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[NEW DELHI] India and the United Kingdom have signed pacts on affordable health care, environment friendly energy technologies and bridging the urban–rural divide in India, as part of wider bilateral collaboration.

Under pacts signed by India’s junior science minister Prithviraj Chavan and UK minister for science and universities David Willets last month (29 July) in New Delhi, the two countries will invest £ 3 million (US$ 4.7 million or Indian rupees 218.06 million) each to promote partnerships between groups already working on fuel cells.

Fuel cells combine hydrogen and oxygen efficiently and cleanly to produce electricity and are expected to transform the global transport sector by replacing fossil fuels.

The benefits include two to three times higher efficiency than burning fuel; and zero emissions. The snag, so far, has been the high costs involved in developing efficient and reliable fuel cells.

Pride of place was given to a five-year £45 million (US$ 70.77 million or three billion Indian rupees) equal partnership between India’s department of biotechnology (DBT) and UK’s Wellcome Trust for research on affordable healthcare products that will benefit India and other emerging economies.

DBT and Wellcome will support institutions and industry in research on affordable vaccines, diagnostics and technologies that help women and childcare. This marks the second phase of the Wellcome Trust’s initiative announced two years ago to provide fellowships for research in affordable healthcare in India.

“There’s exceptional scientific research in India and in the UK — if we bring it together, the whole will be greater than the sum of the parts,” Willets told reporters after a meeting with Chavan and India’s top science administrators.

Willets said the synergy extended the possibility of collaboration in such areas as civilian nuclear research and space technology.

Partnerships signed by Willets and Chavan included one worth £ 6 million (US$ 9.4 million or 436.12 million Indian rupees) that will develop infrastructure for sustainable energy and technologies to improve the quality of life for rural communities in both countries and bridge the urban–rural divide.