Authored article

Rise in UK-India research collaboration

Article by Sir Mark Walport on on the dramatic rise in research collaboration with India.

This article first appeared in ‘The Hindu’ during Sir Mark’s visit to India for Research and Innovation Week.

India and the UK 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 2 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, 5 years ago.

More recently, the UK’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 UK and Indian companies to carry out joint R&D projects in areas like affordable health care or energy systems technologies. Through the UK 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 UK 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 UK makes for an excellent partner for India in research and innovation. With the most efficient research base in the G8, the UK 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 1% of the world’s population but produce 14% of the most highly cited research publications. The UK is well known for world class universities: we have 4 universities in the global top 10. With 78 Nobel Prizes in science and technology to our credit, the UK is the largest enabler of Nobel Laureates in Europe and the second in the world.

Strengths

The UK also has an international research community - around half of all research papers published in the UK have an international co-author, and 2 thirds of UK researchers have published while working with institutions abroad. And when it comes to translating world-leading research, the UK 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 UK 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-UK collaboration. I’m certain the future is bright as we join hands in the next stage of research and innovation cooperation.