Cliff Dennett

Head of Business Development, Innovation Birmingham Ltd, UK

Guest blogger for Bharat Joshi

Part of Global Science and Innovation Network UK in India

9th May 2017 Chennai, India

Innovation Birmingham

In March, I had the absolute delight of visiting India for the first time in my life and the whole week was an adventure, both personally and commercially. Experiencing the Indian way of life, the hospitality and incredible proactivity to doing business were all eye-opening, as was the traffic!

I help run Innovation Birmingham, the UK’s largest campus dedicated to digital businesses, helping over 160 businesses grow in the UK. We took five of these UK businesses – Data Umbrella, Urban Hawk, Petalite, Blackbelt Defence, Heimdall Protective Tech for a ‘test’ trade mission to India, helped by the British Deputy High Commission Chennai and Business Birmingham. I also wanted to see whether there was interest in our campus because we are raising £30 million plus for an investor to buy this significant campus from the local government.

In a whirlwind tour, I visited three different cities, starting in Chennai then Kochi, Bangalore and finally back to Chennai for a three-day trade fair. During that time, the British Deputy High Commission Chennai and Business Birmingham organised well over 20 different meetings for me. I met start-up founders, massive incubators (the development going on across southern India is amazing) like Kerala Start-up mission, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras Research Park, Global INcubationSERVices, NASSCOM (National Association of Software and Services Companies) 10000 start-ups, investors and other innovative businesses, all doing incredible things. The startup energy in India is impressive and all of our companies, including myself, came back with really good business leads to follow up.

The support from the British Deputy High Commission Chennai and Science and Innovation Network (SIN) was fantastic. A particular highlight was an evening ‘match-making session between Indian businesses and the UK delegation’. All of our companies said how productive this was and deals in the areas of healthcare, gaming, data collection analysis, retail technologies and transportation are being progressed as we speak between the UK and Indian businesses. The food was lovely as well (I had far too much trifle!)

On my short tour around Southern India, I received a lot of questions about Brexit and in particular about the UK’s current attitude towards immigration. I am a businessman and consider myself a citizen of the world, not a politician, so I can only offer my own perspective. Brexit was a protest vote against the established political parties in the UK and was a cry for political change from people who felt their government had not served them well. My perspective and that of all of the businesses I speak with is that people just want to get on and do deals. While the UK tries to sort out its mess with the rest of the EU, India and the UK can continue to host these excellent trade missions and find ways for all to prosper.

Having seen the investment, particularly in technology start-ups in India, I am convinced that the country has an incredible role to play on the global stage going forward and I am so pleased I came out to see this first hand.

I very much look forward to returning soon, sampling even more of the great Indian food and hospitality and bringing even more companies. I also hope to bring trade delegations over from India and help them find opportunities here in the UK.

3 comments on “Innovation Birmingham

  1. Great article, India is such a beautiful country with lots of talent and opportunities available to help UK companies grow and expand!

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About Bharat Joshi

Bharat was brought up in Kent. He joined the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in 1995 from the hotel industry and has had diplomatic postings to the Gambia, Dhaka and…

Bharat was brought up in Kent. He joined the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in 1995 from the hotel industry and has
had diplomatic postings to the Gambia, Dhaka and Qatar. He was most
recently British High Commissioner to Cameroon, and non-Resident Ambassador to Gabon, Chad, Equatorial Guinea and Central African Republic.
Before that he worked as a Private Secretary to two British Ministers, as well as in various Departments of the FCO including the European Union Department and Press Office.
Bharat has experience of crisis management and has been deployed to the scenes of major incidents involving British nationals, including after the tragic bombing of the British Consulate-General in Istanbul in 2003.
Bharat’s varied career has been spent dealing with a full range of
HMG objectives, including promoting political and economic reform and
improved human rights; improved UK prosperity through trade; climate
change and UN policy issues. A major part of his portfolio in Chennai is supporting mutual prosperity between the UK and India, transforming lives through jobs, entrepreneurship and skills partnerships.
Bharat has been very happily married (at least forhim) to Bhakti for 18 years and they have two
wonderful daughters. His interests are cricket, badminton, history, reading and travelling.
Bharat speaks English, French, Gujarati and Hindi and Spanish, and is desperate to learn Tamil.