By Dr Nafees Meah, Director RCUK India
Chandigarh, the shared Capital of the States of Punjab and Haryana, is a place that’s unique. That’s because, very unusually for India, it is a planned city. It was planned by Le Corbusier, the father of modernism in architecture. So instead of the hustle and bustle of people, cows, cars, carts, tuk-tuks cramming the streets, you have instead miles and miles of tree lined boulevards and roundabouts – a bit like an Indian Milton Keynes really. The BBC recently wrote that it might be the most perfect city in the world…
However, it is also a hub of research and innovation activity in India with a number of leading institutions of national importance such as Panjab University. So with the Deputy British High Commission in Chandigarh, we recently held an event to show case the impact of RCUK-India research and innovation partnership as part of series of these kinds of events in India. The aim was to engage with a wider group of people than we normally do and talk about our successful and burgeoning partnership and to build new networks at the State level. It is important that we do this, not least as we are seeing in India a new partnership being established between the Centre and the States – termed Cooperative Federalism – with more money and power being devolved to the States.
We had a full house at the event with a good mix of policy makers, academics, journalists, lawyers etc. I think it reflected the great connection between the people of Punjab and Haryana with the UK. The Panel, as well as myself, consisted of the Deputy High Commissioner, David Lelliott, Vivek Atray, Director of Industries and Commerce, Government of Punjab and Gokul Butail, IT advisor to the Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh. The Q&A session was particularly lively with plenty of questions about developing closer links at the State level.
From this event, and others like it, there is clearly a huge appetite in India for enhancing the collaboration on research and innovation with the UK on issues that are really important such as urbanisation, water and energy security, and health and well being. I think that we are getting our message across that the UK is the best place to do research in the world.