SII CEO Adar Poonawalla said in an interview that he was under extreme duress after being pressurised for giving priority access to vaccines to unnamed political leaders
The Serum Institute of India (SII) will be investing 240 million pounds in the United Kingdom through the opening of a new sales office, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Office announced late on May 3 in an official statement. The investment is a part of a large tranche of over 533 million pounds of new Indian investment into the UK, expected to create 6,500 jobs in sectors such as health and technology, it said.
The announcement comes hours ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's digital summit with Johnson on May 4. SII CEO Adar Poonawalla is currently in London. In an interview with the Financial Times, he has claimed to be under extreme duress after being pressurised for giving priority access to vaccines to unnamed political leaders. While Poonawalla hinted that SII might expand its manufacturing imprint beyond India, the official statement on May 4 did not mention it directly.
"The sales office is expected to generate new business worth over $1 billion, £200 million of which will be invested into the UK. Serum’s investment will support clinical trials, research & development and possibly manufacturing of vaccines. This will help the UK and the world to defeat the coronavirus pandemic and other deadly diseases," the statement said.
However, it added that SII had already started phase one trials in the UK of a one-dose nasal vaccine for coronavirus, in partnership with Codagenix INC. This is expected to be produced in the UK itself if approved, experts have said.
The latest announcement by Johnson includes new export orders worth 446 million pounds, received by British businesses from India. This includes a surgical robotic system which helps surgeons perform minimal access surgery which is being rolled out in India.
At the virtual bilateral summit on May 5, both leaders are also set to sign off on a new Enhanced Trade Partnership aimed at paving the way for a Free Trade Agreement between both nations in the future. The UK's current bilateral trade with India stands at around 23 billion pounds a year.
Meanwhile, 10 Downing Street has also squarely stressed on the importance of India to its future economic plans.
"The Partnership agreed today will set the ambition to double the value of UK-India trade again by 2030 and declares our shared intent to begin work towards a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement. With almost 1.4 billion people, India’s population is bigger than the EU and US combined and by far the largest market the UK has committed to negotiating a trade deal with to date," the statement said.
Last week, the UK sent medical supplies worth 6 million pounds, including thousands of ventilators to help India’s fight against COVID-19. Also, the British Asian Trust has raised over 1.6 million pounds in the last week through their emergency appeal and UK business leaders have mobilised in response to the Indian High Commission’s request for vital equipment.