Sunday, June 4, 2023

Opportunity For Components Industry In Telangana’s SpaceTech Framework

By Aditya Pareek

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The state of Telangana’s new policy getting ready, SpaceTech Framework, holds a great promise for the development of specialised components required for the high-tech sector. The state government is going all out to support the sector. Read on to find out how, and the new opportunities that are likely to arise as a result

The state of Telangana introduced a new policy document called SpaceTech Framework online on 18th April. It had virtual participation of ISRO Chairman S. Somnath, Niti Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant, and India’s space sector regulator IN-SPACe Chairman Pawan Goenka, along with Telangana’s IT Minister KT Rama Rao.

The policy’s key focus, as the name suggests, is nurturing space technology industry. However, the policy pays due regard to other related sectors as well, both upstream and downstream, to enable the high-tech industry. As with any high-tech industry, SpaceTech can only exist with a reliable supply base for the required electronic components.

Synergising the value chain

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In the document, the government of Telangana has identified a ‘space market value chain,’ which includes everything from identifying end users to the upstream manufacturing sub sectors. To enable this value chain, the policy suggests public private partnerships. These partnerships will involve the sharing of expensive high-tech testing and R&D facilities between government institutions and small private players that cannot afford to set up their own.

Some specifically identified institutions in the policy for such a prospective R&D and testing facilities sharing arrangement are Electronics Corporation of India Limited (ECIL) at Hyderabad, International Advanced Research Centre for Powder Metallurgy and New Materials (ARCI), and Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).

The policy is likely inspired by India’s 2020 private space sector reforms. Under the reforms, India’s space sector regulatory body IN-SPACe was set up. Among its many other tasks, IN-SPACe is to offer and streamline access to ISRO’s infrastructure and testing facilities to India’s emerging private space companies. Cooperation and infrastructure sharing across R&D and testing will be a shot in the arm for lowering entry costs and maximising efficiency. However, how seamless would the access to R&D and testing facilities be for the intended MSMEs and startups remains to be seen.

As a broad objective, the policy seeks to attract global investment and partnerships as well as boost space-related manufacturing in the state. This will naturally extend to component and subassembly suppliers too and likely include manufacturers and suppliers that can provide microelectronics and ICs that meet the stringent specifications necessary for the extreme physical conditions of outer space.

The government of Telangana plans to provide land at subsidised rate in strategic locations for setting up ground based satellite tracking stations. These tracking stations will require a plethora of customised high-tech components and parts for operation, which would be an additional niche to fill for the Indian electronic components industry.

Telangana is also setting up a `13 billion fund to support startups under its Information and Communicational Tech (ICT) policy, which already provides incentive for setting up electronics design and manufacturing units in the state. With space tech focused applications being specifically encouraged, some companies could start specialising in the components and parts required for it. The required components have to operate in extreme environment encountered in outer space or the deep sea, where extreme variable pressure, lack of gravity, and high radiation levels make regular components fail. This highly specialised design and manufacturing capability can give India a strategic edge and possibly make it a global supplier.

Government of Telangana also plans to support individuals and startups with intellectual property (IP) development and preservation by providing advisory services in filing patents and ensuring legal compliance, both domestically and internationally. Securing their IP is a major concern for companies of all sizes operating in the high-tech space. And if state support can streamline the process, it can help many small players save significant legal consultancy and litigation costs.

The synergising efforts also extend to the insurance, banking, and financial services sectors that, as the policy states, have a historical “disconnect with the SpaceTech ecosystem.” The policy highlights the need for a better understanding in analysing the risk associated with building and operating big-ticket items, such as privately owned and built space launch vehicles and satellites. This will enable insurers to provide appropriately priced solutions for regulatory compliance and general safety norms. There is a close overlap between the insurance and associated claim investigations and certification expertise needed for offering such solutions in India and upskilling workforces.

The policy pegs skill development, training, and facilitating research and innovation as an important fulcrum. Telangana hopes to support R&D partnerships across academia, public sector units, international bodies, and industry with grants, fellowships, and infrastructure. However, if this effort is concentrated in developing key expertise in manufacturing and certification across sectors like composite materials, silicon photolithography processes, and packaging and testing ICs, there would be much quicker and meaningful dividends for the state and country’s economy.

Aditya Pareek is a researcher and analyst working on high-tech geopolitics and strategic studies



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