The fifth edition of the biennial Bangalore Space Expo, organised by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), its commercial arm Antrix Corporation Limited and Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) between 1 – 3 September 2016, saw delegates from 12 countries are attending the event. The event recorded an attendance of over 3200 business visitors besides with France as a partner Country for the first time.
On the opening day, Chairman ISRO said that the country has a constellation of 34 satellites on earth observation, communication, navigation, and other space sciences at the moment. However, he remarked that “this is significantly short, and we need to at least double the number of satellites to give reasonable service to the country. Launch capability must be enhanced, and satellite building must be made faster to get optimal use of space services. We have set in process, we still have a long way to go because today we are not able to increase our launch frequency because the supply chain that exists today is still inadequate to meet our demand.”
Rise of Demand and the Opportunities for the Private Sector
This increase in demand is primarily driven by the Centre and State governments, which are now realising the need for space technology. Interestingly, the first 35 years of development of space technology in the country had witnessed only 20 central government departments’ use the technology for their applications. However, over 60 central government departments and all State governments are now working with ISRO to utilise the country’s space technology capability.
The ISRO leadership was keen on playing a catalyst role to help handhold the private sector to meet the rising demand for both satellites and launch vehicles. ISRO had recently floated a Request of Interest (RoI) for satellite integration at ISRO Satellite Centre (ISAC) by the private sector. Chairman ISRO mentioned that there has been an overwhelming response for the recent RoI by the private sector, with more than 40 companies submitting their bids to participate in building satellites.
Apart from France being the partner country for the Space Expo, the event witnessed major participation with delegations from Switzerland and Australia. CEOs, COOs, and CTOs of start-ups and SMEs, researchers from universities, Federal Institutes, universities of applied science working on space technology and applications, managing directors of incubators, accelerators related to space technology and applications participated as a part of the delegation.
A Swiss Pavilion was hosted at the Bangalore Space Expo with a special Innovation Pitch event held during the conference to present Swiss product and service innovations. Similarly, a Space Industry Association of Australia (SIAA) trade delegation arranged and supported by the Australian Consulate in Chennai participated in the conference to showcase the interest in collaboration for space exploration.
The conference provided a special stage to start-ups in the space sector from both India and abroad. A lightning talk by Bengaluru-based start-up Astrome Technologies founded by alumni of the Indian Institute of Science showcased their plans of a space network of 150 small, Internet-friendly high-throughput satellites almost covering the globe by 2020.
A follow-up panel saw participation from other Indian start-ups including Team Indus, Dhruva Space and international start-ups including Planet Labs (USA), Innovative Solutions in Space (Netherlands), HEIG-VD (Switzerland).
Follow Up to the Space Expo 2016
CII has formed a task force of leading companies that have ambitions to participate in Space to chart out a roadmap for developing a space ecosystem in the country. A tentative committee of 15 public and private sector companies met during Space Expo and discussed a broad agenda. The list of attendees who participated in the first meeting of the committee includes representatives of established and prospective suppliers to the Space programme — namely Godrej Aerospace, Tata Advanced Systems Ltd, Tata Advanced Materials Ltd, Mahindra Aerospace, L&T, Reliance Space, Astra Microwave and a few Bengaluru venture. It is pegged that an expanded committee of decision makers will meet regularly under the lead of Antrix Corporation Ltd, the company under the Department of Space, and come up with an action plan to create a solid, independent Space industry base as in the U.S. and Europe.
Recommendations for Space Expo 2018
- Bring a culture of commercial deal signings to the Space Expo with industry using the platform to sign commercial contracts (locally and globally) and MoUs for cooperation.
- Release a study every year on the ‘State of the Space Industry’, which can draw a lot of inspiration from similar practices in the international space industryto provide an overview of the current Indian capabilities in ISRO and in the industry. This can also be an opportunity to showcase the relevance for foreign companies to work with Indian companies.
- To promote Indian SMEs in the space industry, the Confederation of Indian Industry can Institute awards for Indian companies to be given away at Space Expo in different categories such as
- Best SME
- Best Space Spin-off
- Best Space Start-up
- CII can also take up the role of promoting Indian industry to participate with ISRO in the largest space conference in the world – International Astronautical Congress (IAC). The Space Expo award can enable the chosen companies as winners to travel with possibly with the ISRO delegation to showcase their products and services at the biggest space congress in the world.
- Include regulatory issues debate in Bangalore Space Expo and invite Space lawyers in the country to participate in a debate with industry and agency officials.
- Help start a space directory of companies, capabilities, etc., which can be easily accessible by anyone in the international markets so that it can promote ease of doing business by increasing networks.