kerala and representatives from the industry.

Hailing the quality of the startups at Maker Village, Rear Admiral Nadkarni said the companies are leveraging state-of-the-art technologies. “Of late, we are moving towards indigenisation in all spheres,” he noted at the function at the Integrated Startup Complex in Kalamassery, 20 km north of this city. “There are certain technologies which nobody in the world would like to part with. A programme like the iDEX can thus be of immense benefit to the nation. It also boosts employment opportunities in the country.”

Rear Admiral Nadkarni, stressing on the need for stronger education, invited domestic companies to contribute towards the requirements of the defence sector. “Confidence is the hallmark of a successful entrepreneur, who will never wilt if there are difficulties,” he added. “The government will provide you with all the support.”

Swamy of the 1984-founded CEPZ that functions in 103 acres in the industrial Kakkanad belt here praised the initiative to encourage innovators in the field of defence. There are two challenges India faces: improving economic complexity index and quickening the pace of technologies required for a stronger defence, he added.

Maker Village CEO Prasad Balakrishnan Nair described iDEX as a unique venture to “marry two seemingly contradictory” establishments. “While defence is synonymous with discipline, an ecosystem like Maker Village usually works amid random bouts of creativity. Yet both can be congruent, as you see here in iDEX. It is a giant leap,” he added in the welcome address. iDEX programme officer Akhil Pratap Singh proposed thanks.

The visiting team later made a round of the products by the startups at the Maker Village. The objective of iDEX is to facilitate rapid development of new, indigenised and innovative technologies for the Indian defence and aerospace sector. It also seeks to meet the needs for these sectors in shorter timelines and create a culture of engagement with innovative startups by encouraging co-creation for defence and aerospace sectors.

For the innovators, DISC 3 throws three specific challenges — one each from Navy, Army and Air Force. In addition, iDEX also throws the Defense India Open Challenge. Both give a chance to anybody with an idea, technology or a product to explore or employ its use in defence. Innovators, startups and MSMEs can engage directly with the military through the open challenge to showcase their technologies facilitated by DIO (under the Ministry of Defence) and partner incubators such as Maker Village.

Apart from product development support, iDEX offers a grant of Rs 1.5 crore to select startups.

On November 11, DIO inducted Maker Village as its official partner under iDEX, giving the country’s largest electronic hardware incubator and ESDM facility an opportunity to connect with the requirement of a vast network of defence-related solutions. Already three startups from Maker Village got selected for iDEX, which is set to revolutionise the innovation landscape in defence and accelerate the sector’s efforts to achieve self-reliance.

The 2016-founded Maker Village is a joint initiative of Union Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology and the Government of Kerala (through Kerala StartUp Mission) with IIITM-K as the nodal agency. Maker Village has around 75 startups developing state-of-the-art hardware electronic products in divergent areas such as automation, robotics, drones, Internet of Things, autonomous vehicles, biomedical instrumentation and energy management among others. Most of the startups leverage cutting-edge technologies such as machine-learning, artificial intelligence, augmented reality and virtual reality to make their products innovative and globally competitive.



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