Ben Kitcher

AMRC Offshore Renewables Manager The University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre

Part of Global Science and Innovation Network

7th March 2016

Opportunities for UK-India collaborations in advanced manufacturing

In December, we supported a visit of UK advanced manufacturing experts to Pune and Bengaluru in India. This included Ben Kitcher, who represented the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) and the University of Sheffield. Ben wrote an excellent blog (originally on the University of Sheffield website) capturing why this sort of visit is so important in furthering UK-India collaborations in the area of high value manufacturing. Here’s Ben’s blog…

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the UK in November 2015 was heralded as a success that should build confidence in the potential for partnership between both nations.

Deals worth £9 billion were announced during Mr Modi’s discussions with David Cameron, focusing on how partnerships between Indian and British companies could be arranged. Rarely, though, do we see such rapid development from announcement to interaction with our counterparts.

Just three weeks after Prime Minister Modi’s visit, I had the honour of representing the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) and the University of Sheffield during a week-long tour in India, hosted by UK Trade and Investment and the UK Science and Innovation Network.

I was invited to talk at two conferences promoting UK-India collaborations in the automotive and aerospace manufacturing industries.

The event was clearly aligned to the recent political drive to increase collaborative working with Indian organisations, and I was joined by colleagues from other UK-based research centres, companies and universities. The trip took in several days in Pune – one of the largest automotive manufacturing bases in India – and Bengaluru – an emerging hub for aerospace manufacturing.

While the conferences themselves provided a fantastic platform to promote the work carried out at the AMRC and the University as a whole, it was particularly fascinating to be hosted at various factories such as Tata Automotive and research centres such as the Central Manufacturing Technology Institute. Regardless of the type of organisation we visited, there were three key themes that were highly evident.

Firstly, there was the advanced level of technology and innovation being employed.

This was not last-generation technology or low cost/high labour content as one might expect, but instead high tech, highly innovative and highly autonomous methods. India recognises that competing on cost alone – and especially low cost based on low labour rates – is not a practical long term strategy. As such those technologies which increase capability such as non-contact metrology, machine health monitoring and novel materials processing are all being pursued and brought up to industry readiness.

Secondly, meeting as many engineers and scientists over a short period of time as I did highlighted what a country of over one billion people naturally has to offer – an overwhelming wealth of talent.

This visit to India has underlined the fact that India has a great resource of young, energetic, incentivised and well educated professionals. The emergence of this talent is a product of a recent and ongoing initiative to offer more vocational education and training in technology based subjects such as IT, and very recently growing this to encompass subjects such as high-value manufacturing.

The last theme – and without doubt most importantly of all – was the clear strategic intent to grow the high-value manufacturing industry in India, which ran through all discussions, meetings, decisions and proposed plans.

There is a frank openness and determination that pervades all action; and that is to establish and grow a high-value manufacturing industry. India is no stranger to making such long-term strategic moves, given the decision to grow the domestic automotive manufacturing sector some decades ago.

It is not serendipitous that India now outputs ten times as many vehicles as it did in the 1980s. By developing the ‘make in India’ concept, India will achieve its goal and become integral to aerospace and other high-value manufacturing industries.

Combined, these themes show that the incentive for us to collaborate on exciting and game-changing projects is quite clear. We share many of the same objectives be they technical, economic or social, despite our starting points being quite different.

We bring complementary attributes to the collaboration table and can each benefit in a way that is not detrimental to the other party. Beginning these projects will of course require great care and attention to detail to ensure success, but once the formula for collaboration is established the opportunity to build on the strengths of a current in high-value manufacturing as well as a future leader will be a great asset.