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UKRI-funded projects awarded 2019 Newton Prizes

12/02/2020

UKRI-funded projects awarded 2019 Newton Prizes

Two innovative UKRI-funded research projects have won major awards at the Newton Prize 2019, which this year celebrates inspiring global development work taking place in China, Indonesia and the Philippines.

A multidisciplinary UK-China team, co-funded by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) and the National Natural Science Foundation of China, won the prestigious Chair’s Award for an ingenious system to monitor crop production for global food security.

The Philippines category was won by a UK-Philippines team co-funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, (EPSRC) and the Philippine Department of Science and Technology who have developed a way to convert wastewater into nutrient-rich fertiliser.

The Newton Prize is a £1 million fund which supports world-class research partnerships as they take their projects to the next level. It also encourages new international collaborations to address some of the world’s most pressing challenges.

The Chair’s Award, made to researchers from University College London and Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, recognises exceptional impact and research which exhibit the best knowledge exchange and partnership development. 

The team used advanced data assimilation techniques to vastly improve accuracy of crop monitoring and crop yield estimates. Accurate monitoring of agricultural productivity is essential for both global food security and the livelihoods of low-income rural regions.

The project is among the first to make use of data from the new Sentinel and Chinese GF satellites and has fed directly into agricultural production planning in China.

The team’s techniques are now being applied in other countries, including Ghana, Colombia and the UK.

The UK-Philippines team focused their project on the Metropolitan Manila region of the Philippines, where around three quarters of all sewage flows untreated into the local rivers and lakes, creating major health risks and damaging the local economy.

By extracting ‘nutrient pollutants’ from wastewater, the team created a way to both improve sanitation and create a valuable fertiliser. Their work is helping to lead the way on improving the health and prosperity of rapidly urbanising areas in the Philippines and Southeast Asia.  

Read the full case studies in the Newton Prize 2019 booklet (PDF, 3Mb).

This year over 150 Newton funded projects, fellowships or other awards applied for the Newton Prize. Three prizes of up to £200,000 each were awarded to winning projects with the eligible countries: China, Indonesia and the Philippines.

Welcoming the awards, Professor Helen Fletcher, UKRI’s Director for International Development, said: “It is great to see researchers funded by EPSRC and STFC getting recognition for their innovative and life-changing work. But more importantly, the Newton Prize is a fantastic celebration of global research partnerships and showcases the invaluable role research plays in creating sustainable solutions for a fairer, healthier and safer world for us all.” 

Professor Alice Gast, Imperial College London President and Newton Prize Committee Chair, said: “Scientific collaboration needs nurturing. The Newton Prize strengthens partnerships and allows the best research to thrive, improving the quality of life for people living in Newton Fund partner countries and beyond.”

Dr Hugh Mortimer, a research scientist at STFC’s Rutherford Appleton Laboratory and leads this Newton agritech programme on behalf of STFC, said “This project is great example of how space based data and technology can be used to make a real impact to the lives of people over the world. Space may seem far away but this shows how Earth Observation satellites developed and built by scientists in the UK can play a major role in tackling some of the world’s greatest challenges. The projects that STFC have funded are helping to create sustainable solutions to the global food crisis and to protect the environment. This joint UK-China initiative will help farmers, food producers and national bodies to manage crop production more effectively and help plan food production accurately. This doesn’t just benefit those in the UK and China but it will go on to help the global community.”

This year over 150 Newton funded projects, fellowships or other awards applied for the Newton Prize. Three prizes of up to £200,000 each were awarded to winning projects with the eligible countries: China, Indonesia and the Philippines.


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