UK Government

Department for Business, Innovation and Skills: UK and India launch £10 million collaboration on solar energy solutions and new research and networking opportunities

Press Release   •   Feb 15, 2010 10:45 GMT

UK and Indian ministers announced today two multi-million pound research programmes to develop cost-effective and efficient solar energy solutions.

UK and Indian ministers announced today two multi-million pound research programmes to develop cost-effective and efficient solar energy solutions.

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

Mr 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 both 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, and
- tackling major global health issues.

Further announcements today include 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 percent 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 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 Mc Fadden 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 cooperation.  

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.

Further details, including how to apply, will be available through the UK's Royal Society and DST in due course.

Turning research into innovation is key to future prosperity - and today's meeting also included the launch of two new collaborative initiatives to promote technology and knowledge transfer in India:

- PraxoUnico Technology Transfer courses: a new £35,000 (co-funded by Department for Business, Innovations and Skills and the Indian DST) programme starting in December 2010 to introduce the Indian scientific community to UK best practice and world-leading experience in innovation management and knowledge transfer. It will be the first in a series of "train the trainers" courses and aims to establish a PraxisUnico-like organisation in India.

- IMPACTS interactive workshop taking place in December 2010 aims to help researchers and companies in the UK and India to collaborate successfully on technology development and transfer. RCUK has committed up to £50,000 to fund the project.

The minister also participated in a skills roundtable discussion with senior Indian stakeholders at Delhi University and met students who had taken part in an UK-Indian Education and Research Initiative (UKIERI) programme with Telford College in Edinburgh and the Open University.  

UKIERI - a successful £20 million five year initiative - aims to improve education, skills and research links, and has achieved over 50 new collaborative research projects, 300 additional Indian research staff working in the UK and 200 UK research staff working in India.  

Mr McFadden is in India to strengthen scientific and innovation collaboration between the two countries, particularly on key challenges for the UK and India. These include improving the provision of education, equipping people with the tools and skills to rebuild the global economy, and mitigating the effects of climate change.  During the visit he will travel to New Delhi, Chandigarh and Ropar.

Notes for editors

1.  For India media queries, please contact Deepti Soni on Deepti.Soni@fco.gov.uk or call on +91-9810312913.

2.  For UK media queries, please contact the BIS press office, on 020 7215 3505.

3.  This is the second high-level bilateral meeting of the Science and Innovation Council since its inauguration in 2006.  

4.   Further information about the SIC and Mr McFadden's visit can be found at http://ukinindia.fco.gov.uk

5.   Solar energy is a priority for both countries.  The UK's 2007 Energy White Paper highlighted it as one of the technologies that will help the country meet its 20% renewable targets by 2020.  India also published its National Solar Mission last year, which sets out its ambitions to reduce the economy's reliance on fossil fuels, and, as a result, lower the climate change impact of India's growth without slowing the rate of development for millions of its poor people.  

Department for Business, Innovation & Skills

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) is building a dynamic and competitive UK economy by: creating the conditions for business success; promoting innovation, enterprise and science; and giving everyone the skills and opportunities to succeed. To achieve this it will foster world-class universities and promote an open global economy. BIS - Investing in our future.

Contacts

NDS Enquiries
Phone: For enquiries please contact the above department
ndsenquiries@coi.gsi.gov.uk