Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Thursday, Jan 24, 2002
Alliances & Joint Ventures
UK Govt grants for overseas tie-ups
CHENNAI, Jan. 23
THE UK Government's offer to give grants to British firms interested in forming joint ventures with companies in identified developing markets could result in many Indo-UK joint ventures in the agri-business and automotive sectors, Mrs Philippa David, Deputy International Trade Director, Trade Partners UK, told Business Line.
Trade Partners UK is a part of the UK Government. Mrs David is leading a delegation from the UK for a preliminary study of opportunities in the agri-business and automotive sectors.
There is a £1-million fund meant to help companies in agri-business to explore and identify joint venture partners in the "priority markets" - India, China, Mexico, South Africa and Eastern Europe, Mrs David said.
The `project' is also supported by UNIDO and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs of the UK Government.
Mrs David said that in July, the annual Royal Agriculture Show would be held near Coventry in England, in which agri-companies from all over the world would participate. Trade Partners UK would use this opportunity to choose some British companies that might be the best bets for forming joint ventures in India. Representatives from these companies would visit India in November, she said.
A similar approach is being adopted for the automotive industry also. Mr Tony Lear, International Trade Advisor, Trade Partners UK, said a similar project would soon be announced, for bringing British and Indian automotive firms together.
Working in close liaison with the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) and the Automotive Component Manufacturers Association (ACMA), Trade Partners would, in this case, give grants to the projects that the joint venture companies might want to put up, Mr Lear said.
Of special interest in the automotive sector, is the possibility of bringing to India the fruits of the 5-year research programme in the UK, christened `Foresight Vehicle Programme'. Under this programme, which also enjoyed Government funding, British academia and industry got together to develop technologies that would be in use in vehicles in the year 2020.
The Foresight Vehicle Programme, under which at least 400 research projects have been taken up so far, has given birth to some technologies that are now ready to be productionised, said Mr Eddie Thorning of the Department of Trade and Industry of the UK Government and a member of the visiting UK delegation.
The Foresight Vehicle Programme has so far been given a Government support of £96 million, with an equal amount put in by the industry. Thus, with a funding of nearly £200 million, many technologies have been developed. For example, the Foresight programme has spawned some technologies in the area of telematics in automobiles, which might result in completely doing away with wiring harness in cars. Similarly, there are technologies for alternative fuels, automatic braking, automatic steering corrections and controlling of distances between vehicles, new materials with lesser weight and new recyclable material, which are now ready to be introduced in the market.
Some of these technologies are so cutting edge that they might require changes in legislation before they could be introduced, Mr Thorning said. He said that some of these technologies might require software inputs, an area where India might be a worthwhile partner.
The UK officials are hopeful that these and other technologies on one side, and the incentive of grants on the other, would catalyse Indo-UK joint ventures in the automotive sector.
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