BENGALURU — India’s space agency, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has launched its first space technology incubation centre in a remote north-eastern state of Tripura, for developing next generation technologies needed by the space sector.

The ISRO Space Technology Incubation Centre opened at the National Institute of Technology (NIT) at Agartala, the capital city of Tripura will incubate start-ups to build applications and products in tandem with the industry and they would be used in future space missions," Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) Chairman K. Sivan said while remotely inaugurating it from Bengaluru.

This incubation center, the first of its kind in India aims at developing innovative indigenous technologies that could be used in its future projects. At the same time it would work on significantly cutting down the cost.

The country’s third smallest state of Tripura, with a population of 3.7 million is a far cry from Bangalore city’s population of 13 million. To get a perspective, Bangalore is the capital city of the state of Karnataka (Karnataka state population is 67 million as against Tripura state population of 3.7 million).

The space agency also said it has identified five more locations – Jalandhar, Bhubaneswar, Nagpur, Trichy and Indore, which are also smaller cities – to develop five more such incubation centres for a pan-India participation of academics, start-ups and industry in space research, Sivan pointed out.

“We don’t want to go to places where space research is already going on. ISRO does not want to concentrate on vertical but horizontal growth of space research. We want to identify untapped potential from across the country for space research,” he added.

Each of these incubation centre will be set up at a cost of USD 0.3 million (Rs 20 million), and will help the start-ups develop prototypes of components required for space technology, in partnership with the industry.

The ISRO chief, however, clarified that no start-up has yet been identified for this initiative.

The consumption of electronics across various sector, including space, will be a $800 billion market by 2026, but the country has a capacity to locally produce electronics worth only about $120 billion , according to India Electronics and Semiconductor Association chairman Anil Kumar Muniswamy.

"With India forced to import over 75% of its electronics requirements, there is a huge opportunity for Indian industry to expand their businesses, And if one has to take into account the space technology related market, it will be on a growth curve because ISRO is looking at sending at least two missions a month into space," Muniswamy said.

“We believe that now is the right time to build the future ecosystem to nurture innovation and entrepreneurship in the space technology segment. Also with the Make in India initiative gaining momentum, we feel the setting up of space technology incubation centers in smaller cities will not only benefit the industry but also help cut down development cost,” he added.

The prototypes developed by the start-ups, which range from electronics items, to valves, to rocket engine parts, would be tested by ISRO and if successful, will be absorbed by the space agency for its various missions.

— Sufia Tippu is a freelance tech journalist based in India contributing to EE Times India