Decoding Deep Tech

By Meenakshi Shivram

Joining us as the second guest on The Spotlight is Akansha Shekhar, ready to unravel the intricacies of the deep-tech sector. This is the very sector that has taken center stage in both boardroom deliberations and casual dinner-table discussions over the past few years.

Read on to understand the sectoral challenges, upcoming trends in the near future and how ARTPARK-IISc plays a role in catalysing it all.

M: Could you introduce us to what ARTPARK is all about?

A: ARTPARK-IISc is a unique organisation promoted by the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) to foster innovations in robotics, autonomous systems and AI- by bringing together the startup, industry, research, and government ecosystems. We are promoted by the Department of Science & Technology (DST), Govt. of India, under the National Mission on Interdisciplinary Cyber-Physical Systems (NM-ICPS) and the Govt. of Karnataka. India’s deep-tech landscape is undergoing phenomenal growth, and we’re accelerating the growth of technologies in solving challenges of the developing world, for the next billion. 

Fundamentally, we help innovators in the deep-tech ecosystem through three different initiatives: 

  1. Startup@ARTPARK: Incubation and accelerator programs for deep-tech startups under our TBI (Technology Business Incubator)
  2. Platforms@ARTPARK: Infrastructure or the underlying framework for innovators to build startups. 
  3. Skilling@ARTPARK: Cultivating talent at regional and national levels, equipping individuals with 21st-century skills. 

M: How does ARTPARK-IISc engage with deep-tech startups in India?

A: We are an “incubatory” that is an incubator + laboratory,  where we work with deep-tech entrepreneurs at different stages in their journey. This includes those with initial ideas seeking to develop them into startups, as well as those aiming to reach higher TRLs (Technology Readiness Levels). For the latter group, we provide support in accessing the infrastructure, resources, and networks necessary for their growth. We help startups with mentorship support, access to funding opportunities, access to manufacturing and testing facilities, networking opportunities, and connections with the VC community- among many others. We have about 50+ deep-tech startups associated with us in various capacities, and this number is only growing, and have represented our startups in global forums like Aero India 2023, G20 Showcases, Bengaluru Tech Summit and GPAI 2023. 

M: Given your immersion in the deep-tech ecosystem, what are your opinions on the current deep-tech landscape in India?

A: The success of ISRO’s Chandrayaan-3 is a testament to the fact that even the sky is not the limit for India’s deep-tech ecosystem- the possibilities are endless. Over the last few years we’ve witnessed India emerge as the hub for innovations in deep-tech given the unique and diverse set of challenges that are being solved in the country. We’re seeing a surge in the number of deep-tech startups that are actively utilizing technologies to create a macro-level social and economic impact. One of the most exciting aspects of the current deep-tech landscape is the increasing collaboration between academia, government, research institutions, and industry. This collaboration has led to the emergence of cutting-edge innovations and technologies with the potential to address global challenges across sectors such as healthcare, agriculture and industry. The policymakers are also actively supporting the startup ecosystem by providing entrepreneurs with the support needed to accelerate their growth. 

M: What common domestic/global trends do you foresee coming in the next few years?

A: I think one of the most exciting trends I see coming through is the scope of collaborations. There is immense potential for Cross-disciplinary collaborations across industries and to cater to different use cases. We have doctors working with data analysts to build tools for policymakers in disease surveillance and monitoring. Startups are now focusing on collaborations, instead of competition. This also essentially implies that startups are working together to find the best effective utilization of limited means. We see startups optimise shared resources to build their product or technology. Since deep tech requires a lot of resources for prototyping and testing, this would essentially reduce the overall cost of building such technologies. 

M: What role does working capital optimization play in this sector?

A: Since deep tech startups undergo longer development cycles and higher initial investment requirements, effective working capital management becomes even more critical. Deep-tech startups often require substantial funding for research, development, and scaling. Optimizing working capital ensures that the available funds are used efficiently, reducing the need for additional external funding and improving financial sustainability. Efficient working capital management helps ensure a healthy cash flow to support ongoing operations and investment in future growth. Most importantly, maintaining a practice of working capital optimization can free up funds for strategic investments in new technologies, talent acquisition, or market expansion, all of which are essential for the growth of deep-tech ventures.

M: How important is a robust governance, risk & compliance framework, for deep-tech startups?

A: Deep-tech startups operate in highly regulated industries- like healthcare or financial services. Since startups typically involve significant R&D investments and long development cycles, it is important to identify and mitigate risks associated with technology development, intellectual property protection, and market adoption. Doing so will not only streamline the internal processes, decision-making, and accountability within the startup, but it will also provide the foundation for scalability and sustainability, ensuring that the organization can adapt to changing regulatory landscapes and business environments.

M: What are some key supply chain considerations that deep-tech companies need to keep in mind, given the global dynamics at play?

A: Our focus in India revolves around the narrative of “Make in India, for the world”, and we aim to develop indigenous technologies and products, reducing our reliance on international suppliers. This approach not only lowers the cost of developing new technologies but also positions India as a hub for emerging technologies. Having said this, deep-tech startups still need to manage their supply chains keeping in mind the global stakeholders. Given India’s position in the global technology supply chain, deep-tech companies should assess global sourcing options for components, materials, and specialized equipment, and should consider diversifying their supplier base to reduce dependency on a single source. This involves evaluating factors such as cost, quality, lead times, and geopolitical stability of sourcing regions. 

M: To conclude, what would you say is the most pressing challenge the industry needs a solution to, right now?

A: I feel that despite India’s position as a hub for tech, we face a shortage of availability of skilled talent. There’s a high demand for experts in areas like AI and biotechnology, but there aren’t enough trained professionals to fill these roles. This shortage is holding back the growth of deep-tech companies. At ARTPARK-IISc, we have recognized this need, and are working with various stakeholders on education,  training programs, and talent development initiatives. Write to us at