The United Kingdom is committed to supporting India as it develops 14 world-class Innovation Universities, said David Willetts, British Minister for Universities and Science.

Addressing academics at IIT-Madras Research Park, Mr. Willetts said eight U.K. universities – Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial, Essex, Birmingham, Newcastle, Exeter and the Open University – are eager to forge links during the design and eventual creation of the new Innovation Universities.

“We are keen to identify 14 British universities that can work alongside from the beginning. After talks with Kapil Sibal, I will go back to Britain to identify the 14 British universities to match up with the universities here,” the British Minister said.

Keen on flow of postgraduate and research students and academics between the two countries, Mr. Willetts said he would encourage the British academics to come to India. “There is scope for PG and Ph.D students to study in both countries to obtain a single award. Twinning arrangements between universities sharing staff and resources is beneficial,” he said, outlining the broad contour for collaboration.

The UK already has more than 80 university-related collaborations up and running in India, making it the most active international partner here.

To move things on substantially, Mr. Willetts said he would be visiting India again in November with leading UK university vice-chancellors to establish a framework for collaboration as India and the UK have a solid base to build on.

Recent commitments on co-funded research projects are worth about £60 million. Indeed, funding pledged by the UK bodies for collaboration with India this year has already approached 1 per cent of its science budget, a level that some argue should be the budget set aside for international collaboration, Mr. Willetts said. Jointly funded and administered research programmes will concentrate on priority areas for both countries – food security, water resources and sustainable energy. The UK has offered to commit up to £6 million for research in areas such as off-grid power generation technologies and ICT to improve services in, and the economic capacity of, rural communities in both countries. In the area of civil nuclear energy, the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and India's Department of Atomic Energy are collaborating on five new projects, including areas such as plant safety and nuclear waste management, the British Minister said.

Mr. Willetts held discussions with IIT-M officials led by its Director M.S. Ananth, and then visited facilities at the TeNet Laboratory and Research Park on the campus.

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