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Science Minister announces winners of inaugural Newton Prize in India

  • Science Minister Jo Johnson announces first ever winners of the Newton Prize 2017 during two-day India trip
  • First two winners are an affordable portable device to monitor maternal health, and a pioneering solar energy project, with each being awarded £200k to address global challenges
  • During visit, Jo Johnson also announces further research agreements securing further collaboration between two countries

Science Minister Jo Johnson has today (Wednesday 1 November) announced the first two winners of the Newton Prize 2017, during a two-day India visit where he outlined the strength of collaboration with Indian partners and the UK’s ambitions to develop the relationship further.

Developed at KCL in London, the CRADLE Vital Signs Alert (VSA) is a hand-held semi-automated device which measures blood pressure and pulse, detecting hypertension and circulatory shock with an early warning system. It is affordable, easy-to-use, and portable with low power requirements. Through the Medical Research Council (MRC) Newton-funded project, the CRADLE VSA has now been implemented in 10 sites in India, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Uganda, Sierra Leone, Malawi and Haiti. More than 3,300 devices have been delivered to hospitals and clinics, and successfully incorporated into routine care, sometimes as the first blood pressure device available in the clinic. A simple training package has been developed and more than 1,500 health care workers have been trained to use the device. Results show that the VSA traffic light system strongly predicts the risks of complications and its introduction into maternity care will help save lives.

Professor Andrew Shennan, from KCL Women’s Health Academic Centre at St Thomas’ Hospital in London, led the project with his counterpart in India, Professor Shivaprasad Goudar, Women’s and Children’s Health Research Unit at Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College in Belgaum. Professor Shennan said: “To be able to impact on care in those parts of the world where it is desperately needed has been our most fulfilling research experience.”

The Newton-Bhabha APEX-II programme is a flagship project in solar energy between India and the UK, building on the achievements of an early programme that focuses on addressing the challenges of perovskite solar cells (PSC). This has proved which have proved successful in terms of efficiency and costs but have shown materials and device instability from ambient humidity and oxygen in the air.

The project has advanced the technology and patents generating a good deal of interest among manufacturing companies like Tata, Power on Demand, NSG Pilkington, and E4U-France. Tata has formed a partnership with APEX to develop a stable PSC and take it into manufacturing development through a license deal. The eventual product could revolutionise the affordability of cheaper electricity available at low cost. In addition, the project has built up strong partnerships between academic groups from the two countries, marked by several offshoot projects, high-quality, high-impact joint publications, patents and more than 50 exchange visits of early career researchers.

Professor Hari Upadhyaya, from Brunel University, led the project with his counterpart in India, Professor Viresh Dutta of the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi. Professor Upadhyaya said: “The impact of the project has been significant – it is providing a technology that will be environmentally friendly, cost effective, efficient, and stable for global need. The upfront cost of the manufacturing is much lower compared to other front-line technologies.”

The Newton Prize has been developed to celebrate and further encourage the partnerships that UK researchers have forged with their colleagues in Newton Fund partner countries. Further prize awards will also be made in Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam in the coming months.

The collaborations developed under the Newton Fund address some of the world’s most pressing challenges, by utilising the skillsets of UK researchers and researchers globally to improve the quality of life for many around the world.

Jo Johnson said: “These Newton Prize winners not only embody international collaboration on crucial issues, but also illustrate our ambition to work with our global partners on a wide variety of mutually-beneficial research.

“The Newton Prize demonstrates how the UK is working with partners to address important international issues. This complements the work we are undertaking as part of our upcoming Industrial Strategy to support our world-class research and innovation sector, helping them work collaboratively to address the great challenges of our time.”

The UK-India Newton Fund, known as the Newton-Bhabha Fund, is an instrumental part of the UK-India research and innovation relationship, with a joint commitment of more than £200 million joint investment up until 2021. This collaboration enables the UK to produce higher quality research and innovation and to maintain its scientific excellence.

Jo Johnson also made a number of further research announcements, funded by Newton-Bhabha Fund:

  • The publication of a Research Councils UK and Department of Biotechnology commissioned report on AMR mapping that provides a deeper understanding of antimicrobial resistance and outlines recommendations to address this growing global challenge
  • A joint pilot innovation project between the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s Central Laser Facility at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratories and India’s Tata Institute of Fundamental Research to upskill Indian engineers on cutting edge technology as they jointly develop control systems for high power lasers
  • Four new projects funded within the ‘Energy Demand Reduction in the Built Environment’ programme that will seek to monitor energy use and demand with the overall aim to achieve reductions in carbon emissions
  • Eight new projects funded within the India-UK Water Quality Programme, supporting policymakers, water managers, business and local communities to improve India’s water quality
  • Extension in funding for the India-UK Water Centre for a further two years, which facilitates collaboration and cooperation between researchers, policy makers and water managers in the UK and India
  • £7 million of joint investment on the Agricultural-Data Enhancement for Animal and Plant Health programme which will seek to enhance existing animal and plant health data growing on each country’s expertise in this area