London: The UK government on Monday announced the launch of a £3-million Innovation Challenge Fund aimed at scientists in academia and industry tackling acute global challenges such as COVID-19 as part of the UK-India Tech Partnership.
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. Applicants are required to submit their bids by the end of this month as an academia-industry consortium, ideally with an international member.
“The UK and India have a strong history of research and innovation,” said Sir Philip Barton, the British High Commissioner to India.
“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,” he said.
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 UK-India Partnership dates back to April 2018, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi and then UK Prime Minister Theresa May clinched the partnership with an aim to catalyse innovation and technology involving both countries to address global challenges.
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 close scientific collaboration between industry and academia, and also promote links with international counterparts and centres of excellence, including in the UK.
Healthcare, with a focus on projects addressing COVID-19 diagnosis; essential equipment or medicine supply lines, infectious disease containment and sanitation, or health data collection; and med-tech that can build healthcare capacity in general forms a key aspect of this strand. Besides, environmental protection, water management, agriculture and energy are among some of the other focus areas.
Under the Future Mobility strand, the grants are directed at the development of the Maharashtra Future Mobility Tech Cluster and cover areas such as safety and convenience, technology leap, connectivity, energy transition and smart mobility.
Proposals for research and development projects are invited from consortia made up of researchers and industry from India, and international counterparts, including the UK.
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.