"I always like to think that changes come from people, society as well as from technologies."
Innovate UK’s deputy CEO Kevin Baughan, who heads the initiative that funds and connects businesses and helps them commercialise new technologies, was in India last week. He spoke about the need to understand the research and technology landscape and further their association with India through this initiative that looks at helping businesses commercialise new, promising technology. A government funded, business focused initiative of the UK, the programme looks at research an innovation in new areas.
Edited excerpts:What is Innovate UK and what brings you to India?
The mission of Innovate UK is to accelerate UK economic growth through funding and connecting business led innovation. One of the keys things we do is look at businesses and global markets of the future. We've built a lot of collaboration within UK, led by business and research community. And they're discussing who has to come together to pioneer these new industries. That's not limited to the UK, value chains and supply chains cover the world and so we are very, very interested in building and extending that to other opportunities like here in India.
We've done six R&D programmes in India- agritech, waste, clean energy, affordable healthcare, smart technologies.
Technology is a big component of it. I always like to think that changes come from people, society as well as from technologies. In fact, societal changes are some of the most interesting for us because they really tell you where markets are going in the In industrial strategy four big areas being identified to work on are an ageing society to healthy ageing, clean technologies, future transportation and big technology changes like AI, and data.What are the areas you'd like to invest in in India?
The areas that we're most interested in are where we can collaborate together to go after global markets. There are very good opportunities for the UK to invest in India and for India to invest in UK and we see that happening. Like scaling affordable healthcare, or finding better solutions to feed the world's population.Would you look to invest in companies in India?
The way we work bilaterally is to have a partner. That works better because then both sides- both government agencies and investors deal with their own companies but in a collaboration scheme.Does Brexit impact any of this?
Brexit is a big part of the UK discussion at the moment. It is a big change for us, and one that we're working through at the moment. If we look at the ecosystem of the modern economy- whether its research, innovation or business- those are all global activities. You don't do science on your own in isolation, you work with your colleagues around the world, and you don’t innovate in isolation. Bits of the value chain and the capabilities that come together are across the world and business is a very much a global activity.
The governments made it very clear that they want an ongoing strong relationship with Europe on science and technology. We've seen the EU high level group on research and innovation reach the conclusion that's actually a win-win for the UK to carry on participating in future programmes.
There is a real willingness on both sides to make collaborations to happen. At the same time it has made us more ambitious about other relationships around the world. That does mean that we are very keen to continue to build more momentum in India, China Canada and other countries around the world where we have good established relationships and we can build on those.Artificial Intelligence and big data all the rage right now. What tech do you think is going to change the world as we know it today?
I think AI is going to be a dramatic change. Diagnosis in healthcare, reading medical papers and coming out with possible treatments, that kind of data and AI will have that kind of massive impact. It will take a couple of decades to penetrate. Quantum technology, synthetic biology are also there but AI and data have been highlighted by UK government to work with.How are you looking at blockchain?
If you broaden that out to the distributed ledger technology and the fact that you're finding ways for people to do contracting, without centralised bodies, that creates some exciting new possibilities and some risks that have got people have got to learn to manage.
One of the things with Innovate UK is that we invest public money. We don't invest if there is enough investment going in already. So some of the areas of blockchain and fintech. Huge investments in the UK happening in the private sector already. They don't need Innovate UK to pioneer that. The areas we explored very successfully are applying that kind of technology- blockchain and distributed ledgers to provenance and the source of goods.Is data handling or data protection law a part of your conversation in India?It doesn’t come up in my conversations but people are going to have to look at the bigger business environment as they progress and develop those. However, I would encourage this conversation to ensure business environment is robust.