Space 2.0: India enters era of research, private investment to boost space tech innovation

From groundbreaking missions to Mars, the Moon and the Sun, India’s space endeavors have captured the world’s attention and even inspired a brand new generation of space enthusiasts. The aim is to become a part of the booming ecosystem of space startups and the incredible engineering tandem.

On the second day of the Mint India Investment Summit & Awards 2024, players from the space sectors discussed the spurt in ancillary space startups. In a panel discussion titled ‘India and the final frontier’, the participants Arjun Rao, Partner, Speciale Invest, Suyash Singh, Co-Founder & CEO, GalaxEye and Chaitanya Giri, Associate Professor, Space Studies, FLAME University spoke on the challenges and how can India and join the cosmic adventure and become a part of this extraordinary space story.

Also Read: Aditya-L1 mission: India’s solar mission to meet insertion point on January 6, says ISRO. All you need to know

Speaking about the sector, Suyash Singh, Co-Founder & CEO, GalaxEye said that the access to capital at the growth level is still very difficult for the players.

“Unlike the deep tech ecosystem at large, space tech has its own gestation period. The first prototype will only come when you have an asset in space. That makes attracting funding difficult in the beginning,” said Singh.

He informed that GalaxEye was a 2.5 year old space tech startup building next generation earth observatory satellites. Talking about the country’s space research Chaitanya Giri of Flame University said, ‘’We have entered a new era of space research called Space 2.0. Previously, it was big companies assisting ISRO with its designs. However, in this new era, innovation is emerging from the private sector,” remarked Giri.

Arjun Rao of Speciale Invest reiterated his optimism about the space tech sector, citing five investments made by his company and anticipating significant market growth in the next decade.

“We chose to invest in space tech because of India’s evident heritage in ISRO. India has been involved in space technology for many decades, giving us confidence in our capabilities,” Rao said.

Being a huge capital intensive sector, Rao said that the foreign direct investment (FDI) in the sector will be helpful which will also encourage local capital amid rising competition. He believes the local investors will have an early mover advantage as we may see customer base increasing after initial successful launches.

Read here: Gaganyaan Mission: PM Modi announces names of four astronauts, bestows astronaut wings

Chaitanya Giri also threw light on the growing opportunities in the country’s space program. He said, ‘’Mumbai has been instrumental in the indian space program. This city has not been far away from space sector. we’ve entered era of space 2.0. the new mantra is innovation will come from private sector.”

He explained that space tech founders should see themselves as the OEM manufacturers. ‘’You have to see the space program in three different venn diagrams. One is Civilian, the second is military and then the defence space sector. They will interface with each other and create newer contracts.”

Giri also noted that there will continue to be contacts coming from ISRO also from B2B commercial space firms. ‘’The future is bright, but we need to focus on channelize capital in the space sector,” he said.

Reiterating the challenges in the space tech sector, Singh said that the availability of quality talent, test facilities, and funding were the primary challenges.

Meanwhile, Singh says that the doors in ISRO are open more than ever and the industry players can go and talk to them, seek advice and tap into their facilities.

“That gives confidence to investors too to back space tech in India,” Singh said. Giri said the space tech sector needs more domestic institutional investors in the space sector for the next 2-3 years. So that in five years, once we have the first crop of space companies, the investors will be more confident.”

‘’We need for domestic capital pumping into space sector so that it can flourish despite geopolitical constraints,” added Giri.

As of December 2023, ISRO has launched over 430 foreign satellites with more than 290 million euros as earnings from European satellites and over 170 million USD from American satellites. Indian space startups have attracted over 1,000 crore of private investment since April last year and the country has the potential to reach a $100 billion space economy by 2040.

The panel discussion comes after India recently announced the names of four astronauts for its ambitious Gaganyaan Mission which will mark the country’s inaugural human space flight program. The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is undergoing extensive preparations across its various centres for the mission, while Prime Minister Narendra Modi in February conducted a thorough review of the progress and conferred astronaut wings upon the designated astronauts.

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