Science & Technology Solutions to Societal Challenges
6th India-UK Science & Innovation Council (SIC) Meeting to take forward the tech partnership between the two countries was held on Thursday, July 26, 2018 in New Delhi and discussed a range of issues on S&T cooperation while noting the success of Newton Bhabha partnership through which India and UK are jointly delivering cutting edge science and Technology solutions to societal challenges. Dr. Harsh Vardhan, Minister of Science & Technology, Earth Sciences & Environment, Forests and Climate Change, India expressed the need to establish few more Network Centres in areas such as Cyber Physical System- Artificial Intelligence, Digital Economy, Health Technologies, Cyber Security and Promoting Clean Growth, Smart Urbanization, Future Mobility and Environment.
Newton Fund launched in 2014 as part of the UK’s official development assistance originally consisted of £75 million each year for 5 years with aims to build science and innovation partnerships that promote economic development and social welfare of partner countries and to develop research and innovation capacity for long-term sustainable growth. The Newton Fund was extended in 2015 in UK Spending Review: from 2019 to 2021 and it was also agreed to expand £150 million per year by 2021, resulting in a £735 million UK investment to 2021, with partner countries providing matched resources within the fund. The Newton fund covers 3 broad categories of activity:
- People: building skills and capacity through training and people exchanges; improving science and innovation expertise, student and researcher fellowships, mobility schemes and joint centres
- Research: research collaborations on development topics
- Translation: taking innovation from universities to industry; innovation partnerships and challenge funds to develop innovative solutions on development topics
Newton-Bhabha Fund in partnership with India brings together UK and Indian scientific research and innovation sectors to find joint solutions to global challenges. UK and India have identified following priority areas for the Newton-Bhabha partnership:
- Sustainable cities and urbanisation
- Public health and wellbeing
- Energy-water-food nexus
- Understanding oceans
With two underpinning capabilities:
- High value manufacturing, and
- Big data.
British Council India leads on a number of capacity building activities under the Newton Bhabha Fund to enhance scientific research in India. These include:
- PhD placementsfor young Indian and UK students to spend 2-4 months of their research at any UK university or Indian university.
- Researcher Link Workshops:Newton Bhabha Researcher Links workshops, initiative run in partnership with the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) provides opportunities for early career researchers from UK and India to interact, learn from one another, and builds long-lasting working relationships through workshops in areas that directly benefit Indian economic and social prosperity.
- Women in Science workshops:British Council through the Newton-Bhabha Fund in partnership with IISER Pune delivers workshops for women scientists on ‘Opportunities for Widening Participation of Women in Science with a view to explore opportunities to develop future work in the area of Diversity in Science, particularly the representation of women in leadership roles.
Dr. Harsh Vardhan and his counterpart Sam Gyimah, Minister for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, UK leading the UK delegation, while appreciating success of the Newton Bhabha partnership during the 6th SIC Meeting, also reviewed bilateral S&T cooperation between the two countries and expressed satisfaction on progress made since the last SIC meeting (the 5th Meeting) held in London on June 15, 2016 including establishment of Joint Virtual Centre on Clean Energy, implementation of research programmes on Cancer Biology, Agriculture Nitrogen, Atmospheric pollution and human health, maternal & Child Health, Anti-Microbial Research, Sustaining Water Resources for Food, Energy & Ecosystem Services in India, Water Quality and Water Security and Famer Zone.
The 4th SIC Meeting was conducted in November 2014 in New Delhi, co-chaired by Dr. Harsh Vardhan and Rt Hon. Greg Clark MP, then UK Minister for Universities, Science, and Cities. The ‘Newton Bhabha’ initiative was signed during that meeting.
Science and Technology (S&T) is observed by both governments as among the most important elements in India-UK bilateral cooperation, which started with the signing of inter- governmental S&T agreement in 1996. In 2006, a new orientation was considered to S&T cooperation with setting up of the Science and Innovation Council (SIC). The SIC, led by the science ministers of India and UK, is the apex body to review overall bilateral scientific cooperation and it is held once in two years, alternatively in India and the UK.