UK, India scientists to collaborate in astronomy, bio-imaging

UKRI has embarked on a collaboration with India's Department of Atomic Energy

SPACE-EXPLORATION/MARS The planet Mars is shown in this NASA Hubble Space Telescope view taken May 12, 2016. NASA | via Reuters

United Kingdom Research and Innovation (UKRI) has embarked on a collaboration with India's Department of Atomic Energy to explore opportunities to set up super computing facilities to process data from the observations made by the Square Kilometre Array radio telescope.

The Science and Technology Facilities Council of the UKRI also announced initiatives to harness technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, bio-imaging and accelerator development to augment scientific research and have a tangible impact in areas such as cancer treatment.

"The challenge with Square Kilometre Array (SKA) is that it produces vast amounts of data and you have to apply super computing techniques to turn that data very rapidly into things that astronomers can use. That is an area where we intend to collaborate," Mark Thomson, Executive Chairman of Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), told PTI at an event here to mark 15 years of the UKRI-India partnership.

Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) said it is proud to have been associated with UKRI India since its inception.

"I am happy to note that this collaboration is being expanded beyond the engineering and physical sciences to fields as diverse as AI, machine learning, astrophysics, gravitational waves, bio-imaging and particle accelerator related technologies," Arun Kumar Nayak, Head, Nuclear Controls and Planning Wing, DAE, said.

Thomson said both the UK and India were key parts in developing the computational processing for the SKA radio telescope, which is being built across continents in Australia and South Africa.

"We are looking at how we turn this vast amount of data into things like images and timing signals from pulsars, neutron stars flashing in the sky," Thomson said.

He said the SKA telescope will start generating data in 2026 and the entire project will be complete by the end of the decade.

"The time we start to get vast amounts of data is only a few years away, before that we have to put in place all of the systems and also understand how we are going to turn data into science," he said.

The STFC and DAE also announced collaborations for the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) and proton accelerator projects.

The year 2023 also marks 15 years of the UKRI-India partnership that has supported more than 260 individual projects, funded by over 15 agencies, bringing together more than 220 lead institutions from the two countries.

"Over the last 15 years Indian researchers and innovators have worked with UKRI to tackle challenges facing us all, from making fashion sustainable, to advancing telecoms and reducing carbon emissions, to life saving research as we collectively sought solutions for COVID-19," Christopher Smith, UKRI's International Champion, said.

Smith said he was excited by what the partnership has achieved so far and looked forward to building on the successes to develop more world-changing research and innovation in the future. 

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