The UK government has agreed a technology partnership with India that it expects to create thousands of jobs across the UK.
The agreement aims to identify organisations in the two countries that can work together and open up opportunities for tech entrepreneurs. The UK will initially invest £1m to pilot the initiative and could potentially add up to £13m by 2022.
The pilot will first connect the UK with Indian city Pune, focusing on technology such as mobility and autonomous vehicles. Links between UK organisations and India will also include one with Bangalore that will focus on Augmented and virtual reality and artificial intelligence (AI).
The UK government hopes to encourage innovation and productivity through collaborate on emerging technologies, mentoring relationships and staff exchanges.
In parallel with the India/UK tech partnership, the countries’ technology trade associations, TechUK and NASSCOM, will work together through a Tech Alliance to collaborate, help develop policy and encourage innovation.
Julian David, CEO of 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.”
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The UK exported £358m of digital services to India in 2015, but this is dwarfed by IT exports from India to the UK, with Indian IT service providers supporting many of the UK’s largest businesses with IT services.
Driven by the success of its IT industry, which accounts for about 10% of its GDP, India has become one of the world’s fastest-growing large economies.
Also, large UK organisations are setting up operations in India to take advantage of the country’s wealth of tech talent. According to research of 45 global cities by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), Bangalore has the best environment in the world for businesses to transform digitally. The same research also ranked Mumbai and New Delhi as among the top four locations globally.
As part of the latest agreement with India, the UK government has announced the extension of the Super Priority Visa (SPV) in two further cities in India, Pune and Bangalore, which have major tech hubs. This paid-for service allows applicants to work in the UK and receive a visa decision within 24 hours. This brings to five the number of locations where Indian nationals can use the service.
But this could be controversial given the way the issue of immigration was used by pro-Brexit campaigners. Many UK IT professionals already claim that the huge volumes of IT work outsourced to Indian companies has led to a shortage of job opportunities for them.
These are often low-level jobs that are vital for IT workers starting their careers. There are also thousands of Indian IT professionals working in the UK as part of large outsourcing contracts.