Fathoming the unexplored depths of Deep-Tech

CXOToday has engaged in an exclusive interview with Aditya Malik, Nasscom and CII Mentor

  • The current scenario of the DeepTech landscape of India.

The current landscape of DeepTech in India is marked by its pivotal role within the tech startup ecosystem. In fact, it has become a foundational component of most tech startups today. According to a Nasscom and Zinnov 2022 report, the DeepTech sector in India is experiencing remarkable growth, with over 3,000 DeepTech startups thriving at an impressive compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of over 53 percent over the past decade. This substantial growth attests to the expansion of DeepTech in the Indian tech landscape. Notably, within the Indian B2B SaaS (Business-to-Business Software as a Service) sector, there is a distinguishable trend where a significant portion of Indian enterprises adopted DeepTech innovations as a strategic approach to meet their clients’ evolving needs and challenges.

But what is deep tech? DeepTech basically encompasses a wide array of cutting-edge technologies, including but not limited to Artificial Intelligence (AI), which encompasses Explainable AI (XAI) and Generative AI (Gen AI), Machine Learning (ML), Natural Language Processing (NLP), blockchain, cryptocurrencies (crypto), Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDC), Web 3, augmented reality, metaverse, and quantum computing.

Today, DeepTech provides a base for scientific and technological advancements, which are the driving force behind the uniqueness and impact of tech companies in today’s competitive landscape. 


  • What are the newer possibilities and future opportunities that DeepTech can open up?

The DeepTech industry has grown exponentially over the last few years, making headlines, however, it is crucial to recognize that unlike many other sectors, the DeepTech enterprises we see today have been steadily evolving over the years. These innovations require focused and sustained research as well as development efforts to transform theoretical concepts into practical business applications that can be introduced to the market. Take Artificial Intelligence (AI) as an example: the foundational technology behind AI has been developed by academics over several decades, and yet it is still a work in progress, clearly indicating the complexity and depth of the field.

Looking ahead, however, Deep Tech offers a wide array of newer possibilities and opportunities in sectors that might have been overlooked before. DeepTech innovations have the potential to bring in groundbreaking solutions in fields such as healthcare, climate change, energy, and transportation. For instance, in healthcare, DeepTech applications like advanced diagnostics and drug discovery have the potential to significantly improve patient outcomes and revolutionize the entire healthcare ecosystem. It is pretty much the same condition when it comes to satellite and space technology and Indian startups like Agnikul, Dhruva and Pixxel are doing well by working along with the governmental agencies like ISRO. But India is poised with challenges when it comes to hardware, electronics, and supply chain and overcoming them will lead to a wholesome development.

Another interesting sector that is making headlines is AI and ML in spacetech. There are already AI algorithms that are already being utilized to study vast amounts of spatial data, including images, signals, and telemetry. In the growing internet economy, deep tech companies are also developing advanced encryption techniques, threat detection systems, and privacy-enhancing technologies to combat cyber security and data privacy issues. All in all, the deep tech industry has the potential to reshape industries and improve lives. However, it is a slow process and will need immense collaborative efforts. 


  • What are the challenges in the present state of the DeepTech ecosystem in India?

The DeepTech ecosystem in India faces several challenges unique to its ecosystem with one of the most significant being the difficulty in securing investments. DeepTech ventures often require more financing compared to typical startups due to their prolonged research and development phases, as well as their innovative nature involving previously undiscovered physics and algorithms. 

Unlike other sectors, the timelines and processes significantly differ from traditional technology startups. Unlike investing in a device that holds established technology, DeepTech investments necessitate a longer gestation period to gather resources, validate data, conduct prototype testing, and witness the practical application of these cutting-edge technologies, hence, it is only natural for investors to prioritize returns on their investments and seek a shorter path to consistent profitability.

However, innovators that look beyond the initial incubation phase and recognize the remarkable potential that DeepTech can unlock can create profound impacts that benefit all as a whole. One way to deal with this can be to encourage strategic partnership among enterprises.

Even though there is a generous flow of funds from the government for the development of DeepTech, there is still a gap in the overall infrastructural landscape in our country.

Talent acquisition comes as the cherry on top when it comes to the prevailing challenges in the DeepTech ecosystem. It is not the acquiring part but the capacity building part that needs attention. Since, DeepTech is more of a specialization, investments directed toward academic research, facility and infrastructure is required to nurture young minds who wish to learn about DeepTech and find themselves a career in it.


  • Ways in which innovations and development in DeepTech can be nurtured.

Undoubtedly, deep tech finds its foundations in scientific breakthroughs and engineering marvels, where concepts are transformed into practical, real-world applications, however, the expansion of this ecosystem heavily relies on fostering an ecosystem across stakeholders. A pivotal pathway towards achieving this objective is the recent government initiative around the Draft National Deep Tech Startup Policy (NDTSP), which seeks to drive societal progress by harnessing research-driven innovations in deep tech.

The NDTSP functions on certain principles and objectives which include, ensuring the security of India’s economy, facilitating a shift towards a knowledge-driven economy, strengthening national capability and sovereignty through the Atmanirbhar Bharat initiative, and promoting ethical innovation. This will allow more startups to emerge and directly strengthen the existing DeepTech ecosystem of India.

Furthermore, the deep tech landscape has been further supported through significant contributions by numerous accelerators – playing a vital role in nurturing the startup ecosystem. These accelerators have acted as catalysts, providing essential support and resources for startups operating in the deep tech domain.

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