Hyderabad: UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), the UK’s major public funder of research and innovation in universities and businesses, is seeing stronger ties between the UK and India across verticals.
The research and innovation cooperation between UKRI and India has risen from less than £1 million to over £310 million since the UK research funders established a dedicated office in India in 2008, jointly. Both sides are working on addressing shared global challenges such as access to energy, public health and water security and create jobs for both the nations. Projects have also been initiated in the Telugu region.
In 2019, joint programmes across themes such as supporting startups, social change and water were announced. Last year, UKRI’s Innovate UK also signed a MoU with MeiTY. In 2018, health & wellbeing, water and social change had the maximum number of joint projects funded by India and UKRI.
The collaboration between the nations has also been focused on diverse areas such as urbanisation, manufacturing, industry, agriculture, environment, nuclear energy, communications startups, innovation in extreme photonics, culture, museums, clean air innovation, antimicrobial resistance, infant mortality rate, waste management and cross border trade. The partnership with India covers interdisciplinary research, managed through joint decision-making, and involving 200 projects, with over 175 different UK and Indian research institutions and over 100 industry partners.
Speaking to Telangana Today, Rebecca Fairbairn, director, UKRI India, said, “UKRI is the largest delivery partner in India for the Newton-Bhabha programmes, with over £150 million worth of joint investment facilitated since the start of this fund. We have delivered 75 per cent of the project from the UK side. One of the projects under this programme, is an electric vehicle (EV) for green mobility, working with industry. India has immense ability to scale up in innovation and technology and lower cost. EVs can help several developing countries to create mobility infrastructure for the future.”
The partner nations are also focusing on clean energy. UKRI has a long-standing partnership with the Department of Atomic Energy. The fifth round of projects had been just completed. The UK has spent £14 million in clean energy so far. There is also a focus on nuclear, bio-mass, solar and wind power besides energy storage and transmission to benefit rural communities.
On the life sciences front, ties are in pharmaceuticals and biotechnology, bringing together innovators and small & medium companies. Antimicrobial resistance remains a major area for collaboration. There is a huge element of focus on patient behaviour involving interactions with medical practitioners as well as medicines, points out Rebecca.
Dr Andrew Fleming, deputy high commissioner, British Deputy High Commission, Hyderabad, said, “UKRI has not only been involved in research and innovation activities at national level but also in the Telugu region. More than £10 million has been invested in this region alone. Efforts are on to bridge the gap between the academia in the UK and India.”
Rebecca highlighted that the number of projects in the Telugu States are twice higher than the projects that are carried out elsewhere in the country. The projects in Telugu region span areas such as advanced manufacturing, energy, cities, food, agriculture, environment and health spreading the depth and breadth.
Since 2008, the UK has risen from fourth to second place among India’s international collaborators, first place for some Indian funders such as the Department of Biotechnology. Also, UK-India co-publications are more highly cited than either India or the UK individually and more cited than Indian collaborations with the US, Germany or Japan.
She explained, “We have international offices in Europe, North America, China and India. Operating across the whole of the UK with a combined budget of more than £7 billion, UKRI brings together the seven research councils, Innovate UK and Research England. Having established in India in 2008 in the British High Commission in Delhi, we have partnered with several of the Government of India’s funding bodies such as Department of Science and Technology (DST), Department of Biotechnology (DBT) and Indian Council for Social Sciences Research (ICSSR) to create opportunities for researchers and innovators to create better outcomes.”
“The UK has the world’s three of the best universities and has established closer ties with Indian research institutions. India’s quantitative skills are very strong and this is a balancing strength for the UK,” she added.
UKRI also uses a lot of data insights from the research projects that are carried out on several areas including climate change. ICSSR with the help of the UK counterparts developed India’s first data repository on social sciences. While the council made a lot of capital investment towards this depository, technical assistance and knowledge support came in from the UK’s Data Science.