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UK-India: 20 years of research collaboration

Copyright: Ruskpp/iStock/Thinkstock

Timeline reveals two decades of bilateral cooperation ahead of the UK-India Tech Summit.

Great Britain and India share a rich history of trade, politics and innovative thinking. From India came chess, the decimal system and cotton textile manufacture; from Britain the science and steam-powered industrial revolution that drove the electro-mechanical inventions that shaped the modern world.

In the 21st century, both nations are looking not to the past, but to a future where research and innovation is recognised as the path that can lead to sustainable growth and prosperity. And with both countries facing many of the same global challenges – such as anti-microbial resistance, disease, and urbanisation – research collaboration can develop practical solutions, fuelling the bioeconomy and benefitting wider society.

Copyright: BBSRC
The UK and India are well placed to exchange ideas and further utilise research excellence in the biosciences to tackle major national and global challenges. Copyright: BBSRC

The UK-India Tech Summit signifies the strength of the UK-India relationship. From 7-9 November, the political and scientific elites of both countries will gather at the Taj Palace in New Delhi to develop this key global partnership.

For instance, the UK-India Newton-Bhabha Fund established in 2014 is now a major bilateral initiative for facilitating research and innovation collaborations. It is based on equal partnership with Indian partners, with £50M over five years from the UK and matched efforts from India.

The timeline below details BBSRC-funded work undertaken in and across both countries to get to this point.

The UK and India have a long tradition of sharing expertise, as this picture of Sir Jagadesh Chandra Bose shows as he demonstrates his pioneering radio and microwave receiving technology to the Royal Institution in London.
  • 1996: UK-India Science and Technology Agreement signed between UK and India governments in three initial areas: agro-food; telecommunications and manufacturing technologies
  • 1996-98: BBSRC signs a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Indian Government’s Department of Biotechnology (DBT), and the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR)
  • 2005: A new variety of high-yielding, disease-resistant pearl millet released, following more than a decade of collaborative work between ICRISAT and two BBSRC-funded institutes. It generates an estimated $6.4M of additional revenue in 2011 alone, providing increased financial stability and food security for people in the Haryana and Rajasthan regions
  • 2006: BBSRC-India Partnering Award scheme launches on the back of work following the BBSRC mission to India (PDF) in 2005
  • 2006: India joins the Human Frontiers Science Program (HFSP), international global collaboration to fund frontier research into complex biological systems
  • 2008: Launch of RCUK India Office which was established to enable stronger and deeper Research Council engagement with India that has impact
  • 2010: BBSRC and DBT announce a plan to publish a joint funding call worth up to £10M for UK-India proposals in bioenergy research
  • 2011: BBSRC Mission to India. Since 2011, Research Councils UK, the Government of India and third parties have together invested over £200M in co-funded research programmes
  • 2011: A BBSRC-DBT joint workshop on Bioenergy is held in New Delhi, 10-11 November followed by a joint call in the sector, with £4M from BBSRC and matched funding from India’s DBT
  • 2012: A BBSRC-DBT joint workshop on Livestock Health and Disease is held which leads to the announcement of plans for a £10M joint call for animal health and disease research
Watch the abdomen fill with blood in this Culicoides blood-sucking midge that can transmit bluetongue virus as it feeds (4 mins in real-time). Copyright: BBSRC/The Pirbright Institute
  • 2012: In October, the £16M Sustainable Crop Production Research for International Development (SCPRID) programme launches 11 collaborative projects funded by BBSRC, Department for International Development (DFID), DBT and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
  • 2012: IBVNet launches, a three year Indo-UK collaborative project to examine ways to predict and reduce the impact of bluetongue disease by monitoring monsoon-related Culicoides midge activity, and explore affordable methods for their control. Watch a video from The Pirbright Institute
  • 2013: BBSRC-DBT joint programme on crop improvement and technologies launches following a Crop Genomics workshop the previous year
  • 2013: RCUK India celebrates its fifth anniversary, highlighting its work in facilitating a portfolio of over 80 high-impact UK-India research projects, involving 90+ industry partners
Copyright: RCUK India
  • 2013: BBSRC and DBT launch four projects funded under the Joint Programme in Sustainable Bioenergy and Biofuels, followed by 12 projects funded under the Joint Programme Farmed Animal Disease and Health
  • 2013: UK Government highlights that joint UK-India research programmes have gone from £1M in 2008 to over £100M in 2013
  • 2014: Seven more joint projects funded with £5M from BBSRC and matched funding from DBT on future-proof crops
  • 2014: The Newton-Bhabha fund is launched, the UK-India partnership of the Newton Fund launched in the UK in 2014, which aims to focus on Sustainable Cities and Urbanisation, Public Health and Well Being, the Energy-Water-Food Nexus, and Oceans; running through these themes are two underpinning capabilities: High Value Manufacturing and Big Data
  • 2015: India Minister of Science and Prime Minister Narendra Modi visit the UK. With then Prime Minister David Cameron, they announce a number of joint research and innovation initiatives, declaring that 2016 would be the UK-India Year of Education, Research and Innovation
The UK and India share many problems in terms of food, health and nutrition, as well as rapid urbanisation. Copyright: on Flickr by CC 2.0
  • 2015: The International Wheat Yield Partnership launches projects funded from its first joint call. Successful projects involve institutions and research teams from the UK, India and five other countries, with BBSRC contributing US$5.7M in funding
  • 2015: BBSRC-DBT Newton-Bhabha launch four Joint Centres in Agricultural Nitrogen, with Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) also contributing to the £10M funding
  • 2016: Female Indian leaders in crop sciences visit Cambridge as part of a week-long workshop. The skills exchange took part following the signing of a Crop Sciences MOU earlier in the year between DBT and the University of Cambridge and National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB), as well as John Innes Centre (JIC), Rothamsted Research and University of East Anglia (UEA), together with BBSRC, supported by the Newton-Bhabha Fund
  • 2016: Four joint projects launched following an earlier call in the BBSRC-DBT-DFID-ESRC (The Economic and Social Research Council) Newton-Bhabha global research partnership in aquaculture
  • 2016: further develops the strength of the UK-India relationship
  • 2017: BBSRC and DBT are working closely together to develop collaborations in pulses and oilseeds, industrial waste reduction, antimicrobial resistance and agri-data as part of our Newton-Bhabha activities.
Experts in plant and crop sciences from India and Cambridge exchanged skills and ideas during a five-day programme that included seminars, workshops and visits to laboratories. Copyright: University of Cambridge


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