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ISRO keen on exclusive space start-up programme

Chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation(ISRO) K Sivan

ISRO has recently embarked on a mission to take startups to a higher orbit in the space sector, with initiatives to help them realize their commercial potential.

It is keen on formulating an exclusive space startup programme — "Space Entrepreneurship & Enterprise Development (SEED)", Chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) K Sivan said. 

Officials say SEED is envisioned as a competitive early stage incentive program for startups and MSMEs (Micro, Small, Medium Enterprises) to developing products/services in focus areas of interest to ISRO with the space agency helping them to use its facilities.

The formal arrangement of the program was expected to be announced soon, they said.

Sivan said that with recent reforms opening the doors for private sector participation in the space sector, ISRO is thrilled to receive a number of proposals from industries and startups.

"These proposals reflect the true ambitions of young, innovative minds looking to make a mark in the space domain", said Sivan, describing the startups as space agency's new-age industry partners.

The ISRO headquarters at Bangalore, has set up three Space Technology Incubation Centers at the National Institute of Technology (NIT) in Tiruchirappalli, Jalandhar and Agartala under the Department of Space (DoS). Three more are underway.

The DoS has also worked with the Atal Innovation Mission (AIM), Neeti Aayog to initiate three challenges in the space sector – the 'ARISE' program to promote applied research and innovation in small enterprises, the Atmanirbhar Atal New India Challenge [ ANIC] as a part of (MSME-StartUps).

Under this initiative, a total of 28 proposals have been received from 24 private entities, and are under evaluation, and "Many start-ups approached us for direct collaboration and help in the area of launch vehicles, satellites and applications", K Sivan said.

According to ISRO officials, various opportunities, provisions and buy-back arrangements are being created within the agency to encourage startups.

The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and ISRO recently jointly organized a workshop on "Incubators / accelerators for dynamic space start-up ecosystem".

The main objective of this workshop was to establish greater synergy between DoS and incubators / accelerators in India, reflecting the intention of the department to provide support and guidance to start-ups working in the space sector.

DoS entered into a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) with Skyrot Aerospace Pvt earlier this month.  ISRO said that the NDA will carry forward the facilities and technical expertise available at ISRO centers with its launch vehicle development program.

In December, DoS entered into a similar agreement with Agnikul Cosmos Pvt. Agnikul Cosmos Pvt., a Chennai based start-up company located in the National Centre for combustion R&D, Indian Institute of Technology Madras, Chennai, building private small satellite launch vehicle.

'Anand' remote sensing satellite manufactured by Pixxel, a Bangalore-based start-up, is among the payloads launched on 28 February by ISRO rocket PSLV-C51.

"We are looking into lot of things which are helpful to this (space start-up) sector", Director of ISRO's Capacity Building Programme Office (CBPO), P V Venkitakrishnan said.