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Research Council projects shortlisted for prestigious Newton Prize


Ten Research Council projects have been shortlisted for the 2017 Newton Prize, an annual £1 million fund awarded for the best research or innovation that promotes the economic development and social welfare of developing countries.

More than 150 projects, of all variations, backed by the Newton Fund applied for the Newton Prize from the eligible countries for this year – India, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam. There are 25 shortlisted applications in total and five Prizes of up to £200,000 will be awarded to each winner to be used to advance or develop existing Newton funded work. There will be two winners in India and one in Malaysia, Thailand and in Vietnam.

Five MRC projects have been shortlisted, which are working to address a range of challenges – from treating eye infections, and issues for maternal and baby health in India to scrub typhus in Thailand.

The two BBSRC shortlisted projects involve research into rice. One is a collaboration which is screening thousands of Thai rice cultivars and mutants to identify plants with altered number or size of stomata that could be grown in drier or hotter areas. The other project aims to develop alternative uses for rice straw, making it more attractive for animal feed and biofuels production.

AHRC is funding a major British Library project to catalogue and digitise all its South Asian language printed books published before 1914, cataloguing 3,000 Bengali titles in the pilot phase. By digitising these collections to make them openly available and communicating their significance through public outreach, this project is contributing to the world’s knowledge base, and enhancing standards for cataloguing, metadata and imaging in the digital research community in the UK and India.

EPSRC’s Advancing the Efficiency and the Production Potential of Excitonic Solar Cells (APEX)­II, is a flagship project in solar energy between India and the UK focused on addressing the challenges of perovskite solar cells (PSC). These have proved successful in terms of efficiency and costs but have shown materials and device instability from ambient humidity and oxygen in the air.

ESRC’s SMArt CitIES Network for Sustainable Urban Futures used an urban observatory approach to develop future thinking to increase the sustainability of Indian cities. The team identified that data was not openly shared, and the voices of residents, NGOs, students, academics, businesses and public servants were not generally included in the urban planning process, especially those in lower income groups.

The Newton Prize winners will be announced at celebratory award ceremonies held in each of the partner countries:

  • India – 1 November
  • Thailand – 22 November
  • Malaysia – 28 November
  • Vietnam – 16 November

The Minister for Universities, Science and Research Jo Johnson will also host a UK event in London in early December to celebrate the first year of the Prize and to announce the 2018 Newton Prize countries.

The Research Councils are seven of 15 UK delivery partners for the Newton Fund, which builds research and innovation partnerships with 18 partner countries to support their economic development and social welfare, and to develop their research and innovation capacity for long-term sustainable growth. It has a total UK Government investment of £735 million up until 2021, with matched resources from the partner countries.

The Newton Prize aims to incentivise researchers to participate in the Newton Fund as partners with the UK, and to work on the most important challenges facing Newton countries. The concept for the Newton Prize has been developed to demonstrate how UK partnerships with Newton countries are solving global challenges.

Further information is available on the Newton Fund website. Follow their Twitter feed for regular updates about the Newton Prize: @NewtonFund and #NewtonPrize.

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