The Takshashila Institution organised the second edition of the Space Policy Conclave, virtually, on Thursday, July 9, 2020. The event saw participation from space entrepreneurs and academics with experience in working in different parts of the space value chain, both in India and globally.
The event started with a welcome address followed by a brief run-through of the recent announcements of reform made by the Union Government and Department of Space. Post this, during the moderated discussions, the participants took stock of the present and charted the future trajectory of space in India.
The general sense amongst the participants was of cautious optimism. There was hope that the reforms could set India into a path for growth in the space sector, with the anticipation that the announcements would be followed in letter and spirit.
The discussions started with some participants sharing their thoughts about how the changes are likely to impact their enterprises. When asked about what changes they would like to see in the updated rules of engagement, there were some common threads which emerged. One, many participants highlighted the need for unambiguous regulations and guidelines from the government which specify the procedures, timelines, query redressals mechanisms, and course of action in cases of delays from the authorities. A model based on the presumption of openness instead of prohibition is required. Essentially, everything which is not explicitly prohibited should be allowed.
Second, many entrepreneurs articulated how the government space agency should form a seed fund to give grants to startups so as to promote innovation and leadership in the space sector. Many models, such as NASA’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) as well as the European Space Agency’s direct funding, could be explored for this.
It is incumbent upon all the players (entrepreneurs, academicians, space policy professionals etc.) to hold the government accountable and so that India can have a truly liberal space policy and a globally competitive space sector.