ISRO plans to set up incubators for flight of space startups in India


In a welcome news this morning, it was reported that ISRO plans to incubate space startups in India.

The government-owned space research organisation will target those startups for incubation purposes that aim at creating applications and products as well as rendering services related to aerospace, which it can use internally.

It would be a win-win situation for both ISRO and the startups as the former can rely on the latter for newer space tech solutions and ideas, meanwhile, the latter can scale manifold and become capable of exploring global opportunities with the support from the former.

The model which these incubators will follow is not finalised yet. According to a statement by K Sivan, Chairman of ISRO given to ET, they might start new incubators on their own or engage existing technology incubators to support the startups under the supervision of ISRO.

The move is supposed to take place across six cities in India which aren’t yet finalised but Kerala with ISRO’s rocket research facility has expressed interest in the avenue and Karnataka with the institution’s headquarters are located has a provision for support to startups in its policy.

The aim of ISRO is to create a strong platform for entrepreneurs to encourage building of newer solutions in rocketry, communication satellites and applications from remote sensing data that could be exploited commercially and result in  further creating a strong local commercial space ecosystem in the country.

Implications on Space Startups

This has significant implications on the space startups in India.

Till now, India only had privately operating technology incubators like T-Hub which partnered with giants like Boeing and Facebook to launch challenges and programs that aimed at tackling challenges in Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and accelerate startups to bring innovation in Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality (AR/VR) among other things.

While government officials like Amitabh Kant, CEO of Niti Aayog and Narendra Modi, PM of India have taken steps to show they encourage the development of tech startups and their incubation in India, this is the first time an official government space agency in India has planned to involve itself in directly picking up stakes in space startups and provide financial and technical support to them.

The scale of support and resources that are provided to startups will be expected to change tremendously when a government organisation is involved, as compared to private incubators.

There are a few startups already opening in the segment such as Team Indus and Earth2Orbit.

On the other hand, this has several implications for ISRO itself. As of yet, the agency had tie ups with startups like Bellatrix Aerospace, Aniara Communications, Exseed Space via its commercial arm Antrix Corp, but with this step the involvement of the institute with startups will increase reasonably, which is expected to consequently result in larger innovation in space solutions with the bringing in of new ideas on a relatively larger scale.

The move also aligns with ISRO’s aim to make India a satellite manufacturing and launching hub, so as to tap at global opportunity of private firms building remote sensing and communication infrastructure for services that include high speed internet services in remote parts of the world.

Finally, it remains to be seen the model that ISRO chooses to commence incubation, which cities are set to benefit from the move, and what results it holds for the country’s space startup ecosystem and for ISRO itself.

The development was first reported by ET.

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