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Defence minister Rajnath Singh has approved budgetary support of almost 500 crore for research and innovation in defence for the next five years, a statement from the ministry said on Sunday.

The funds are to be used to support approximately 300 startups, micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and individual innovators with the larger aim of fostering innovation and self-reliance in defence. The scheme is seen as supporting the Modi government’s aim to slash military hardware and weapons imports and make India a hub of global defence manufacturing.

"Defence minister Rajnath Singh has approved the budgetary support of 498.8 crore to Innovations for Defence Excellence (iDEX)-Defence Innovation Organisation (DIO) for the next five years," the defence ministry statement said.

The iDEX–DIO has the primary objective of self-reliance and indigenization in the defence and aerospace sector, the statement said. The establishment of iDEX and DIO by the department of defence production (DDP) was aimed at creating an ecosystem to foster innovation and technology development in the defence and aerospace sector, it said.

"The scheme, with budgetary support of 498.8 crore for the next five years, is aimed at providing financial support to nearly 300 startups, MSMEs, individual innovators and 20 partner incubators under the DIO framework," the ministry said. The DIO will enable the creation of channels for innovators to engage and interact with others in the Indian defence industry.

"The scheme aims to facilitate rapid development of new, indigenized and innovative technologies for the Indian defence and aerospace sector to meet their needs in shorter timelines," it said.

In recent years, the Modi government has introduced many reforms and initiatives to make India a hub of defence manufacturing. In the past, India has consistently figured in the top 10 list of largest global arms importers.

Last year, the defence ministry announced that India would stop importing 101 pieces of equipment from the international market in a graded manner by 2024. These included transport aircraft, light combat helicopters, conventional submarines, cruise missiles and sonar systems. A second so-called negative list with more than 100 items was unveiled earlier this month and included defence hardware such as next-generation corvettes, airborne early warning systems, tank engines and several different types of radars. In May last year, the Modi government had announced increasing the FDI limit from 49 % to 74 % under the automatic route in the defence sector.

In February last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had set the target of $25 billion in turnover in defence manufacturing till 2025 including hardware exports of over $5 billion during the same period.

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