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Defence India Startup Challenge

Defence India Startup Challenge

Defence India Startup Challenge

The Defence Sector, akin to all the other domains, is in pursuit of innovation. The Defence India Startup Challenge has been launched by the Defence Innovation Organization, under the aegis of the Ministry of Defence. The initiative is aimed at inviting startups, MSMEs, and individuals to address the critical issues in technology encountered by the Indian Defence Establishment. This article is an overview of this initiative.


The Ministry of Defence aspires that the sector needs to be backed up by an ecosystem that fosters innovation and promotes the development of technology. This is to be pursued by availing the services of start-ups, MSME’s and individual innovators. The challenge is envisioned to create functional prototypes of products/technologies in line with national security, and instigate fast-moving innovation in the defence sector. Moreover, it is intended to find markets for the latest tech products/technologies and commercialize the Defence establishment. The initiative witnessed the launch of 11 challenges, which are put forth to these budding establishments to facilitate them in offering solutions.

Categories of Innovation

The Defence Sector is seeking innovation in the following areas:

  1. Individual protection system with built-in sensors
  2. See through armour
  3. Carbon Fibre winding (CFW)
  4. Active Protection System (APS)
  5. Secure hardware based offline encryptor device for graded security
  6. Department of 4G/LTE based tactical local area network
  7. Department of advanced technology based desalination system (water purification) and bilge only water separation system
  8. Artificial intelligence in logistics and SCM
  9. Unmanned surface and underwater vehicles
  10. Remotely piloted airborne vehicles
  11. Laser weaponry

Executing Body

The recently established IDEX (Innovators for Defence Excellence) will don the armband of executing the initiative. The scheme necessitates setting up of Defence Innovation Hubs across the country to facilitate essential incubation and infrastructure support to defence startups and innovators.  Also, the Ministry has agreed an MOU with five incubators; namely IIM Ahmedabad, IIT Mumbai, Forge IIT Madras, and T hub, who will work in coalition to provide solutions for the requirements of Defence in Air force, Navy, and Army.

Pattern of Funds

Potential applicants who possess an intent to produce prototypes or enhance the existing prototypes would be awarded grants ranging up to Rs. 1.5 crores. The grants will be accorded based on the milestone, in accordance with the recommendations of a high-powered committee. The funding would be in the form of grant/equity/debt/other relevant structures as deemed suitable by the committee. The fund will be distributed in tranches based on the milestones determined by a high-powered selection committee. The applicants will be funded for activities connected with research and development, prototyping, pilot implementation, and market assessment. The guidelines for utilization of funds would be provided to the qualified applicants.

It may be noted that other than the provision of funds, the chosen candidates will be provided access to accelerator programs operated by IDEX partners, where they will be mentored in terms of technology and business development. In addition to it, the applicants would be facilitated access to defence testing facilities.

Application Procedure

Start-ups, Indian companies incorporated under the Companies Act, and individual innovators partake in the initiative. The application for the same can be made on the website of Ministry of Defence. It must include the following details:

  • Complete contact details of the applicant, who could be an authorized representative of the entity. This representative will act as an interface between IDEX and the applicant entity.
  • Details of the entity (Individual innovators can avoid filling these).
  • Details of proposal, which includes the area of choice the entity is willing to address, the level of funding required, etc. It may also include specification of relevant patents and research papers by the applicant, if any.

Post submission, the application would be verified by a duly constituted high-powered committee of defence and technology experts for the purpose of screening and selecting the applicants.