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India, UK in a 'win-win venture'

British Minister David Sainsbury says Indo-British partnership in the field of science and technology has enormous potential, reports Rosy Mishra.

tech reviews Updated: Aug 30, 2007 16:36 IST
Rosy Mishra

Indo-British partnership in the field of science and technology has enormous potential. "It is a win-win situation for both," says British Science and Technology Minister Lord David Sainsbury.

"Currently, only five per cent of research and development is done by the UK, while the rest is being done by others. To strengthen our hold over world science, we look forward to more collaborations with India ," the minister told media persons during an interactive meeting in New Delhi on Tuesday.

Sainsbury said major investment would be made to bring together top institutions of both the countries in order to focus on advanced scientific and technological studies.

The UK and India are working closely to enable scientists to meet each other, exchange research ideas and establish links.

Bilateral collaboration focus areas include nanotechnology, telecommunications, information technology, alternative energy technologies and bioscience - especially, stem cell research.

"Britain has just formulated a 10-year investment plan for stem cell research and how we can develop it into clinical treatment," Sainsbury said.

"We desire that both countries should link up in research and development and set up stem cell banks and collaborate for access to cell lines in the bank."

Britain has worked out an elaborate plan for conducting clinical trials through its National Health Service. India, however, still needs to set its guidelines, Sainsbury said.

"The British stem cell bank is waiting for the Indian Department of Biotechnology to set up a stem cell bank here and we will be willing to help with that."

About 15 labs in India including LV Prasad Eye institute, CMC Vellore, National Centre for Cell Sciences in Pune, National Centre for Biological Sciences, NIMHANS, TIFR, Indian Institute of Science, AIIMS Delhi, Reliance Bio and Manipal Hospital are involved in stem cell research.

During a workshop held in Bangalore last year, experts of both countries had expressed their desire to collaborate in the field for finding cures to various illnesses.

Britain's Deputy High Commissioner Mark Runacres informed that work towards such a partnership had already begun.

"Another visit by British scientists is planned later this year," he added.

British officials have been making the rounds of top Government-run and private institutions of the country in the recent past.

Since his arrival on February 16, Lord Sainsbury, too, has been visiting several places like the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in Bangalore, Cable & Wireless India, Infosys Technologies and the National Centre for Biological Sciences to study partnership prospects.

"India has some very good engineering, research and business schools like the Indian Institute of Science and the IITs. IISc is clearly one of the best in Asia," the minister remarked, while expressing hope of more joint ventures with leading Indian institutes in the future.

Sainsbury is scheduled to meet Science and Technology Minister Kapil Sibal in Delhi on Wednesday to discuss possibilities of collaboration between Indian and British varsities and centres of excellence for wealth creation and improving quality of life.

There has been growing interest in Britain about work being carried out at Indian institutions as well as industry-institute collaboration (linking of basic research to innovations).

Consequently, as many as 500 Indian companies have established their presence in Britain, most of them in the field of software.

India's growing biotech industry is also evincing interest in Britain with companies looking for partnership opportunities for contract research and bio-informatics.

Another significant area of Indo-British partnership is environment science, particularly climate change, alternative sources of energy and clean development mechanism (CDM).

India and the UK are like a "match made in heaven" with huge potential for collaborations in this field, Deputy High Commissioner Mark Runacres said.

India is one of the largest producers of CDM methodologies. According to available estimates, India is expecting investments of up to Rs 15,000 crore through carbon trading with developed nations.

In February 2005, Global giant SGS and Gujarat Fluorochemicals Ltd (India ) registered for the world's largest project under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) of the Kyoto Protocol.

In January this year, the ONGC (Oil and Natural Gas Commission) too submitted its CDM projects to the designated national authority under Union Ministry of Environment and Forests for approval.

ONGC has also launched a CDM awareness campaign.