Shounak Dhar

Administrator – Science and Innovation Network, India

Guest blogger for Alexandra Abbot

Part of UK in India

13th May 2019 King Charles Street, London

Technology boosting the UK-India Relationship

Since 1999, May 11 of every year is celebrated as National Technology Day in India. Observed to commemorate the Pokhran nuclear tests, the day also praises the significance of science and technology in India’s growth as a nation. Becoming the sixth nuclear state of the world was not the sole thing India attained on that day; Hansa-3, India’s foremost indigenous aircraft was flown in Bengaluru when the nuclear tests were being organized in Rajasthan. That is not all. On 11th May, 1998, the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) also accomplished the last test-fire of the Trishul missile, a surface-to-air, quick-reaction, short-range missile, Trishul was a unit of the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme of India which has resulted in the formation of Prithvi, Akash and Agni missile systems.

India has acquired a prime position in the world ‘Tech’ map and now is at the forefront of a dynamic partnership between the UK and India. Millions of interactions form a common link, from family to finance, sport to science, and with technology cutting across everything we do, there is an opportunity for the two countries to pursue larger goals, like the enhancement of ties across financial markets and the exploration of modern technologies – particularly new digital technologies that are boosting business growth in both countries. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the UK in 2018 further reinforced the commitment by both countries to deepen their strategic partnership.

The UK has been the largest G20 investor in India for decades and India has the fourth largest number of investment projects in the UK, where technology plays a key role. More than 700 British companies such as British Petroleum, British Telecom, JCB, JLR and Vodafone already operate, assemble and manufacture in India, employing thousands of people. Tata, an Indian conglomerate, is one of UK’s largest manufacturing employers. The UK has also played a pivotal role in India’s defense modernization and shares a strong history of cooperation in sectors such technology, skills development and education. Today, through its Science and Innovation Network (SIN) programmes, the UK is accelerating on global collaborations to find solutions for the needs of a growing planet. Topics of interest include Clean Energy, Future Manufacturing, Tech and Digital Economy, Agritech, Future Mobility, Oceans and Maritime services. These align with India’s vision and provide the foundation for new business collaborations.

So, what does this mean for both India and the UK? India requires advanced technology and manufacturing capabilities to bridge the existing gap while the UK needs a huge boost to trade and investments. Given their historical engagement, both the countries can work towards common goals leveraging technology and each other’s complementary strengths.

A new UK-India Tech Hub was inaugurated in London last week, to promote cross border technology transfer in early stage businesses between the two countries. The hub, described as a first-of-its-kind collaboration between a venture capital (VC) fund and a business district, has been set up by UK-based VC fund Pontaq at the new Royal Albert Dock business district in East London. The hub was inaugurated by UK Minister for Investment Graham Stuart and Indian High Commissioner to the UK, Ruchi Ghanashyam. Stuart hailed London as the world’s “leading financial centre with best-in-class regulation and world-class professional services,” while Ghanashyam reiterated that Brexit would not dampen the spirit of Indian investments into the UK.

With technology increasingly underpinning economic development and competitiveness the world over, the next step in the India-UK relationship would be collaborations in future tech areas such as Artificial Intelligence, health technologies, clean technologies, smart urbanisation and future mobility. The Indian government’s current priorities of Make in India, Smart Cities, Digital India and Skill India also act as major enablers designed to facilitate the right investment, foster innovation, enhance skill development and build future-ready manufacturing infrastructure using technology as the foundation. Industry 4.0 is another very important area of opportunity where India could benefit through its partnership with the UK; India can advance from low-cost manufacturing to high-end manufacturing. There are initiatives such as the UK-India Tech Hub to create state-level clusters, which are a good step towards actualizing the vision.

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