India-UK strike new R&D pacts in solar & nano technology
India’s minister for science & technology and earth sciences, Dr Harsh Vardhan, was in the UK recently for the fifth Indo-UK Science and Innovation Council (SIC) meeting. The two sides clinched a crucial agreement to work together as R&D partners in Solar Alliance. He gives details of the deliberations to ‘India Investment Journal’ after his talks with UK counterpart, Jo Johnson.
As a part of our commitment to the Solar Alliance, India and the UK have agreed to establish India-UK Networked Centre on Solar Energy linked to India’s renewable energy mission and UK’s Supergens Program.
The research projects will focus on systems level design and development covering solar energy generation, storage systems and grid integration, particularly for micro-grid systems. India would be investing Rs 50 crores ($7.5mn) over a period of five years with matching contribution from Research Council UK (RCUK) under the Newton Bhabha program.
The UK is among the most important countries where we have a very dynamic engagement. In India, we are taking up renewable energy in a big way, and in the solar area we will have an even more active engagement with the UK now.
Another key decision was that the UK agreed to provide access for Indian researchers to the Neutron Scattering facility of the UK’s Science and Technology Facilities Council at Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, Oxford. This unique facility based on the use of neutron scattering and muon spectroscopy is a world class facility at Oxford to carry out fundamental research on the understanding a wide range of matter at fundamental level.
As a part of the Nano mission program of India’s Department of Science and Technology (DST) would be investing Rs 26.5 crores ($4mn). This will help to enhance Indian capability to fabricate structures at the nano scale level for creating interesting and technologically important materials through research in fundamental science. India is currently third in the world in terms of nano technology.
SIC is the apex body which oversees the entire gamut of the India-UK science, technology and innovation cooperation and meets once in two years. The last meeting was held in New Delhi in November 2014 during which both countries had launched the Newton-Bhabha Program to support bilateral science and technology cooperation.
Since then the two governments have given a substantive boost to our collaborations in science, technology and innovation. The relationship has transformed into a true partnership based on mutual trust, reciprocity and parity, covering a wide gamut of basic and applied research.
Currently, the value of investment in Indo-UK research and development cooperation from multiple Indian and UK agencies exceeds £200 million of co-funding. The UK stands amongst the top three collaborating countries in science and technology with India.
Both nations have now agreed to address grand societal challenges on food, energy and water security; health and well-being; smart cities and rapid urbanisation with increasing access and sharing of expertise, resources and facilities. The cooperation is aimed to yield high quality and high impact research outputs targeted towards addressing societal needs and of industrial relevance.
A collaborative program on Energy Efficiency in Built Environment as a part of the Smart Cities mission will be initiated under this program. Both countries have agreed on common research agenda focused on, energy efficient building envelop; low energy cooling; and thermal comfort as well as energy efficient technologies for city and community level.
Augmenting the India-UK Centre of Advanced Manufacturing through DST-RCUK cooperation linked to the Make in India program and the UK’s Catapult Centre program. The projects will be designed to deliver industry relevant results that can be readily applied to current challenges in the manufacturing supply chain.
In the area of life and health sciences, India’s Department of Biotechnology (DBT) and the UK’s Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) agreed to continue support to the virtual joint centres on Agricultural Nitrogen. The two agencies are also supporting research collaboration under Global Research Partnership in Aquaculture. In the area of health sciences the focus is on addressing the health needs of women and children.
Water Quality Research
The Department of Science and Technology and Natural Environment Research Council will initiate a collaborative research program to improve water quality in India. The program would address natural geogenic containments such as arsenic and fluoride in ground water and also man made pollutants (pharmaceutical and personal care products). This program is being developed to support implementation of the goals of the National Mission for Clean Ganga.
Besides the Newton Bhabha programs, India and the UK have been involved in promoting partnerships through the UK-India Education and Research Initiative (ULKIERI). Acknowledging the success in building new scientific partnership through R&D projects and networking, the two governments concluded the implementation arrangement for the Phase III (2016-2021) of the UKIERI.
The Ministry of Earth Sciences, India, and NERC-UK are working on a large observational campaign involving UK aircraft and Indian ships, accompanied by surface observations, primarily to address the role of small-scale processes to address the variability of the Indian Monsoon leading to improved prediction of an Indian phenomenon crucial to the country’s growth.