French Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, H.E. Mr. Jean-Marc Ayrault came to India for a from 8th to 11th January 2017 for a visit that took him in Bengaluru, Ahmedabad and New Delhi.
The aim of his visit was to strengthen the strategic partnership between India and France in various sectors, including science, technology and innovation.
On Sunday 8th January, addressing a gathering of students and academics at the Alliance Française de Bangalore, the Minister launched the Bengaluru chapter of the France Alumni network that was officially inaugurated in India in September 2016. On this occasion he stressed the importance of student exchanges, a key dimension of the bilateral partnership, and a key priority for the French government, as he announced his objective to bring the number of Indian students coming to France for higher education from 4,000 in 2016 to 10,000 in 2020.
In the Alliance Française, Mr. Ayrault was given a demonstration of the Gaming Lounge in India, a space exclusively dedicated to learning French using exciting, interactive videogames developed by French multinational Ubisoft.
He also witnessed the signing of an MoU between Studialis and iNurture to establish a campus of excellence in Bengaluru, bringing together for the very first time French institutes specialising in areas France is renowned for: design, arts, creation.
On Monday 9th, Mr. Ayrault paid a visit to NUMA Bengaluru, a start-up accelerator born out of a joint-venture between Indian company Cobalt and French accelerator NUMA in 2015, which hosts, among others, Airbus Bizlab, a global aerospace business accelerator created by Airbus, which launched its second season at this occasion.
Following this, the Minister, along with Jean-Yves Le Gall, President of the French Space Agency (CNES), was received by Mr A.S. Kiran Kumar, Chairman – Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). In the presence of the Minister, Mr Kiran Kumar and Mr Le Gall concluded a partnership between ISRO and CNES respectively in satellite launch technology.
On this occasion, Mr Kiran Kumar gave the French delegation a guided tour of ISTRAC (ISRO Telemetry Tracking and Command Network). It is from this latest generation ISRO control centre that Indian space missions are monitored, including the two Indo-French satellites currently in orbit for collecting data to track climate change.
Thereafter, Mr Ayrault met Mr Rahul Narayan, CEO of leading Indian “NewSpace” start-up, Axiom Research Labs. This start-up put forward TeamIndus, the only Indian team competing for the Google Lunar XPRIZE, a global competition for engineers and entrepreneurs to develop low-cost methods of robotic space exploration. 20 million USD will be granted to the first private company that successfully lands a module on the Moon, places a robot that explores at least 500 meters and transmits high-definition video and images back to Earth. As TeamIndus races to design an all-terrain rover by end-2017 for this lunar mission, the French Space Agency (CNES) will provide it with cameras.
In the presence of the Minister, Mr Rahul Narayan and Mr Jean-Yves Le Gall signed an agreement for equipping Axiom Research Lab’s lunar rover with two latest-generation CASPEX micro-cameras, developed by CNES in partnership with French firm 3DPlus. France is the global leader in the micro-camera technology that will equip sensors designed to aid the rover’s progress by detecting ground obstacles in the path of its wheels.
In joining forces with Team Indus on this first private mission to land a rover on the moon, CNES is sending French technology for the first time on lunar terrain. France is thus playing a key role in the Indian NewSpace.