Innovations for Defence Excellence (iDEX) is the operational framework of the Defence Innovation Organization (DIO), a special purpose vehicle under the aegis of the Department of Defence Production, Ministry of Defence. The iDEX framework was launched by the Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi in 2018 to support innovation for Indian Defence, and create pathways for adoption of technologies in the Indian armed services, as well as seeding India’s future Defence enterprises.

Defence Innovation Organisation (DIO) is a Section 8 company formed by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL), both Defence Public Sector Undertakings. DIO implements the iDEX framework, which acts as a bridge between the requirements of the Armed Forces and the solution providers.

The underlying objective is to make the country self-reliant and selfsufficient in matters of Defence, through mastering of the fundamentals of identify, incubate, innovate, integrate, and indigenise. The core objective of iDEX is to create an ecosystem, essentially to foster innovation, entrepreneurship and technology development, specifically in the Defence and Aerospace sector. Fundamentally, iDEX fosters the culture of technology co-creation and co-innovation within the Defence and Aerospace sectors.

  1. To create 'corporate Venture Capital’ models for Indian Defence needs, which would identify emerging technologies, connect innovators to military units, facilitate co-creation of new and appropriate technologies, and create pathways for incorporation of cutting edge technologies into weapon systems used by Armed Services. 
  2. To transform defence innovation in India with the ultimate goal of delivering military-grade products that solve the critical needs of the Indian defence set-up by developing or applying advanced technologies.
  3. To create a culture of innovation in Indian defence & Aerospace by engaging startups and innovators through encouraging co-creation & co innovation.

The program focuses on facilitation for creating of prototypes and bringing of products/technologies to market (Defence or otherwise), applicants will be encouraged to spend on:

  • Research & Development
  • Prototyping
  • Pilot Implementation
  • Market Assessment

iDEX-DIO has launches of Defence India Startup Challenge (DISC) with problem statements from Armed Forces, DPSUs & OFB. After rigorous evaluation of the applications winners are identified. Winner start-ups/ individuals receive innovation grants in technological areas through the Prototype funding guidelines called “Support for Prototype and Research Kickstart” (SPARK), which entail provisioning of grants upto Rs 1.5 crore to the Startups on the basis of milestones through multiple tranches, for prototype development. 

  1. Start-ups, as defined and recognized by Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP), Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Government of India.
  2. 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.
  3. Individual innovators are also encouraged to apply (research & academic institutions can use this category to apply).

Applicants are required to apply for challenges launched under DISC and https://idex.gov.in/challenge-categories and fill in the application over the mentioned link. The major info sought in application is:

  • Full Details of a Single Point of Contact for the applying entity. We encourage that this person be a core member of the applicant entity (Startup/MSME).
  • Entity Details – the details of the Startup/MSME applying. Individuals Innovators do not have to fill these.
  • Proposal Details – the details of the proposal in response to the iDEX Challenge problem statements/focus areas. Applicants must select the problem statement they are addressing, what level of funding they want, give technical and financial details of their proposal. This includes the information of relevant patents and research papers by the applicant, if any as well as a tentative business plan.

No, there is no such limit. Any number of potential candidate can selected under the iDEX challenges.

The DISC winners will be funded up to the max ceiling of Rs 1.5 crores (depending upon the costing of the project and matching contribution) in the form of equity/other relevant structures. The funds will be disbursed in tranches based on the milestones decided by a high-powered selection committee.

Apart from the fund, selected applicants may also be given entry to accelerator programs run by iDEX partners, where they will be supported in technology and business development through mentorship under the innovation and entrepreneurship experts. The selected applicants may also be supported in terms of access to defence testing facilities and experts for their product/technology development.

iDEX has multiple programs, which follow open and transparent processes to identify startups with innovative products for Indian Defence needs. Under the flagship Defence India Startup Challenge (DISC) program, specific challenges are launched to attract innovative ideas. All applicants are put through a rigorous and transparent system to select grant winners, which get technical support and SPARK grants of up to Rs 1.5 cr, with equivalent matching contribution from the startups. Other programs such as iDEX Open Challenges, iDEX4Fauji (i4F), iDEX Internships and others have their own selection procedures as per published guidelines.

SPARK or Support for Prototype & Research Kickstart (in Defence) is the scheme for funding startups selected through the DISC challenges. Applicants showing capability, intent, and promise to be able to produce functional prototypes or to productize existing technologies will be awarded up to Rs. 1.5 crores, strictly on a milestone basis in the form of grant/equity/debt/other relevant structures. The exact amount and mode of each grant is decided by a High-Powered Selection Committee (HPSC) based on the application.

Once a startup or innovator is selected as a SPARK Grant winner after a multi-stage process, the Technical Appraisal begins. The Technical Appraisal is an assessment of the proposed budget, technology / product details, work breakdown structures, and requirements and support required. Once the Technical Appraisal is prepared mutually between iDEX and the grant winner, an Agreement is signed with supporting documents like certificate of incorporation, exclusive bank account statements for iDEX project etc. Note that individual innovators are required to form a startup before signing the agreement.

Currently, iDEX does not provide equity or debt for companies, but only milestone-based grants for Defence-relevant innovative products, under published guidelines. The SPARK Grant determined during the Technical Appraisal is released in multiple tranches, based on completion of pre-established milestones and the deployment of Matching Contribution as per the agreement. Generally, the tranche amount for Tranche 0, 1, 2, 4 and 5 is 10%, 20%, 30%, 30%, 10% of the SPARK Grant. Once the agreement is signed, the Kick-off Tranche is released. For Tranche 3, there is no SPARK Grant, only the Matching Contribution is to be deposited by innovator. Likewise in Tranche 5, there is no Matching Contribution, only re-imbursement of funds by iDEX, DIO.

iDEX is designed to attract start-ups with innovative ideas products relevant to the Armed Services, and in this process, also create a vibrant Indian Defence manufacturing base. Meeting these objectives requires companies to have adequate capabilities to not just deliver on the product under the grant, to be able to service the equipment over its useful lifetime, and run a sustainable enterprise. iDEX would like its grant winners to expand and become self-sustaining enterprises, which requires a vibrant business plan and ‘skin-in-the-game’ from the founders. The substantial grant under SPARK from public resources are expected to be matched by matching contribution from the grant winning start-ups, to ensure the incentives are aligned with creating a viable product meeting Defence standards. The matching contribution in the Product Development Budget (PDB) is determined with varying amounts of cash, in-kind resources, and human resources, through a collaborative process between the iDEX Team and the start-up, under robust guidelines. iDEX is designed to support start-ups using public funds with the assumption that this assistance will help develop products and Indian Defence technology companies. It is assumed that start-ups competing for grants will be doing so with full faith and integrity, in the broader interest of the nation. While substantial flexibility is provided with the understanding that innovation requires prompt decision making and frequent experiments, this flexibility should not be misused or abused. Any efforts to extract excess funds from iDEX or under-report matching contribution, despite the flexibility, will be assumed to be in bad faith, and proportionate penal action will be taken, including cross-govt blacklisting for future and withdrawal of all existing grants.