The UK and India have a tradition of co-operation in innovation, science and technology. Such collaboration has traditionally embraced a linear understanding of innovation, leading to centrally driven bilateral science and technology-focused partnerships. However, the nature of innovation has undergone deep changes over the past decade.
Innovation is becoming increasingly open and multidirectional, with developing countries’ cities and regions quickly imposing themselves as global innovation hotspots. Networks that are created by ground-level innovators themselves have become central to innovation. The global economic crisis will affect both the UK and Indian innovation systems.
It is hitting both economies hard and putting intense pressure on their innovation systems. The downturn was brought on by the ultra-networked globalised nature of modern economies, which allowed the financial crisis to spread across the globe and to the real economy.
And it is forcing Indian and UK governments and businesses to focus on short-term issues, pushing back innovation, and tempting them to retreat from global networks. But, short-termism could also be short-sighted. Leveraging international networks can allow India and the UK to make the most of each others’ ideas and resources to innovate, helping both economies to recover.
However, this could be difficult. Mutual trust is increasingly important in the successful development of partnerships in the uncertain environment created by the economic crisis. And the UK and India have let misperceptions of each other take ground, and these are likely to create additional obstacles to collaboration in these difficult times.
If India and the UK are to successfully exploit the opportunities for innovation partnerships, policymakers in both countries should actively help to establish the conditions conducive to cross-border collaborations. This means that the UK will need a clear and targeted international innovation strategy that will offer India the guarantee that it is committing resources over the long term.