UK and India: Towards a hi-tech future

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May greets Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the official welcome ceremony for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting at Friary Court in St James's Palace, London, Thursday April 19, 2018. AP/PTI

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and UK Prime Minister Theresa May met on April 18 at No 10 Downing Street for bilateral discussions ahead of the 25th Commonwealth Heads of Government (CHOGM) meeting. India and the UK seek an ambitious relationship that recognises our shared interest in security, improves our mutual prosperity, and thrives on our unique and vital people-to-people contacts. Karnataka is at the heart of that ambitious relationship, which is one of the reasons why PM May chose to visit Bengaluru in November 2016 on her first bilateral visit overseas. On PM Modi’s second visit to the UK, he and PM May this week confirmed new commercial deals worth £1 billion and presided over a slew of new partnerships. One area of focus for their discussions was the importance of technology and specifically the UK-India Technology Partnership.

The UK and India are global leaders in technology and two of the world’s most innovative countries. The new UK-India Tech Partnership announced on Wednesday is a testimony to that. The pilot for this partnership will connect UK regions with Pune, focussing on the ‘Future of Mobility’, including low-emission and autonomous vehicles, battery storage and vehicle light-weighting. Additional connections will link the UK with Bengaluru with a focus on augmented and virtual reality, advanced materials and artificial intelligence (AI).

In addition, we will also be looking to scope options for a UK-India Advanced Manufacturing Centre, which would benefit both countries by linking our extensive supply-chain networks.
These new linkages will include a network of people and programmes to facilitate ideas, investment and prosperity for India and the UK. By identifying and pairing businesses, venture capital, universities and other delivery partners, the partnerships will provide access routes for British and Indian entrepreneurs and SMEs to each other’s markets. It will encourage broader innovation and productivity by helping businesses in both countries to develop mentoring relationships, collaborate and exchange staff.

This week, the 25th CHOGM will take place in London and Windsor. As part of the 53-member Commonwealth nations, India and the UK share much in common, and it is our hope that India and the UK will play a central role in revitalising the Commonwealth for generations to come. To highlight the importance of this multilateral meeting, the British Deputy High Commission, Bengaluru, and the National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS) hosted the “Commonwealth Big Lunch” and panel discussion last week. The top messages from that gathering were that there is further potential to strengthen collaborations in Science & Technology, Higher Education, Scholarships and People-to-People exchanges, all of which are of significance here in Karnataka.

The theme of this year’s CHOGM in the UK, “Towards a Common Future,” will have four principle work streams: more prosperous (including boosting intra-Commonwealth trade); more secure (including boosting counter-terrorism cooperation); more sustainable (boosting the resilience of small and vulnerable states, 65% of which are Commonwealth members); and fairer (promoting democracy and good governance). The CHOGM has special significance for the UK because it is the last major international gathering we will host before leaving the European Union in March next year. It is proof of our continuing engagement in multilateral diplomacy. As the UK leaves the EU, the Commonwealth grouping will acquire even greater significance for the UK. The statistics underlie its strength: the Commonwealth is home to one-third of the world’s population and 40% of its youth; it has 17% of world GDP; its members benefit from shared language, laws and values; and it is home to half of the top 20 emerging global cities. The Commonwealth needs to trumpet its strengths and achievements more actively, both globally and here in Karnataka.

Institutes based in Bengaluru are playing a leading role in delivering against many of the CHOGM themes. For example, Public Health England and scientists at the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Studies, Bengaluru, are developing a drug for Ebola and other epidemics, including addressing the issues around Anti-Microbial Resistance (AMR). This includes co-developing molecular compounds that have been jointly patented. As the first step of the evolution of a network of Web observatories in India, the International Institute of Information Technology, Bengaluru (IIIT-B), has established the Indian node of the Web Observatory along with University of Southampton and Web Science Trust at IIIT-B to provide the data and data analytics to support evidence-based policy-making and business intelligence.

Scientists at the Indian Institute of Science, St John’s Research Institute and NIAS, along with their counterparts in Cranfield University, are developing low-cost, secure, point-of-care ultrasound imaging for prenatal care to significantly improve the well-being of mothers and their babies.

The partnership between India and the UK is strong. A great deal of joint innovative work is being done here in Karnataka. I hope that these ties will continue to flourish in the months and years ahead.

(The writer is the British Deputy High Commissioner in Bengaluru)

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