General Studies IIIInternal SecurityScience and Tech

Innovations for Defence Excellence (iDEX)

Ministry of Defence


The Department of Defence Production, Ministry of Defence has approved a central sector scheme viz. Innovations for Defence Excellence (iDEX)

Innovations for Defence Excellence (iDEX) aims to promote innovation and technology development in Defence and Aerospace by engaging Industries (which includes MSMEs, start-ups, individual innovators, R&D institutes & academia)


About Innovations for Defence Excellence (iDEX):

  • The Department of Defence Production, Ministry of Defence has approved a central sector scheme (iDEX) with budgetary support of Rs. 498.80 crore for the next 5 years from 2021-22 to 2025-26.
  • iDEX is an initiative taken by the government to contribute towards modernization of the Defence Industry.
  • It was launched by the Government in April 2018.
  • Its two founding members are Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) & Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) – Defence Public Sector Undertakings (DPSUs). HAL and BEL are navratna companies.


  • The objective of the scheme is to provide financial support to nearly 300 Startups/ MSMEs/ individual innovators and about 20 Partner incubators through Defence Innovation Organisation (DIO).
  • iDEX aims to promote innovation and technology development in Defence and Aerospace by engaging Industries (which includes MSMEs, start-ups, individual innovators, R&D institutes & academia).
  • iDEX will be funded and managed by Defence Innovation Organization (DIO), and will function as the executive arm of DIO.
  • To avail the grants under the grant mechanism of iDEX i.e. Support for Prototype and Research Kickstart (SPARK), the eligibility is as follows:
    • Startups, as defined and recognized by Department of Industrial Policy Promotion (DIPP), now DPIIT, Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Government of India.
    • Any Indian company incorporated under the Companies Act 1956/2013, primarily a Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) as defined in the MSME Act, 2006.
    • Individual innovators are also encouraged to apply (research & academic institutions can use this category to apply).

The scheme formulated following activities:

  • Setting up and managing the iDEX network in the form of Partner Incubators.
  • Communicating with innovators/start-ups/technology centres of MSMEs through the Partner Incubators (PIs).
  • Organizing various challenges/hackathons to shortlist potential technologies and entities for defence and aerospace use.
  • Interfacing with the Services about key innovative technologies and encouraging their adoption into the defence establishment with suitable assistance.

The eligibility criteria are as follows:

  • The applicant incubator should be registered in India as a legal entity in public, private or public–private partnership mode, and should have received establishment or grant support from a Ministry/Department of Government of India in the past.
    • The incubator must have been in operation for a minimum of 3 years before application for affiliation with DIO, and experience of having supported at least 25 startups.
    • It should have successfully graduated at least 5 startups in the past 3 years.
    • It should have at least 25 mentors for startups affiliated with it, at least 5 of them should be relevant to defence or aerospace domain.
    • Experience of having run sector-focused accelerator programs in at least two sectors, with investable startups having come out of each of them.
    • Experience of having partnered with academia and research sector.
    • Extensive corporate, investor, academic, vendor, mentor and government relationships to support start-ups.

Innovation for Defense Excellence (iDEX)- Background

  1. The very first aim of India as a nation since Independence has been to achieve self – reliance in the field of defence and defence production.
  2. India is the world’s largest defence equipment importer and is expected to spend around USD 220 Billion in the coming decade to modernize its armed forces.
  3. Various initiatives in recent years by the Government of India like Make In India, Startup India, Atal Innovation Mission (AIM), etc. to encourage innovation and entrepreneurship in the Indian commercial ecosystem is an evident that achieving the goal of self – sufficiency for the Indian military will require a means to incorporate innovation rapidly in the weapons procurement process.
  4. Thus, the Ministry of Defence aims to create an ecosystem which fosters innovation and encourages technology development in Defence by engaging Research & Development institutes, academia, industries, startups and even individual innovators.
  5. National Defence cannot afford to be behind the country‟s potential adversaries in capabilities. A special effort is required to reach out and engage the smaller enterprises, start-ups, MSMEs, R&D institutes and innovators, to encourage development of innovative technologies for the defence sector as they have the flexibility and adaptability to supply the Indian military with innovative and ingenious technological solutions. 

Functions of Innovation for Defense Excellence

Adoption of innovation requires execution of three critical functions, they are –

  1. Co-Innovation and co-creation – Discovery and exploration of existing technologies, or development of relevant technologies
  2. Piloting of candidate technologies in important platforms, with quick feedback to the innovators
  3. Indigenization of various defence and aerospace related platforms being manufactured in the country based on ToT.

How does iDEX Works?

  1. iDEX-DIO had launched the Defence India Startup Challenge (DISC) to address problems faced by the Armed Forces, DPSUs & OFB. 
  2. Start-ups or individual applications are invited to provide solutions to these problems and after rigorous evaluation of the applications, winners receive innovation grants in technological areas through the prototype funding guidelines called Support for Prototype and Research Kickstart (SPARK). 
  3. This entails provisioning of grants up to a maximum of Rs 1.5 crore to the Start-ups on the basis of milestones through multiple tranches, for prototype development.

Major Activities of iDEX 

To execute the functions mentioned above, the iDEX team will need to undertake the following activities: –

  1. Setting up and managing of the iDEX network in the form of Independent Defence Innovation Hubs.
  2. Communicate with innovators and startups through the Defence Innovation Hubs regarding defence and aerospace needs.
  3. Organizing various challenges and hackathons to shortlist potential technologies for defence and aerospace use. 
  4. Evaluate technologies and products coming from innovators and startups in terms of their utility and impact on the Indian defence and aerospace setup. 
  5. Enable and fund pilots, using innovation funds dedicated to the purpose.
  6. Interface with the military top brass about key innovative technologies and encourage their adoption into the defence establishment with suitable assistance.
  7. Facilitate scale-up, indigenization and integration in manufacturing facilities for successfully piloted technologies.

Composition of IDEX

This iDEX team would have the following composition:

  1. Tech experts – The iDEX will create a roster of experts in core areas and engage them as per the requirement of Defence Innovation Hubs.
  2. Tech deployment experts – Deployment of technologies is a growing discipline, with individuals who understand the dynamics of integrating tech in complex institutions and environments. These will include system integrators, user interface experts, design experts, etc.
  3. Innovation stakeholders – Co-creation and adoption of innovation is now an advanced discipline and requires specialized skills. Experts with these skills will be an integral part of the team, to be able to successfully connect tech. innovators and users in the armed forces.

Other Initiatives to Modernize Defence Industry

  • Strategic Partnership (SP) Model- It identifies a few Indian private companies who would initially tie up with global Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) to seek technology transfers to set up domestic manufacturing infrastructure and supply chains.
  • Artificial Intelligence in Defence
    • N Chadrasekharan Task Force was set up in 2018 to study implications of AI in national security.
    • Defence Artificial Intelligence Project Agency (DAIPA) was created in March, 2019.
      • DAIPA aims for greater thrust on Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Defence, formulation of an AI roadmap for each Defence PSU and Ordnance Factory Board to develop AI-enable products.

Source: PIB

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