'Building the closest possible ties between the UK and India'

Speaking notes of British High Commissioner to India Dominic Asquith at JRD BYST Tata Awards to young entrepreneurs in New Delhi.


The recently concluded UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s visit to India was significant in that it was her first bilateral visit outside of the EU.

The UK and India signed a joint statement which was a priority for both countries to build the closest possible commercial and economic relationship.

But it’s the people who matter the most.


I believe there are nearly 500,000 qualified graduates joining the workforce every month.

Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT) and Indian Institutes of Management (IIM) graduates I meet, aspiring to be CEOs of the Zomato and Flipkarts of the future, tell me access to capital is an issue. So we set up TECH Rocketship Awards.

These place Indian and UK angel and venture capitalists alongside the highest potential Indian tech start ups to help them internationalise their businesses in the world’s best destination, the UK.

Take the case of Rajesh Agrawal, Deputy Mayor of London who came to the UK via Indore and Chandigarh with just Rs 5000 in hand and was listed in Sunday Times Rich List 2012.

Next Generation women

Our priority also includes supporting young women – who are under-represented globally at board level – to reach the top of their fields whether that’s in business, education, entrepreneurship, politics, or the arts. Throughout Europe women hold 20% of board seats. In the UK it’s 21%. In India it’s just 7%.

Our latest project is ‘SheLeads’. The project was launched at the TECH Summit and with a focus on Chennai and Delhi, it works with young women who have education and opportunity but need help to realise their aspirations and rise to leadership roles.


Last year 6000 people accessed the TECH Rocketships competition. It ran across India, including in Pune, Bengaluru and Chennai. This initiative has already landed £1 million of investment for UK-bound start-ups at the India-UK TECH Summit, earlier this month.

In addition, Prime Minister May saw the work we are doing with highest-growth technology start-ups in Bengaluru. So she announced an additional £20 million for a Start-Up India Venture Capital Fund. The fund will support 30 enterprises, but plans to leverage additional £40 million capital from other investors including UK venture capital funds.

This is on top of over £160 million UK is already investing in supporting 75 start up businesses, creating jobs and deliver critical services across several states in India.

British corporates are committed to playing their part to support ‘Make in India’ and ‘Skill India’ initiatives. They currently train around 350,000 people in India and invest some £13 million in training both to meet internal training requirements and as part of their wide ranging CSR programmes. By 2020 they expect to double their current commitment.

Take the case of the JCB India’s 10 pioneering female engineers, who are driving the change in a male dominated society.

Skill centres

We are also working in developing skill centres for example automotive in Pune.

Next week the UK Science and Innovation Network (UKSIN) is supporting technology business incubators (TBIs) across India through a series of workshops in Chennai, Kolkata, Chandigarh and Pune.

Prime Minister May also announced a new commitment of £12 million to support India’s Skill India mission.


Education is at heart of the UK-India bilateral relationship.

Indian students are offered 600 scholarships in UK. We have just announced additional 198 GREAT Education scholarships for the 2017 academic year in partnership with 40 UK universities. Almost 500,000 international students from 200 countries who chose a world-class UK education each year.

Over the last 10 years our Indo-British fund, UK India Education and Research Initiative (UKIERI) in its first two phases has created over 1000 research partnerships and 25,000 academic exchanges. The third phase started earlier this year, with similar ambitions.

Newton-Bhabha programme yet again proposing awards over 100 PhD students this year, developing of new science to address global challenges.

Twenty UK academics visited India under the MHRD’s GIAN (Global Initiaitve of Academic Networks) programme. This gives a sense of the scale, diversity and geographical spread of the activity we are engaged on.

But even all that’s not enough, hence Culture 2017 is coming up. It will provides opportunity for hundreds of thousands more to cross the bridge both ways, whether you are 7 years old, 27 or older still.

Published 28 November 2016