UK research ties grow in India

Research Councils UK (RCUK), a partnership of the UK's seven Research Councils, completed three years of operation in India this October. Nature India talks to the founding director of RCUK India Alicia Greated to find out what's in store for UK-India science collaborations in days to come.

doi:10.1038/nindia.2011.166 Published online 16 November 2011

RCUK India founding director Alicia Greated.

NI : RCUK funding to Indian projects has grown from less than a million pound to over 80 million pounds in three years. What propels this growth?

AG : Mutual interest. Both countries are very keen on exellence and strong peer review. India wants research to drive change. UK also wants research to make an impact. Both countries want global impact.

NI : Why is India emerging as an interesting country to look at in terms of scientific research and collaboration?

AG : India's economy is growing and R&D is a key priority for the country. The Government of India's tripled its science and technology budget in the 11th five-year plan (2007-2012)from the amount invested in 2002-2007. The number of elite Indian Institutes of Technology has doubled over the past few years. As an emerging scientific superpower with ambitious plans to raise its position in global R&D rankings, India is clearly a partner of choice for the UK.

India values its researchers and institutes. We see a lot of entrepreneurial thinking combined with research and inquiry here.

NI : Which are the other countries that top RCUK interest at the moment?

AG : EU, China (because of its growing economy) and the US. With the US, we have a long-time undertanding. Africa is also emerging as a hub of research activities along with Brazil and Japan.

NI : Which are the most promising of all your projects in India?

AG : The 'Next Generation Networks' is a significant multimillion UK-India collaboration project bringing together over 40 academic and private sector partners in the area of online education, healthcare and early warning weather/natural disaster systems to remote areas in both India and the UK. It runs on a £2.5m funding from RCUK Digital Economy programme with matched resources from India's Department of Science and Technology and £4m from industry and other sources.

Then there's the 'Bridging the Urban and Rural Divide' project, a multimillion pound collaborative partnership tackling research questions on sustainable rural living in the UK and India, focussing on healthcare provision, rural enterprise, industrial optimisation and energy. It gets a £7.25m funding from RCUK Digital Economy and Energy programmes with matched resources from DST India.

Among our upcoming ventures is the 'Advanced Manufacturing and Impact' project that will bring together UK-India academic and private sector partners in advanced manufacturing.

NI : Which areas are you looking at funding in future?

AG : We are looking at expanding our energy programme, creating smarter grids and furthering our researcher exchange programme in civil nuclear technology. We would also be keen on building upon programmes in the area of bioenergy, climate change, coastal vulnerability and basic sciences.