Will post-Brexit British tech complete its passage to India?

Profile picture for user slauchlan By Stuart Lauchlan April 18, 2018
The UK and Indian governments have signed a new tech alliance deal that might provide a model for post-Brexit Britain.

Baroness Fairchild oversees the new alliance

One of the most frequently repeated mantras from supporters of Brexit is that it will free up the UK to strike trade deals of its own with countries around the world and one of the countries most frequently mentioned is India.

While it certainly wasn’t one of those putative trade deals, yesterday the British Prime Minister Theresa May and the Indian Prime Minister Modi did arguably take one step closer with the signing of a new UK-India Tech Partnership.

This is being pitched by Downing Street as generating “significant investment and support the creation of thousands of new jobs”.

So how much are we talking about here? Well, according to UK government figures, the UK exported £358 million of digital services to India in 2015. There’s no precise prediction of what this new deal might add to that mix, other than the usual blather from Digital Minister Matt Hancock about “Our world-leading digital economy”.

What it's about

What do we know then? Well the UK will initially invest £1 million in the partnership with a vague promise that this could be “potentially” grown to £13 million by 2022. The initial pilot work will be, shall we say, specialist in nature. It will:

connect the UK with Pune in Maharashtra, focussing on the Future of Mobility, including low emission and autonomous vehicles, battery storage and vehicle light-weighting.

Beyond that:

The Government will engage in-country experts to work with the British High Commission in New Delhi, the Indian Government and the private sector in order to increase tech investment, exports and research and development. Smaller regional teams will link specific cities and regions in India and the UK.

The Partnership will encourage innovation and productivity by helping businesses in the UK and India collaborate on emerging technologies, develop mentoring relationships and exchange staff. The regional teams will also ensure the impact is felt across the breadth of both nations’ expansive tech sectors, and that successful approaches adopted in one region can be shared and adopted in others.

Other developments include:

  • The Department for International Trade  intends to recruit "a" UK cyber-security industry expert to be based in New Delhi, to share British expertise and connect Indian private and public sector organisations with UK companies which can supply their specific requirements.
  • The UK and India will commission a joint study as the first step towards establishing a new UK-India Advanced Manufacturing Center.
  • The UK will extend the Super Priority Visa (SPV) in two further cities in India - Pune and Bangalore. The SPV is a paid-for service that delivers a visa decision within 24 hours. It’s on offer to three locations in India at present.

There will also be a UK-India Tech Hub to identify and pair businesses, venture capital, universities and others to identify and facilitate route to markets for both British and Indian tech companies. This will be driven by the UK tech trade association techUK and its Indian counterpart, Nasscom (National Association of Software & Services Companies). Julian David, CEO of trade association techUK, said:

This is an incredibly important partnership and something tech businesses from both countries have been driving for. The UK and India are leaders in the development and use of digital tech, and there is a huge amount we can learn from each other and big opportunities to join forces in innovation. India is also a key strategic partner for the UK with world-class digital skills. Deepening our engagement will open up opportunities for business in both countries and help ensure we maximise the benefits of technology for our societies and citizens.

The tie-up was signed at the inaugural meeting of the UK-India Tech Alliance, in the presence of Baroness Fairhead CBE, Minister of State for Trade and Export Promotion. She said:

UK-India relations are going from strength to strength and the signing of this MoU demonstrates the deepening of ties. Tech is at the heart of this new relationship between our two countries and we welcome techUK and Nasscom’s commitment to working together to strengthen the skills base in both countries that will be key to driving economic growth, development and prosperity.

This new partnership with India is intended to mirror the earlier one between the UK and Israel. That, according to the UK Government, has generated £62 million worth of deals over the past five years, with “a potential impact of £600 million for the UK economy”.

My take

Anything that can be done to boost trade and the UK tech economy is welcome, particularly as the trade deal compromise that currently forms part of the Brexit negotiations between Britain and the European Union still looks terribly fragile. That being so, I can only wish this extended alliance well.