ISRO to Incubate Space Startups
With an aim of boosting a robust local commercial space ecosystem in the country, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is planning to launch incubators that could give a lift to space startups in India. Startups with a focus on coming up with novel ideas in rocketry, communication satellites and applications from remote sensing data could be spruced up with an aim at commercial exploitation.
Till now, ISRO has connected with many startups networking through its commercial arm Antrix Corp. Startups favoured by ISRO include Bellatrix Aerospace, a company that creates electric propulsion systems for satellites; Aniara Communications and Exseed Space, which will be part of a private consortium to assemble, integrate and test communication and remote sensing satellites, and Satsure, an agri-analytics company.
As it adopts more private companies, Isro is planning at incubating startups creating applications; providing services and products that ISRO can use internally. ISRO will help them scale leading these firms to exploit global opportunities. “We are looking at multiple models for the incubators. Start (an incubator) on our own or engage existing technology incubators to groom these startups under Isro supervision,” K Sivan, chairman of Isro told ET.
While ISRO might choose to have a stake in the startups it grooms, for which, a business model will be decided. The ISRO incubators are to be launched across six cities pan-India, probably near ISRO’s centres. ISRO’s rocket research facility in Kerala has already communicated their eagerness for an incubator. ISRO headquarters, located in Karnataka, have promised support for space startups in their aerospace policy.
Narayan Prasad, co-founder of satsearch.co, a space startup, told ET the project would aid in launching technologies commercially, whether they are developed outside ISRO or within the space agency. He said it will also encourage the launch of innovative designs in space. Prasad was selected as a model for ISRO and Antrix to set up incubators.
“It is better for Antrix to use a professional team in terms of management (that include experience VCs, IP lawyers, commercial space veterans) and assess technologies through an ISRO team. ISRO /national user needs to be the anchor user in many cases for the startups to succeed,” said Prasad. He said Antrix could launch a new arm for startups alone and can select stakes in these companies for aid in the form of infrastructure and funds.
So far, India has incubators like T-Hub, which are privately owned, this will be the first time that an Indian official government space agency is dipping its hands in the startup ecosystem in the form of technical, infrastructure, financial support. This could indeed be a prudent move that could herald new innovations for India’s future space programmes. Startups such as Team Indus and Earth2Orbit are making a few strides in this sector.