In recent weeks, there have been various announcements concerning collaboration between the UK and India in Science and Technology. Here, I look deeper into five key sectors.
In July 2020, the bid for cutting-edge satellite manufacturer, OneWeb was won by an unusual consortium; the UK Government and the parent of the Word’s third largest mobile operator, India’s Bharti Group. UK Business Secretary, Alok Sharma stated that the objective is to “connect millions… to broadband… and… further develop our strong advanced manufacturing base”.
The partnership addresses many of the UK’s and India’s shared priorities, including; (i) access to funds, (ii) a near-guaranteed market, (iii) qualified talent, (iv) R&D capability, (v) cost-effective satellite launch facilities and (vi) geopolitical security.
Also in July 2020, the UK barred all of its Telco’s from using Chinese kit in its networks and mandated that all Huawei and ZTE – made 3G and 4G infrastructure must be disconnected by 2027. This was just two weeks after India banned 106 Chinese Mobile applications, with a strong indication that Chinese 3G, 4G and 5G equipment will follow. The consistent themes are (i) national security and (ii) data privacy.
Mid July 2020 happened to be when Asia’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani announced that his firm, Reliance Jio Platforms had developed 5G technology in-house, with the ability to commence deployment by 2021. He went on to state that his intention is for Jio to sell a 5G managed services to network operators globally. A stated positive of Huawei and ZTE had been their cost advantage over Western & Korean 5G manufacturers. OneWeb shows that the UK Government seems to trust Indian Telecoms Moguls. Could Reliance’s proven ability to slash costs in telecoms, without compromising on service, lead to 5G cooperation between India and the UK telcos?
3. Life Sciences & Pharmaceutical Sector
Whilst it is well-known that the Oxford University & Aastra Zeneca vaccine is regarded as a leading candidate to prevent Covid-19, what is less well-known is that these UK Institutions have an agreement in principle with the World’s top producer of vaccines by volume (the Serum Institute of India) to mass produce the vaccine.
Furthermore, there is a convergence of perceived risks to medicine supplies for both the UK and India, since Chinese Ambassador to the UK, Liu Xiaoming stating that, “any decisions and actions must come at a cost,” in reaction to the UK’s ban on Huawei and ZTE. India saw similar retorts to its having banned a slew of Chinese Apps. Hence, there is talk of India (a leading global producer of generic drugs) reverting to producing its own bulk drugs, instead of continuing to rely on China for 70% of its imports of 53 APIs and KSMs. Could UK-India collaboration in Medicines extend beyond the Covid-19 vaccine?
4. Artificial Intelligence & RPA
In July 2020, UK-Headquartered Blue Prism announced that it would train 10,000 Indian students on its foundation certification. This is intended to augment the capability of CoE – led Blue Prism partners, like Venturiq, to increase their ability to deliver intelligent automation to enterprises globally.
The global Artificial Intelligence industry is growing at 33.1% YOY and is set to reach $202.57 by 2026, according to Fortune Business Insights. Will established UK AI companies, such as Deepmind, Swiftkey and Babylon, as well as emerging start-ups like Kwiziq, Cleo and Mindtrace also look to India to scale delivery capability, like Blue Prism has done?
5. Aerospace & Defence
In July 2020, Louise Donaghey, SVP – India and South Asia for Rolls-Royce Defence appears to have confirmed that her company is close to concluding an agreement to co-develop the 110 kN thrust engine that will power Indian – made fighter jets. This would be a significant enhancement on previous collaboration between Rolls Royce and India’s GTRE.
Furthermore, it is well known that India is on the look out for a third Aircraft carrier. Could rumours of the UK’s BAE Systems offering a Queen Elizabeth – class carrier to India be true?
The Broader Context
When considered as disparate announcements, all five topics touch on moves towards UK – India collaboration in Science and Technology. However, considered as parts of a broader picture and taking the participation of Governments, leading Entrepreneurs and the top companies of both countries into account, it is clear that behind the collaboration is a deepening convergence of strategic priorities and trust, that may well manifest in a strong and visible alliance by 2030.