Space start-ups need more government nurturing, resources
Recently, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced a ground-breaking initiative by opening up space and atomic energy to private players, referring to them as “fellow travellers”. Also, recently, history was created by SpaceX (one of the famous space start-ups) when NASA astronauts were launched into orbit by the first-ever commercially-built rocket and spacecraft.
FM has announced the levelling of the playing field for private companies in satellites, launches and space-based services by introducing a predictable policy and regulatory environment to private players and providing access to geospatial data and facilities of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
What should India do to boost space tech-startups?
- First, the crucial issue of funding. We must trust and support early-stage innovations through “adventure” capital, not just risk-averse venture capital. We also need “patient” capital, as the lead times are long in this sector. The government can be the provider of such adventure and patient capital. It did so in 2000, when we at CSIR launched the New Millennium Indian Technology Leadership Initiative. CSIR gave very low-interest soft loans to early-stage startups, who explored radical ideas. So, the public-private partnership that the FM is referring to should be in financing too, not just in development.
- Second, startups need a head start in the market and the current public procurement system is heavily loaded against them. The lowest-cost-selection approach must change to lower total cost of ownership. For the same, we need to create an innovative public procurement policy for startups.
- Third, we need to create a robust space tech-startup national innovation ecosystem comprising incubators, accelerators, scalerators and mentors. ISRO has a pivotal role in anchoring this initiative. Just as important will be the synergy with the government’s flagship programmes such as Digital India, Startup India, Make in India, Smart Cities Mission, etc.
- Fourth, we urgently need a law that allows private players to participate across the space value chain, not just bits of it, as is the case today.
- Fifth, the nation needs a new mantra. We must move our aspirations from leapfrogging to pole vaulting. India should aim to pole vault to a 10 percent share of the global space economy within a decade. To achieve this, we need “aatmavishwas” — self-belief, and trust. If we build this atmavishwas with bold policies coupled with determined actions, then we can certainly pole vault to a great new future, and sooner rather than later.
Source – The Indian Express
QUESTION – Can India pole-vault to a greater share in the global space economy with the recent announcement of involving private sector in the space industry? Comment.
For reading more about private participation in Space Sector – See this