UK and India launch £10m collaboration

15 February 2010

UK Minister for Business, Innovation and Skills, Pat McFadden and Indian Minister for Science and Technology, Prithviraj Chavan, have announced a new collaboration while chairing the bilateral India-UK Science and Innovation Council in New Delhi.

Two multi-million pound research programmes to develop cost-effective and efficient solar energy solutions have been announced.

McFadden said: "Our historic ties and close collaboration in many fields mean the UK and India are natural partners of choice in science, technology and innovation. This major collaboration plays to our strengths, and will maximise our potential to lead the world in high-quality, low-cost solar cell technology. As well as helping the UK to meet its 2020 goals, it will complement India's ambitious plans to deploy 20 million solar lighting systems to 10,000 villages and hamlets currently without access to grid electricity. This will spur advances in healthcare, education and productivity through the creation of new jobs."

Research Councils UK (RCUK) and the Indian Department of Science and Technology (DST) have each committed up to £5 million each over a three-year period for two research projects:
• Advancing the efficiency and production of excitonic solar cells, focusing on the development of materials, structures, processing and photovoltaic panel engineering of excitonic solar cells – a class of non-conventional solar cell based on new types of materials. It will build on existing research in the UK and India to develop cheaper and higher volume solar cell manufacture. RCUK and DST have awarded £2.5 million each for this project.
• Stability and performance of photovoltaics; focusing on improving materials supply and developing better designs to ultimately create cheaper and more efficient devices than current solar cells. RCUK and DST have awarded £2.4 million each for this project.

The solar energy projects form part of the RCUK Energy Programme led by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

Dr. Neil Bateman, EPSRC Energy Portfolio Manager, said: "These projects represent a new and exciting collaboration between some of the leading photovoltaics researchers in the UK and India. The research is targeted to push the science of solar energy towards cheaper, more reliable and sustainable electricity production in a wide variety of settings."

The announcement was made at the Science and Innovation Council, which meets to focus joint attention on areas of strategic importance such as science, research and innovation to address local and global challenges ahead, including:
• Mitigating climate change
• Developing new forms of sustainable energy
• Securing the future of our food and water supplies
• Tackling major global health issues

Further announcements include an agreement between the RCUK Energy programme, led by the EPSRC, and the DST to build upon the success of the solar initiative and begin planning two further collaborative research programmes:
• Bridging the Urban/ Rural Divide will focus on making rural living a sustainable option for both countries. In India, approximately 70% of the Indian population live in rural areas but rising migration to urban areas in search of better access to services is increasing the strain on urban space and resources. In the UK, delivering crucial services to people living in rural parts of the country is still a major challenge. A joint programme focussing on utilising transformative ICT for advances in heath care and off-grid energy supply, will be developed to enable whole systems, multi-disciplinary research to address these challenging areas
• Materials for Fuel Cells will address challenges in energy storage and bring together experts including those from the RCUK Energy Programme's Supergen Consortia and India's prestigious Indian Institutes of Technology amongst others. Their collaborative work to address these challenges will be funded through a joint programme.

It is anticipated that matched funding will be available under both new initiatives.

Ministers Chavan and McFadden have also signed a Memorandum of Understanding between the Indian Department of Science and Technology and the UK Department of Business, Innovation and Skills, which affirms their mutual interest in promoting long-term research, development, and innovation co-operation.

This MoU includes funding which will be made available by both departments to establish a networking scheme which will start later this year and will provide a platform for UK-based scientists and Indian researchers to continue and consolidate their collaborations for the future.

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