Space tech is limit for private sector, startups

Express News Service

BENGALURU: Indian private companies in the space technology sector can look forward to playing an active role in India’s space industry and significantly increase its share in the $440 billion global space sector from its present 2 per cent. This was the message at the International Space Conference, organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CI I ) virtually on Monday. Pawan Goenka, recently appointed Chairman-Designate, Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre (IN–SPACe), set a target of achieving 10 percent of the global space market share, and pointed out that India’s private investment in the startup ecosystem in this sector was about $22 million.

This is less than half a percent of investments made in startups in the space sector globally. More investments are needed, he said. IN–SPACe, an organisation under India’s Department of Space (DoS), is a single-window nodal agency to facilitate and regulate space activities in the country.“While the government sector will continue to push frontiers of science and technology, we should have the private sector move aggressively to pursue the space sector,” he said.

There are a lot of untapped opportunities for Indian companies to supply outside the country. “That is not happening in a big way as yet. We need to understand why and how we can increase that,” he said. There is an interest in the private sector and tech startups in the space sector over the last three to four years.

“The only way to work increase their share is to set a target, find a strategy, put action plans together, define responsibilities for stakeholders and monitor progress,” said Goenka, who has planned to meet stakeholders over the next few weeks to get a sense of issues that are holding the sector back, and define a timeline for goals set.

Netherlands, Oz keen to work on Indian space programme

The Netherlands and Australia have expressed interest in working with the Indian space ecosystem jointly and collaboratively, he said. Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) Chairman K Sivan, who is also DoS Secretary, said, “The department (DoS) sees startups as new-age industry partners and the potential future partners who can contribute to space economy. We will enable them to become competitive with other big global players.” After initiating reforms, DoS received 40 applications — mostly from startups — for utilising ISRO’s facilities and each proposal is being looked into. Sivan stressed on the big scope for foreign companies to tie up with Indian firms.

“Our space FDI (foreign direct investment) policy is getting revised and this will open big opportunities for foreign space companies to invest in India. This will ensure a sustained engagement between Indian and overseas companies which will benefit both,” he said. ISRO Scientific Secretary R Umamaheshwaran, who is also incharge of IN-SPACe activities, said plans are afoot for the Indian industry to play a larger role in satellite communications (Satcom). DoS is finalising policies on Satcom and remote sensing to help the Indian industry further penetrate the space applications domain.

The Space Activities Bill is going through various departmental reviews, inter-ministerial consultations before being finally tabled in Parliament, Umamaheshwaran said. The private sector was allowed to enter the domain of building of rockets, satellites and providing launch services last year when the government also constituted IN-SPACe under DoS as a separate vertical. Besides, it acts as a link between ISRO and the private sector.