Connected cities - seeking new opportunities for global partnership

Published: Nov 16, 2016

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Image:James Easey

I arrived in India after an exciting few days at the Innovate 2016 event in Manchester, co-hosted by Innovate UK and the Department for International Trade. Cities of the future were an important theme of the event, showcasing UK innovation. Panel sessions and presentations covered topics ranging from urban living to autonomous transport, and digital connectivity to energy infrastructure systems.
Innovate UK has invested around £100 million over the past five years into innovations that can help the world’s cities prepare for a sustainable future. Almost 200 different organisations have benefitted directly from this investment. The £34.5 million Future Cities Demonstrator has shown that collaboration between stakeholders and integration of city systems, are key to addressing complex citizen-focused challenges. We have collaborated with the seven UK research councils to drive research and innovation through the Urban Living Programme. Our own Future Cities Catapult, one of eleven UK technology and innovation centres across key industries, focuses on growing UK companies and advancing urban innovation, to make cities better.

Another collaboration between Innovate UK and the Department for International Trade took place last week – this time also working with the Future Cities Catapult and Enterprise Europe Network. The Connected Cities Mission to India brought a timely opportunity for high potential UK companies to seek out new partnerships and opportunities. Now more than ever, it is incredibly important that we continue to help innovative UK firms take their ideas to new markets, to meet investors and to think globally.

The size of the opportunity from the Indian smart cities market is immense with £24 billion investment expected across 100 cities over the next five to seven years. UK small businesses are very well placed to take advantage of this market, and this is why we selected 11 UK companies to join the Connected Cities trade mission. These companies pitched to potential customers, partners and investors, visiting New Delhi, Pune and Kochi. Each company has a solution of strong interest to the Indian connected cities market. And each company is already achieving or showing potential for fast growth. I am proud to see that five of the 11 companies (Bronze Software, Briteyellow, Citi Logik, Design for Social Change (D4SC) and NquiringMinds) have previously received funding from Innovate UK; their international ambitions are the next stage in their path to scale-up.

I attended the India-UK Tech Summit in New Delhi along with the Mission participants. Opened by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and UK Prime Minister Theresa May on her first overseas visit outside Europe, it was an excellent opportunity to advance UK-India connections in innovation, opening up new collaborative R&D activities and investment opportunities.

The announcement at the Summit by Universities and Science Minister Jo Johnson of a new £1.6m Newton Fund competition is a n excellent example how UK companies can forge new international partnerships with important markets such as India. We are extremely pleased to be working closely with the Indian government to deliver this latest Newton Fund competition that will help address important societal challenges in India.

Visiting India and the summit showed the huge potential that exists between the two countries in areas such as future cities, affordable healthcare, clean technology and advanced manufacturing.

It was particularly pleasing to hear the Indian Prime Minister talk about our partnership with our Indian partners when he said: “India’s partnership with U.K. in industrial research has been one of our most exciting programs. The Global Innovation & Technology Alliance or GITA platform of CII and Department of Science and Technology along with Innovate UK supports industry led R&D projects in affordable healthcare, clean technology, manufacturing and ICT.”  The fact he mentioned Innovate UK shows the true global nature of our work.

- By Dr Ruth McKernan CBE, Chief Executive, Innovate UK

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