The government has been the driver of space activities in India ever since the country ventured into space in the early 1960s, with the private sector chipping in with useful support through the supply of components and systems.
However, recognising the huge potential for growth in the space economy, India has been recently making a gradual shift towards greater private participation in the space sector.
“Space activity started in India almost six decades ago, yet today, not just in India but globally, space is seen as a sunrise sector,” the chairperson of the Indian National Space Promotion and Authorization Centre (IN-SPACe), Pawan K Goenka, said on Wednesday (17 November) at the Bengaluru Tech Summit 2021.
Despite having laid a strong foundation for space research and development over several decades, India has potential to accomplish more. “Space economy globally is about $400 billion, out of which India’s share is just about 2 per cent,” Goenka noted, adding that this was the case despite India’s many successful space launches, and resulting beneficial applications, and a solid technology base.
The key to increasing India’s contribution to the global space output lies with the private sector. “This is why, two years ago, the Government of India took a major decision to open the space sector to private enterprises and make the know-how and infrastructure of ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation) available to private players,” Goenka said.
On 24 June, the union cabinet announced the decision to set up IN-SPACe and greenlit the participation of the private sector in the entire range of space activities, including planetary exploration missions.
The establishment of IN-SPACe as an independent nodal agency under the Department of Space came with the promise of unlocking the potential of the Indian space sector further.
“An open and inclusive space sector will result in accelerated growth, job creation as well as innovations and will enable Indian Space Industry to be a significant player in global space economy,” an ISRO statement after the IN-SPACe announcement in June 2020 said.
While providing the private players a level-playing field in the space sector, the formation of IN-SPACe will be freeing ISRO’s hands to pursue more core research and development activities, new technologies, exploration missions, and the human spaceflight programme.
At Bengaluru Tech Summit 2021, Goenka, who was the managing director of Mahindra & Mahindra before taking up the top job at IN-SPACe, noted that already more than 40 startups in India are covering the entire gamut of space activities, with “some looking to do what no one has done before anywhere in the world”.
He said names like AgniKul, Skyroot, Bellatrix, and Digantara are now getting recognised in the startup ecosystem.
“The Indian government is especially keen to handhold space startups and make them the strength of the Indian space sector,” Goenka said.
He highlighted artificial intelligence, machine learning, materials, design and manufacturing of rocket launchers, satellites, and payloads, and ground stations as areas where India can make advancements.
The twenty-fourth edition of the Bengaluru Tech Summit is underway in the part-physical, part-virtual hybrid mode. It is being held from 17 to 19 November. The central theme of the conference is “Bengaluru driving the next”.
The Science and Technology Minister for Karnataka, Dr Ashwathnarayan C N, said the theme reflects where Bengaluru stands today. “This city and its technology ecosystem is truly going to be in the driver’s seat for the next stage of the technology revolution,” he said.
How technological advancements stand to benefit society and improve the lives of citizens, Dr Ashwathnarayan said, is the key question to explore during the three days of the Bengaluru Tech Summit 2021.
Regarded as the largest technology event in Asia, the Tech Summit is organised by the Department of Electronics, Information Technology, Biotechnology, and Science and Technology, Government of Karnataka, and co-hosted by Software Technology Parks of India.
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