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India’s space industry seeks bold reforms clarity on FDI

India’s private space industry has sought bold and transformative reforms with clarity on the foreign direct investment to propel the nascent sector in the new year.

The industry had welcomed the government decision, reflected in the Telecommunications Act approved by Parliament, to adopt the administrative route for allocation of satellite-based spectrum which would help bridge the digital divide by enabling space-based broadband internet access to remote parts of the country.

Industry bodies – Indian Space Association (ISpA) and Satcom Industry Association (SIA-India) – have also asked the government to bring the Space Activity Bill for approval of Parliament to give statutory cover to the Space Policy announced earlier this year.

“We expect the Space Activity Bill to be discussed in Parliament which will cover various factors of India’s space goals, including insurance in space, international and national obligations, define offences and subsequent punishments, barriers of entry for private companies, liability for damages caused in space,” Lt Gen A K Bhatt (retd), Director General, Indian Space Association (ISpA), told PTI.

Bhatt said once the FDI Policy is in place, funds will flow from Indian big companies and there will be financial incentives to private players to be able to operate.

In its pre-budget memorandum, SIA-India has sought increased budgetary outlay for the Department of Space, tax incentives for research and development, extended tax-holiday for deep tech start-ups to seven years, interest rate subsidies, financial incentives for academia and visa programmes for entrepreneurs.

“The proposed budget reforms outlined in the memorandum are crucial for fostering innovation, ensuring global competitiveness, and propelling the Indian space industry to new heights,” said Subba Rao Pavuluri, president of SIA-India.

However, prior to implementing financial stimulus and regulatory measures, the space sector requires a comprehensive Quantitative Analysis and delineation of Space Economy Sectors, akin to the OECD framework or the US Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) framework, the industry body said.

The emphasis on promoting private entities, encouraging youth participation, and nurturing deep tech startups aligns with the ambitious goals of creating India’s space odyssey, with a moon landing by 2040 and a space station by 2035, SIA-India said.

It also wanted the government to establish specialised research and development hubs, testing facilities for space technologies and data centres to process, analyse and store massive data from space-related activities.

ISpA’s Lt Gen Bhatt (retd) said Indian start-ups had received 123.90 million dollars in 2023, taking the total funding raised to 380.25 million dollars till date.

In the past year, a total of 54 new space startups have emerged, bringing the current count of space startups in India to 204, Bhatt said.

According to industry estimates, the private space sector in India accounts for about two per cent of the global space economy and is projected to grow to about 10 per cent by 2040. PTI

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