At the London Tech Week 2019, there is a significant focus on India and the India-UK partnerships. The UK believes that India presents huge opportunities for a partnership on the development as well as sharing of technology, and also for investment. According to official figures as of April, there were 842 Indian companies operating in the UK at the end of 2018, and it is expected that Indian investment in the UK would outpace both China and Japan. With the launch of the Infosys Experience Design and Innovation Studio in Shoreditch, London providing the perhaps perfect backdrop, News18 sat down with Mr. Graham Stuart, Member of Parliament of the United Kingdom and UK Investment Minister to discuss a variety of issues, including the ongoing London Tech Week, the current state of investments in the UK and whether the uncertainty around Brexit has forced investors to hold back. Edited excerpts.
This is the largest ever London Tech Week, what was the idea behind widening the scope this year?
I am delighted to say that the UK is the tech and digital investment destination of choice for the world’s biggest tech firms. In fact, if you look at Indian firms, they invest more in the UK than they do in the rest of the EU put together. London Tech Week is a huge opportunity for us to showcase the best of British innovation and technology, a lot of that of course produced and informed by the international companies who come here. So that’s what this is all about.
More than 55,000 people will be attending more than 300 events. And my departments which is the Department for International Trade, has more than 600 investors and companies and are putting on 15 events just on our own.
What is the current state of the tech partnership between the UK and India?
I was delighted to open the UK Tech Hub earlier this year, and it is a sign of the close cooperation between India and the UK. Prime Ministers Modi and May worked together to see that realised, and now there are more than a 1,10,000 people in the UK working for Indian firms. We saw the number of Indian firms in the UK go up beyond 850 and the turnover just from the Indian firms in the UK is more than £48 billion.
With the re-elected Narendra Modi government in India in place, how important would it be for the new UK government to expand the tech partnerships with India?
We see India as the fastest growing major economy in the world. I congratulate Prime Minister Modi on his recent re-election victory, and there is a real determination of the Indians in the past few days to put together the first 100 days plan and the Prime Minister is determined to see progress. I was in Delhi last year and I met with the Indian Prime Minister at the MOVE conference, and that’s of course to do with clean growth and clean tech and we have so much in common, there are so many common areas of endeavour. I think the India-UK trade is going to grow over the coming years.
Would Brexit have any impact on the UK-india tech partnership and the Indian investments in the UK?
There is no sign of it having any impact. In fact, the investments from India just keep going up, and I think if you look at technology in particular, the UK is expanding its lead as the European tech centre. Just as London is the world’s largest cross border financial services center, we are looking for London and the rest of the UK to make for Europe’s global technology center.
Are there any similar challenges that the UK and India face, and how can tech solve those problems?
We, in our industrial strategy which is about an year old, have identified grand challenges around the future of mobility, aging, clean growth, artificial intelligence and data. You look at this, and that is what India wants to do, for instance produce energy in a cleaner way and ambitions in solar energy. This is shown by the Prime Minister’s MOVE conference to allow transportation in India to happen more easily, more cheaply and in a cleaner way. India, like the UK, will be looking at how to look after the elderly and make sure its got healthcare fit to do that, and all that will be performed by digital and hopefully artificial intelligence as we go forward.
What in your opinion should the UK be doing for further tech investments in India?
We are very much working to promote India as a destination for UK companies. There are already many companies there that are of course household names in India. We believe by working closely with the Indian government, we can encourage more British investment into India. India is very much the future, and we want to be a part of that future and we will do so by being in partnership with the Indian companies and the Indian government.
What are the most important areas of focus for the UK as far as tech is concerned; would it be AI, 5G, startups or something else?
Startup’s are a fundamental part of the scene regardless of the particular technology. I think artificial intelligence will see significant investment. Last year, we saw more than 40 percent increase in investment in AI in the UK, far more than any other European country. It is going to be a combination of AI technology advance linking to universities. We have four of the world’s top 10 universities in this country. And government as well as regulations all working together in an environment in which we can solve mankind’s problems and do so in a way which is sustainable and equitable. And I think India and the UK have a great partnership in taking those challenges on.