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[NEW DELHI] India and the United Kingdom plan to increase collaboration in science and technology by setting up a joint science and innovation council, and conducting research together in areas of mutual interest.

The increased cooperation would also see more Indian researchers receiving scholarships to study in the United Kingdom, and an increase in the number of relevant workshops held in India.

Michael Arthur, the UK high commissioner in India, told journalists on 23 February that the two countries shared a vision of becoming knowledge-based economies.

"[The United Kingdom's] science base is one of the strongest in the world. India has fantastic pockets of science where we could link up."

The decision to expand science cooperation follows a visit to India by the United Kingdom's chief scientific advisor David King in early February. King met India's science minister Kapil Sibal and senior officials of key scientific departments (see Britain and India to collaborate on climate research).

As part of the expanded cooperation, the two countries will set up an Indo-UK Science and Innovation Council that will build on the work of the existing Science and Technology Committee to guide joint research and other collaborations.

The council, due to be launched by April 2006, will include C. N. R. Rao, the scientific advisor to the Indian cabinet, David King, and senior science officials from both countries.

The enhanced cooperation will include a range of joint initiatives on climate change, including climate modelling techniques, data exchange, work on flooding and coastal defences, and exchange visits and training of Indian scientists at UK Hadley Centre for Climate Change.

Another key area is alternative energy technologies, including solar energy research, and tidal and wind energy technologies.

The two countries are also exploring possible areas of collaboration on health issues, such as development of vaccines for HIV, tuberculosis and malaria; biotechnology; nanotechnology; stem cell research; as well as space and civil nuclear research.

The expanded cooperation would involve the United Kingdom providing additional funds – the exact sum as yet undecided — for the India-UK Networking Scheme, which provides travel grants for joint workshops and exchange visits.

The Dorothy Hodgkin Postgraduate Award scheme would also be expanded to encourage more Indian researchers to study in the United Kingdom.

According to an official at the UK high commission in Delhi, the UK government has recognised the significance of innovative research and development in its Science and Innovation Investment Framework for 2004-2014.

As part of this framework, the United Kingdom established a global science and innovation forum, headed by King, to ensure UK research can make the most of international opportunities and take account of the changing economic and research environment.

By setting up the forum, the UK demonstrated its intent to consider innovation a key element in promoting international science and technology collaborations, the official said.