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Dramatic rise in research collaboration

Mark Walport
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SHAPING LIVES:Many of the joint programmes support researchers to work together on some of the questions the world needs answers to, such as finding better sources of clean energy. Picture shows a solar farm. —PHOTO: AFP
SHAPING LIVES:Many of the joint programmes support researchers to work together on some of the questions the world needs answers to, such as finding better sources of clean energy. Picture shows a solar farm. —PHOTO: AFP

India and the United Kingdom have a strong track record of collaborating in research and innovation. In fact, research is our fastest growing area of bilateral cooperation. Since 2008, the two countries have committed close to £150 million for joint research programmes. This dramatic rise has been achieved since the Research Councils UK established its team within the British High Commission, New Delhi, five years ago.

More recently, the U.K.’s Technology Strategy Board (TSB) and India’s Department of Science and Technology signed a programme of cooperation of industrial R&D support. This will soon be supporting U.K. and Indian companies to carry out joint R&D projects in areas like affordable health care or energy systems technologies. Through the U.K. India Education and Research Initiative (UKIERI) we’ve also been working together on building the relationships and capability that underpin great research, and I’m delighted to be announcing this week 60 new partnerships in research and skills which will further strengthen direct institutional collaborations.

This rapid growth is no accident. From the Prime Minister down, the U.K. government is absolutely committed to a stronger, wider and deeper partnership with India. In research, we’re working together because the best ideas don’t recognise international borders and top researchers need access to cutting-edge facilities, wherever they’re based. We know that a research paper published by an international team receives more citations than one written by a single national group. That means more researchers read, and rate highly, collaborative research. Put simply, research done together is better research. And the best research has the power to change lives and drive economies.

Helping the world

That’s why our joint programmes support researchers to work together on some of the questions the world most needs to answer. How do we find better sources of clean energy? How do we feed a growing global population? How will the changing climate alter weather events, such as the Indian monsoon, on which millions of livelihoods depend? How can countries afford to keep their populations in good health?

I believe the U.K. makes for an excellent partner for India in research and innovation. With the most efficient research base in the G8, the U.K. produces more citations per pound of research than any other nation in that group. In other words, money spent on research goes further and achieves more in Britain. We are only one per cent of the world’s population but produce 14 per cent of the most highly cited research publications. The U.K. is well known for world class universities: we have four universities in the global top 10. With 78 Nobel Prizes in science and technology to our credit, the U.K. is the largest enabler of Nobel Laureates in Europe and the second in the world.

Strengths

The U.K. also has an international research community — around half of all research papers published in the U.K. have an international co-author, and two thirds of U.K. researchers have published while working with institutions abroad. And when it comes to translating world-leading research, the U.K. has a comprehensive system of support, from one of the most competitive R&D tax credit schemes in the world; industrial R&D support through our innovation agency, the Technology Strategy Board; and a “patent box” to make it easier to protect and profit from new inventions.

Growing research budget

In return, India is an ideal partner for the U.K. From Raman to Bose, India has a proud history in scientific endeavour. India’s research budget is growing fast and its share of global scientific output is expanding rapidly as it does. Contemporary scientific achievements are hugely impressive, a statement most spectacularly illustrated by the successful launch of the Mars Orbiter “Mangalyaan” mission. By any measure, India will be a scientific superpower in the 21st century. We share a culture of enquiry and we have enduring human and cultural ties — in any field you look at, scientists of Indian origin have made enormous contributions to British science.

So, we have a great research relationship helping to answer some of the most pressing questions the world faces. We’re increasingly working together on innovation and translating the great research we do into applications. And we’re ideal partners, who will both benefit from working together in a changing world. I’m in India this week to make sure we maintain the momentum we’ve built up and to help chart the course for future India-U.K. collaboration. I’m certain the future is bright as we join hands in the next stage of research and innovation cooperation.

(Sir Mark Walport is chief scientific adviser to the British government and the British Prime Minister.)

Since 2008, India and the U.K. have committed close to £150 million for joint research programmes. They have a great research relationship helping to answer some of the most pressing questions the world faces


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