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20 September, 2013 - 09:08 By Tony Quested

Cambridge-India alliance triggers research and trade bonanza

Professor Ashok Venkitaraman

Cambridge University, working with trade partners and the UK government, has lit the touchpaper to a boom in science, technology, business and research collaborations with influencers in India.

A raft of new initiatives have already emerged from the university delegation currently in India visiting Delhi, Bangalore and Mumbai returning this Sunday.

The Cambridge delegation, led by university vice-chancellor Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, has received high level backing from governments of both countries right up to PM level. Headline initiatives that have already emerged from the Cambridge-India venture are:• A new stem cell research centre to fight cancer and other major diseases• A new network of global scientists to link ongoing collaborations and foster new ones• Unprecedented commercial collaborations between technology companies in Cambridge and Bangalore• A new biotech & medtech innovation contest for companies in Cambridge and India designed to encourage healthcare breakthroughs • Emerging leadership and entrepreneurship programmes between the territories

Cambridge University has never engendered such an intense programme with one territory but Sir Leszek said it regarded India as “absolute priority.”Bangalore technology entrepreneurs were the power behind Silicon Valley and the US’s loss could now be Cambridge’s gain.

A University spokesman, talking to Business Weekly from India, said: “Regardless of some commentaries on the economic state of India we have seen nothing to alter our opinion that India is an absolute priority for the University and the collaborations we wish to engender. It has fabulous talent and exciting potential for growth.

“We don’t intend to build a physical campus in India – that’s for others to do. You cannot artificially create the magic of Cambridge University on the other side of the world. But Cambridge is revered in India and with the research, business and intellectual capital collaborations we have already kickstarted we feel we have set the agenda for something really special for the future.”

On this groundbreaking two-week mission, the University of Cambridge and the Institute of Stem cell biology and regenerative medicine, the allied institute of the National center for Biological Sciences reinforced the established ties of a collaborative Centre for Chemical Biology and Therapeutics at the NCBS and inSTEM campus in Bangalore. Sir Leszek formally inaugurated the centre.

The new centre is a result of collaboration that links Professors S. Ramaswamy, K. VijayRaghavan, Satyajit Mayor and colleagues at inStem and NCBS in Bangalore, with Professor Ashok Venkitaraman at the University of Cambridge in the UK.

Funded by a direct award from the Department of Biotechnology, Government of India, the integrated multidisciplinary research centre is designed to pioneer new approaches to create small-molecule tools that target novel classes of targets, aims to develop new scientific approaches for the treatment of cancer and other major diseases.

With a commitment to facilitate scientific exchanges and nurture collaborations between University of Cambridge and CCBT, researchers aspire to combine methods from genetics, chemistry, cell biology, biochemistry and imaging to understand the alterations in cellular systems that underlie human diseases, and identify ways to correct them using drugs.

The parties also signed an MoU for a joint post-doctoral fellows programme that aims to attract scientists of any nationality to link ongoing collaborations and foster new ones at the NCBS and inSTEM as well as at University of Cambridge.

In another exciting development, a new Bangalore-Cambridge contest has been launched to encourage innovation in biotech and MedTech in the two clusters.The competition was launched by Francis Maude, Minister for the UK Cabinet Office, and Sir Leszek.

The Bangalore-Cambridge Biotech Innovation Contest seeks to find Bangalore’s most innovative biotech or medtech company looking to expand their business internationally. In a second category, the contest also seeks to find an academic with Bangalore’s best biotech business or medtech idea. The winner in each category will have an opportunity to explore Cambridge and discover why it is one of world’s most vibrant innovation hubs.

Francis Maude said: “The UK is an ideal place to start or expand an innovative business or to find an innovation partner. This is particularly apparent in Cambridge and, through this contest, the best of Bangalore will get a chance to see what Cambridge has to offer.”

Professor Borysiewicz added: “This is a marvellous opportunity to link the innovation ecosystems of our two great cities by allowing innovators to come from Bangalore to Cambridge.”

The contest is being run by the UK Science & Innovation Network in association with Accelerator India, the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Platforms in Bangalore, the University of Cambridge and ideaSpace, Cambridge, as part of the Bangalore-Cambridge Innovation Network.

The two winners of the inaugural competition will receive:1. A fact finding mission to Cambridge – including economy flights, accommodation and a bespoke programme to start their UK discovery in Cambridge in early 2014. 2. The chance to experience Cambridge and its Phenomenon. Meet & network with world-class researchers, investors, incubators and partner companies.3. Briefing to understand what’s involved, and the support available, to start your business in Cambridge or find partners there.

The competition details and entry form are available on the British High Commission website https://www.gov.uk/government/world/india. The deadline is October 30, 2013. Participants are also invited to follow trending conversations in the biotech/medtech space at the UK India Lifesciences group on LinkedIn.

And there’s more! A new collaboration between the Bangalore Cambridge Innovation Network (BCIN) and the premier cross-border UK-India business accelerator, AcceleratorIndia, will drive deeper engagement and commercial activity between technology companies in the Cambridge and Bangalore ecosystems.

AcceleratorIndia works closely with companies in the CleanTech, healthtech, mediatech and advanced engineering sectors and has already helped a number of UK companies to form partnerships and commercial relationships with companies in Bangalore and more widely in India. AcceleratorIndia now brings this experience and track record to power the next phase of development of the BCIN.

BCIN was launched in Bangalore a year ago. Its key academic stakeholders include the University of Cambridge and the International Institute of Information Technology Bangalore, Indian Institute of Science and the National Centre for Biological Sciences.

As BCIN’s key commercial stakeholder with interests in Cambridge and Bangalore, AcceleratorIndia will work closely with companies from both cities to significantly increase the level of cross-border business activity.

AcceleratorIndia is across sectors, technologies and investors to generate new and innovative projects and partnerships in the medical devices and MedTech sectors cross-border between the UK and India.

Dr Uday Phadke, executive chairman of AcceleratorIndia said: “We are very pleased to bring our knowledge of the Cambridge ecosystem and our experience, to increase the level of commercial activity through cross-border innovation.”

• PHOTOGRAPH SHOWS: Professor Ashok Venkitaraman

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