A new £3-million Innovation Challenge Fund realises the UK-India vision of bringing the great minds of both countries together to combat some of the toughest global challenges, including Covid-19.
The UK-India Tech Partnership was created two years ago, when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and then UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, decided it was time to fully catalyse innovation and technology from both countries to address global challenges. That goal was back in the spotlight this week with the UK's new £3-million Innovation Challenge Fund aimed at scientists in Indian academia and industry tackling acute global challenges such as Covid-19. The Fund invites tech innovators with connections to the AI-Data cluster in Karnataka and the Future Mobility cluster in Maharashtra to submit research and development proposals for tackling the coronavirus pandemic or which promote a greener planet. At least 12 grants up to £250,000 are expected to be awarded to applicants, who are required to submit bids by the end of this month as an academia-industry consortium, ideally with an international member.
Sir Philip Barton, the British High Commissioner to India, who has been clinching a series of new pacts before he heads back to the UK to take charge of the new Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, said: “The UK and India have a strong history of research and innovation.
“Both Covid-19 and climate change demonstrate that the most urgent challenges are global. Never has there been a greater need for academia, business and government to accelerate innovation, and for nations to collaborate to save lives and build a better future.”
The UK government said the latest initiative builds on the commitment made by Indian and British Prime Ministers to bring together the best minds from both countries under the UK-India Tech Partnership, to deliver high-skilled jobs and economic growth as well as to collaborate on some of the world's biggest challenges.
“This fund aims to get behind the innovation heroes, whether they are working to battle the virus or the even greater looming global threat: climate change. We are proud to work with India, as twin world leaders in the development and adoption of emerging tech for the benefit of all,” said Karen McLuskie, Head of the UK-India Tech Partnership at the British High Commission in New Delhi.
The grants under the new Innovation Challenge Fund are part of a wider initiative under the Tech Partnership known as “Tech Clusters”, which the UK government believes will support the development of Indian Tech Clusters by breaking down barriers to growth, including building international links. The intent is to capitalise on regional and sectoral strengths in order to drive innovation-led inclusive growth.
The Karnataka Artificial Intelligence (AI) Data Science Tech Cluster focussed grants will promote closer scientific collaboration between industry and academia, and also promote links with international counterparts and centres of excellence, including in the UK.
The focus areas include:
Healthcare (such as projects addressing C19 diagnosis; essential equipment or medicine supply lines, infectious disease containment and sanitation, or health data collection; med-tech that can build healthcare capacity in general)
Environmental protection (such as projects addressing the causes and impacts of climate change, the detection of pollutant sources, waste management.)
Water management (such as projects addressing waste, water sourcing and distribution in cities)
Energy (such as projects addressing clean energy/renewables and carbon footprint reduction)
Future mobility (i.e. solutions that can tackle the detrimental health effects caused by pollution, and answer the challenges of social distancing/containment especially in public transit in the wake of C19)
Agriculture (such as predictive analytics of weather and cultivation patterns in geographies suffering the effects of climate change; food distribution systems in times of crisis)
Increasing Access to Information (such as solutions for the gathering, curation and sharing of data that can support approaches fight the pandemic, or climate change)
Other: Proposals which do not fit into the above categories provided the focus is on Artificial Intelligence / Data Science and solution supports response/recovery from Covid-19, or the climate change agenda.
Under the Future Mobility strand, the grants are directed at the development of the Maharashtra Future Mobility Tech Cluster.
The focus areas under this cluster cover:
Safety and Convenience (such as hygiene/sanitisation/social distancing in shared and public transport, contactless deliveries)
Technology Leap (such as new energies, temperature controlled transport for essential/medical supplies, drone mobility)
Connectivity (such as first-mile/last-mile healthcare delivery services, micro mobility for logistics and services delivery, rural mobility)
Energy Transition (such as ICE electrification, hydrogen fuel cell, energy efficiency)
Smart Mobility (such as intelligent transport systems, trip repurposing tech, demand-supply matching)
Other: Proposals which do not fit into the above categories provided the focus is on Future Mobility and there is a strong connection to the climate change/environmental agenda or COVID-19 containment.
Both grants are for projects lasting 12 months, with a proposed start in January 2021. The proposals for research and development projects are invited from consortia made up of researchers and industry from India, and international counterparts, including the UK.
All projects must be led by an Indian not-for-profit organisation and can either develop original ideas or adapt successful technologies, techniques or processes from other fields and the deadline to submit two-page concept notes is August 31.