A Call for Pre-Proposals for Setting up Four Thematic Hubs (T-Hubs) under India’s National Quantum Mission (NQM) was published by the Department of Science & Technology (DST), Govt. of India on 20th Jan. 2024. This was a first major announcement by the Govt. of India, DST with an objective to further rollout the NQM, post Union Cabinet approval of the National Quantum Mission on 19th April 2023 at a total outlay of Rs. 6003.65 Crore ($700M+) for a period of eight years.
Under this first call for pre-proposal of National Quantum Mission, Academia institutions/ R&D Labs are invited to submit its proposal for advancing the application of quantum science and technology, in the four thematic areas viz. Quantum Computing, Quantum Communication, Quantum Sensing & Metrology, Quantum Materials & Devices.
After analyzing this first call for Pre-Proposals of NQM of Govt. of India, Tech. Analyst 5 Jewels Research (5JR) is of view that tech. startups and industry should be also given lead roles under the National Quantum Mission of India, which has been presently exclusively provisioned for Academia and R&D institutions at T-Hubs (Thematic Hubs) and Technical Group levels.
Giving his analyst insights on this first call for Pre-Proposals of NQM of Govt. of India, Chief Analyst of 5 Jewels Research (5JR) Mr Sumant Parimal said “Release of this first call for Pre-Proposals of National Quantum Mission (NQM) by DST, Govt. of India within a year of approval of the Quantum Mission budgetary outlay is a welcomed step of Govt. of India. This NQM roll out is likely to generate huge Quantum Tech. innovations and its adoption opportunities, which shall be giving technological edge to the nation as India aspires to grows and targets to become a developed nation by 2047. However, a detailed analysis of this published first call for Pre-Proposals under NQM of Govt. of India reveals that tech. startups and industry are not provisioned for any leading role under this NQM mission. Instead, NQM mission did identify some roles for the startups and industry towards the lower end of the mission value chain at the spike level. I am of belief that leading innovation opportunities under futuristic technology and deep tech. missions like NQM should not be limited to few select Academia and R&D institutions, but shall be open to Startups, MSMEs and Industries as well. Recent innovations in AI (Artificial Intelligence) in form of Generative AI was led by a tech. startup OpenAI, which itself substantiates the fact that we need to keep startups in leading roles in critical futuristic and deep tech. missions like NQM”.
5JR’s Chief Analyst further anticipates a higher entry barrier for the tech. startups in NQM as most of the Indian Quantum Tech. startups are recently formed entities, having very less to no-experience in executing-installing end to end Quantum Tech solutions and products in real industry use cases.
“Core objective of any national futuristic and deep tech. mission like NQM should be also to support young entrepreneurs from idea (scratch) to IPO (going public or being self-sustainable) journey for their startups for fulfilling India’s aspiration to become third largest economy, however a detailed analysis of presently circulated first call for pre-proposal of National Quantum Mission it appears that it creates a high entry barrier for new quantum tech. and deep tech. startups as many of them (startups) won’t be able to fulfil the various eligibility criteria given under this first call for pre-proposal of National Quantum Mission. Decision makers need to understand that NQM mission should not become a tender document where best of product or solution from best vendors need to be procured, but rather the NQM objective should be to support millions of new innovation ideas leading to thousands of entrepreneurs and startups in futuristic and deep tech. like Quantum tech. in India” Mr Sumant Parimal says.
“When head of Govt. , the Prime Minister India says that he (PM Modi) is there to support and nurture dream of every citizen, then the national-Govt. Tech. mission objectives should be also aligned with that thought process, and should be inclusive rather than exclusive, incubating and nurturing startups and innovation dream of our young entrepreneurs who didn’t get any opportunity so far to fund their ideas and startups” Mr Parimal adds further while stressing need to make NQM mission execution more inclusive for fuelling growth of new startups in deep tech. sector.
As per 5JR analyst, another point to note here is that under the present first call for pre-proposal document of National Quantum Mission, it is not explicitly indicated for the convenience of deep tech. startups that with which all academia and R&D institutions they need to align for participating in the NQM mission. With the limited resources through which startups operates, it might become difficult for many startups to do pre-proposal match making with various academia and R&D institutions even without any pointers towards which academia and R&D institutions they need to approach in their technology areas as there are four T-Hubs proposed, each for four technology areas viz. Quantum Computing, Quantum Communication, Quantum Sensing & Metrology, Quantum Materials & Devices. Thus, a startup working in Quantum Sensing doesn’t knows at present, which academia, and R&D institutions they need to align with for NQM participation and whether those academia and R&D institutions would be giving them a suitable space in their Technical Group or proposed consortium. Thus, it may create unpredictable scenario for many deep tech. startups and may lead to wastage of time and resources for such early-stage startups which are typically under severe resource constraints.