Startups can play a crucial role in India's space industry, a top Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) official has said. "Startups must either reinvent existing technology to cause a disruption, generate new technologies or use innovative ideas to put existing products or projects to new uses," Dr S Somanath, Director of the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, said at the Expo 2020 Dubai.
Mr Somanath's statement comes two days after ISRO Chairperson K Sivan also expressed confidence that the private sector, especially startups, will help grow India's space industry.
"ISRO has joined hands with NITI Aayog and the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade for encouraging startups. The evolution of startups in the space sector will lead to a revolution," he said while reiterating that the government is revising its policies to encourage wider industry participation in the sector.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had recently launched the Indian Space Association (ISpA), an industry association of space and satellite companies, which will act as a 'single-window' agency for opening up the space sector for startups and the private sector.
"There should be no restrictions on Indian talent, whether it is in the public sector or in the private sector," Prime Minister Modi said at the event while encouraging entrepreneurs to enter the sector.
The launch of ISpA followed the establishment of Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre (INSPACe), which aims to promote private investment and innovation in the space sector, in 2020.
According to a government communique, private players will be able to use ISRO's infrastructure through INSPACe. In a written reply in Rajya Sabha last year, Union Minister Dr Jitendra Singh added that over 500 companies partner with ISRO in carrying out space activities.
ISRO pegs the size of global space sector at $360 billion. However, India accounts for only about two per cent of the space economy. However, the premier space organisation believes that India can potentially capture nine per cent of the global market share by 2030.
While the space sector is largely dominated by the public sector (read ISRO), the last decade has also seen the rise of new-age space startups. A 2020 report said there are about 50 startups spanning different segments of India's space industry.
In another encouraging sign for India's nascent private space sector, a recent report by Spacetech Analytics noted that India ranks fifth in the world with over 360 private space firms.