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[NEW DELHI] The Research Councils of the United Kingdom (RCUK) opened an office in New Delhi, India, last week (21 October) with the objective of removing barriers to research collaboration between the two countries.

John Beddington, the UK chief scientific advisor — who attended the launch with a delegation of about 80 researchers — told SciDev.Net that it is only through collaboration on high quality research that global and societal changes can be faced.

He said that with its tradition of research excellence and ambitious plans for the future, India was an immediate choice for inclusion in the first group of RCUK overseas offices. Last November, the council opened its first two overseas offices in Beijing, China (see UK opens scientific research office in Beijing) and Washington DC, United States.

Alicia Greated, director of the RCUK Office in India, said, "As India's research reputation and capacity continues to grow, we feel it is vital to embed valuable relationships between the UK and India to ensure future success."

The Indian office will devote itself primarily to four areas: technology for development, health research, energy and environmental change, and space technology, said Allan Thorpe, chief executive for the Natural Environment Research Council, one of the UK's seven research councils.

The office will attempt to link Indian and UK research programmes in the same areas, and look for further funding opportunities, he told SciDev.Net.

Venkatesh Rao Aiyagari, head and advisor of the Indian government's department of science and technology, told SciDev.Net that the two countries have already begun accepting research proposals under a research collaboration programme called Science Bridges.

The office will also work with Indian funding bodies to share strategies, increase dialogue on funding priorities and pursue and promote collaborative research opportunities, says Lesley Thompson, research base director of the UK's Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

She said that a total of £5 million (US$7.7 million) of funding for new energy research, to be undertaken with Indian partners and focusing on priority areas such as solar energy, will be committed next year.

The seven research councils are independent non-departmental public bodies, funded by the Science and Research Budget through the Department of Innovation, Universities and Skills in United Kingdom. They together manage a research budget of around US$5 billion a year.