India firmly on path to being science superpower, says UK chief

India firmly on path to being science superpower, says UK chief

“India today is firmly on the path to being a science superpower,” notes Sir Patrick Vallance, the Chief Scientific Adviser to the UK government who was at the forefront of the country’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Science fundamentally rests on partnerships and Indian scientists have played an enormously important part in UK science, and have been crucial to the advances here,” he said.

The leading British scientist flagged the AstraZeneca and Serum Institute of India Covid-19 vaccine collaboration, which yielded India’s Covishield vaccine, had resulted in people "right across the globe benefiting”.

Sir Patrick was addressing the UK-India Science and Innovation Partnerships dialogue at Imperial College London last week. The event brought together thought leaders from India and the UK, in person and virtually, to discuss and promote the crucial role of research, education and innovation partnerships in driving forward the Roadmap 2030, launched by Prime Ministers Boris Johnson and Narendra Modi to enhance bilateral ties across all sectors.

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“Both our countries need to learn from America. America has succeeded because of its welcoming nature for ideas and immigrants from anywhere in the world," said Professor K. VijayRaghavan, who has just completed his tenure as the Principal Scientific Adviser to the government of India.

“The UK needs to, in my opinion, do this on a scale and in a manner which is distinct from its general policy on immigration. Talented people, the best and the brightest in the world, need to be able to come in and out very, very quickly; and if the UK needs to do this, India has to do this 100 times more,” he said.

Indian High Commissioner to the UK Gaitri Issar Kumar delivered a keynote address to highlight the broad range of scientific collaborations, from civil nuclear and electric propulsion to earth system sciences and artificial intelligence (AI), between the two countries.

She said: “Our formal institutional engagements include the biennial UK-India Science and Innovation Council that usually sets the broad agenda for our cooperation.

“I would emphasise that our partnership in science and technology research and innovation should eventually bring outcomes that are most relevant not only for our mutual progress and prosperity but which also enable us to bring progress and prosperity to third countries through adaptable, affordable and accessible technologies that help to sustain healthier climate resilient societies.”

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Lord Jo Johnson, Chairman of Access Creative and former Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, coordinated a panel discussion on the scientific partnership between the two counties, also involving Professor Mary Ryan, Imperial College Interim Vice-Provost (Research and Enterprise), and Professor Govindan Rangarajan, Director of the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) Bangalore.

“The stars are aligning for very real progress for the UK-India relationship and in no area is this clearer than in science and education,” said Lord Johnson, a former UK universities minister.

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