Secretary Prof. Ashutosh Sharma’s visit heralds new Sweden-India research and innovation initiatives

Within a span of a few weeks, Sweden and India relations in Science and Innovation received a new impetus by a number of high profile visits and events!

JCM meeting in Stockholm

On 3rd May, I attended the 6th Indo-Swedish Joint Committee Meeting (JCM) which was chaired by State secretary Malin Cederfeldt Östberg, Swedish Ministry of Education and Research, State secretary Stina Billinger Ministry of Enterprise and Innovation and the Indian co-chair: Prof Ashutosh Sharma, Secretary, Department of Science and Technology. The JCM sets the broad agenda for Sweden-India science and innovation collaboration for the next few years but it was also a chance to celebrate all the progress that has been made since the 5th JCM held in New Delhi in 2017.

The meeting covered a range of areas including energy, life sciences, polar and new technologies. To cover the various areas, Prof Sharma was joined by senior officials from Department of Science and Technology (DST), Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) and Department of Biotechnology (DBT).

Given India’s focus on research and innovation led economic growth in their recent budget, it was perhaps no surprise that Secretary Sharma spoke extensively about the importance of collaboration in this area. He highlighted the DST-Vinnova funded India- Sweden Collaborative Industrial Research & Development Program as a successful initiative. The joint programme between DST and Swedish Research Council (VR) will also shortly award network grants in the area of ‘Computer Science’ and ‘ Materials Science’. It was great to see the work of Vinnova, VR and also my team to receive such a high level of recognition.

During the meeting both delegations agreed that over the next couple of years, research collaborations should focus on Life Sciences, Energy reserach, New technologies and Sustainable society. There should also be a focus on innovation, including intellectual property, and collaborating on the policy of innovation itself.

But what was most striking to me was the convergence between Sweden and India’s approaches to science and innovation. A key outcome from the meeting was that both countries will jointly organise a high-level innovation policy dialogue in India in late 2019. The JCM delegates also agreed to explore opportunities in a whole variety of other areas, from Artifical Intelligence to Polar Research and Waste to Energy. 

State secretary Malin Cederfeldt Östberg, Swedish Ministry of Education and Research, Prof. Ashutosh Sharma, Secretary, Department of Science and Technology and State Secretary Stina Billinger, Ministry of Enterprise and Innovation.

What was clear in the meeting was the genuine desire for both sides to work together. India demonstrated a strong wish to have a long-term partnership with Sweden, doing all it can to tackle barriers to joint working. It was agreed that the Sweden-India Innovation Partnership should focus on “win-win” cooperation and mutual benefit, looking beyond the traditional Government supported mechanisms of R&D calls, into a wider portfolio of activity.

Aside the JCM, Secretary Sharma also visited Ericsson, KTH, Karolinska Institute, Nobel Museum and attended a round table on AI, Digitalization and Co-creation. These events and visits within a short span of a month reflects on how much Sweden and India are investing in building and nurturing joint linkages and partnerships in the areas of science and innovation.

There was a lot of work put into arranging the visit and JCM, but now the hard part starts. Putting into practice what was agreed. Watch this space!