By Garima Mitra, Co-Founder, Treelife
The Office of Principal Scientific Advisor to the Government of India published the Draft National Deep Tech Startup Policy (NDTSP) for public recommendations. According to Startup India’s database, as of May
2023, more than 10,000 startups in India can be classified within the deep tech space and it is imperative to address the complex problems in the ecosystem.
Deep tech Definition
Deep tech refers to technologies which are based on pioneering scientific breakthroughs, which help providing solutions to complex problems. Deep tech conceptually includes the segment of Artificial Intelligence, Big data and analytics, Robotics, Internet of Things, Blockchain, etc., however, it is seldom difficult to make that identification.
The NDTSP recognises that in order to understand the issues in the ecosystem, it is important to focus on identifying what qualifies as ‘deep tech’. While doing so may be challenging, the NDTSP aims to establish a the framework of a working group that would be responsible in identifying the techno-commercially viable startups, which would further enable the creation of a definitive criterion for determining whether a startup can be qualified as ‘deep tech’.
Objective of the NDTSP
The NDTSP seeks to address the needs, complex challenges and strengthen the deep tech startup ecosystem by complimenting the current Start-up India policies and initiatives. The NDTSP aims to thematically prioritise the areas that require intervention and propose policy level changes in order to create a conducive ecosystem for the deep tech startups in the following manner:
Nurturing Research, Development & Innovation
The NDTSP aims to bolster research, development and innovation by incentivising researchers, facilitate seamless dissemination of knowledge and set up platforms for protection and commercialisation of IP. The
primary priority of the policy is to increase gross expenditure on research and development by encouraging public and private investment through patient capital.
Strengthening Intellectual Property Regime
The NDTSP recognises that the deep tech ecosystem lacks specialised support in obtaining patents required for such cutting-edge technology. In order to streamline the process of obtaining IP registrations, the
NDTSP focuses on building a framework for obtaining and managing the IP specifically in the deep tech space, capacity building for patent landscaping, monetary incentives for developing technologies with the government and other amendments in the current IPR Policy, 2016.
Facilitating Access to Funding
The NDTSP aims to enhance the already existing policies and programs of the government in order to tailor them to the requirements of the deep tech space by various initiatives such as setting up a centralised window to capture the lifecycle of government grant payments, assessment of the current CSR laws in order to facilitate CSR funding into the deep tech sector, building a dedicated deep tech guidance fund with longer tenure to match the gestation period of the deep tech startups, to mobilise the government, private and foreign funding in the ecosystem, reducing the compliance burden and onerous taxation in order to curb the relocation of startups to other countries with better taxation regimes, among others.
Enabling Infrastructure Access and Resource Sharing
The NDTSP recognises the high cost required for the primary R&D in the frontier technology space and hence, it endeavors to provide access to shared infrastructure to deep-tech startups at nominal fees. The NDTSP also aims to build other resource-sharing mechanisms for the dissemination of data to such startups, as well as the dissemination of data expertise.
Creating Conducive Regulations, Standards and Certifications
The NDTSP encourages the establishment of mechanisms such as regulatory sandboxes that would help startups, end-users, industry, and regulatory experts to test the technology in a controlled environment while
gathering evidence on functionality and potential risks of the technology. The NDTSP also focuses on providing subsidies and exemptions in certification and accreditation costs for deep tech startups.
This enables experimentation of frontier technology to comply with existing regulatory frameworks.
Attracting Human Resources & Initiate Capacity Building
The NDTSP places great impetus on capacity building vis-à-vis encouraging the establishment of knowledge dissemination mechanisms in different segments of frontier technology, creation of accessibility to
educational resources, and building the inclusive framework for encouraging involvement of women and people from tier II and tier III cities in augmenting the deep tech ecosystem.
Promoting Procurement & Adoption
The NDTSP advocates for public procurement as a market for deep tech startups and aims to enhance the current programs and initiatives by implementing targeted interventions. The NDTSP urges the government
to take a higher risk on such deep tech startups and enable public procurement to be the first market for such startups.
Enhancing Policy & Program Interlinkages
While many policies to encourage the deep tech segment are already established, the NDTSP encourages enhancing the policies and creating interlinkages in already existing initiatives in order to create a larger impact.
Sustenance of Deep Tech Startups
Lastly, considering the gestation period of deep tech startups, the policy aims to set mechanisms and provide a roadmap to the startups engaged in building frontier technology to ensure sustainable growth by implementation funding sensitisation programs, and facilitation of meaningful partnerships, among many other initiatives.
While the initiative of formulating a policy for the deep tech ecosystem is meritorious, it would be interesting to witness how the policy shapes up. Considering the nascent stage of the deep tech ecosystem in India and the multitudes of benefits that deep tech actually offers, it is pertinent to encourage experimentation and high-risk