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Newton Prize 2020 shortlist announced

Credit:  Nairobi, Kenya. Shutterstock 
  • UK and international experts join forces to tackle health, climate and development issues
  • Projects aim for sustainable impact through science, research and innovation
  • £1.5 million follow-on funding to be split among six projects across five countries

The shortlist for the Newton Prize 2020 has been announced featuring 27 research and innovation projects between the UK and Egypt, Jordan, Kenya, South Africa, and Turkey.

The Newton Prize celebrates outstanding international research partnerships that play an important role in addressing challenges in developing countries and around the world, such as the problem of producing clean energy, HIV prevention, the protection of historical sites, how to tackle water pollution, as well as the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Shortlisted projects include:

  • A Royal Academy of Engineering and the Kenya National Innovation Agency project, which is improving access to emergency services
  • A Newcastle University and Egypt’s Minia University project, which is finding ways to halt the progression of liver cancer by finding biomarkers in the blood
  • An Oxford Brookes University and Yarmouk University in Jordan project, which is about inspiring a passion for Jordan’s world class prehistoric heritage so that a new generation of archaeologists will go on to develop their careers and educate the wider public
  • A University of Birmingham and Marmara University in Turkey project, which is shedding light on the true impact of plastic chemicals on animals and humans.

The Newton Prize 2020 shortlist is as follows:

UK-Egypt

The liver micro-environment- a driver of hepatocellular carcinoma

Liver cancer patients represent 23% of total registered cancer cases in Egypt. This Newton Prize 2020 shortlisted fellow is finding ways to halt its progression by finding biomarkers in the blood and 3D modelling.

Project leads: Professors Fiona Oakley and Helen Reeves, Newcastle University and Dr Marco Zaki, Minia University, Egypt

Delivery partners: British Council and the Cultural Affairs and Missions Sector, Ministry of Higher Education & Scientific Research, Egypt

 

Earliest Egypt: Conservation, management, valorisation and capacity building

Egypt is home to some of the world’s most important historical sites as well as a diverse range of cultures central to its identity and future growth. This team is trying to protect Egypt’s heritage and educate a new generation.

Project leads: Dr Joanne Rowland, University of Edinburgh and Professor Mohamed Fekri Hassan, Universite Francaise d'Egypte

Delivery partner: British Council

 

Virtual Reality of medieval culture: Collaborative network for cultural-feed virtual heritage (CfVH) platforms of medieval Cairo

Egypt has suffered from an extreme decline in tourism and foreign visitors in recent years, with lost revenue for related industries and businesses. This project is trying to build a sustainable heritage economy that is future-proof and opens up Egyptian heritage to the world, which has proved pivotal during Covid-19.

Project leads: Professor Mohamed Gamal Abdelmonem, Nottingham Trent University and Professor Gad ElQadi, National Research Institute of Astronomy & Geophysics, Egypt

Delivery partners: Arts and Humanities Research Council, part of UK Research and Innovation,  and the Science, Technology & Innovation Funding Authority, Egypt

 

A novel membrane water desalination pilot plant driven by a hybrid solar-biogas energy sources

This collaborative project between The University of Sheffield and Port Said University in Egypt is developing a system to produce fresh, safe drinking water for rural communities.

Project leads: Professor Mohamed Pourkashanian, University of Sheffield and Professor Ayman Ibrahim Mohamed, Port Said University, Egypt

Delivery partners: British Council and the Science, Technology & Innovation Funding Authority, Egypt

 

Using SALTMED model for substantial water management under Egyptian conditions

Globally, irrigation consumes 70% of total fresh water resources but this two-year study has shown that using waste and drainage water for irrigation is not only a sustainable use of water but also increases wheat production and can save farmers money in Egypt.

Project leads: Professor Ragab Ragab, UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology and Professor Abdelraouf Abdelghany, National Research Center, Egypt

Delivery partners: British Council and the Science, Technology & Innovation Funding Authority, Egypt

 

UK-Jordan

Learning from multicultural Amman: engaging Jordan's youth

This project has stimulated the development of a national network of museum, heritage and library professionals across Jordan and is dedicated to engaging young people in learning about Jordan’s rich history, culture and place in the world.

Project leads: Professor Robin Skeates, Durham University and Dr Shatha Abu-Khafajah, Hashemite University, Jordan

Delivery partners: Arts and Humanities Research Council, part of UK Research and Innovation and the Jordanian Department of Antiquities

 

Rewriting the prehistory of Jordan

This collaboration between the UK and Jordan is about inspiring a passion for Jordan’s world class prehistoric heritage so that a new generation of archaeologists will go on to develop their careers, their own students, and educate the wider public.

Project leads: Professor William Finlayson, Oxford Brookes University and Dr Sahar al-Khasawneh, Yarmouk University, Jordan

Delivery partners: Arts and Humanities Research Council, part of UK Research and Innovation and the Jordanian Department of Antiquities

 

Our past, our future, all together in Faynan

Cultural heritage is an underused resource for sustainable development but this project is seeking to be a model for how cultural heritage can be used to support sustainable development and benefits directly to the local community within an economically poor area in Jordan.

Project leads: Professor Steven Mithen, University of Reading and Dr Fatima Al-Nammari, University of Petra, Jordan

Delivery partners: Arts and Humanities Research Council, part of UK Research and Innovation and the Jordanian Department of Antiquities

 

Inkjet-printed respiratory rate wearable sensors for infants: Towards remote monitoring solutions for low-setting villages and refugee camps

According to the Jordanian Ministry of Health, respiratory diseases are responsible for over 38% of hospital admissions. This project has developed a user-friendly wearable sensor to monitor respiratory rate, which stands to benefit low-resource villages and refugee camps in the country. For COVID-19 the sensor can be also used as a remote monitoring device, as the virus attacks the lungs.

Project leads: Professor Dingchang Zheng, Coventry University and Professor Ala'aldeen Al-Halhouli, Middle East University, Jordan

Delivery partners: Royal Academy of Engineering and the Industrial Research and Development Fund  of the Higher Council for Science and Technology 

 

UK-Kenya

Pathogen point-of-care analysis

Childbirth complications are common in Kenya. Researchers developed a simple to use device to diagnose maternal infection caused by Group-B Streptococcus in 20 mins. They now plan to develop point-of-care Covid19 diagnostics.

Project leads: Professor Nicole Pamme, University of Hull and Dr Jesse Gitaka, Mount Kenya University, Kenya

Delivery partners: British Council and the National Research Fund, Kenya

 

Mega Gas Alternative Energy

By converting waste plastics into fuel through a clean process that creates no emissions, innovators in Kenya hope to replace traditional cooking fuels such as wood and charcoal, to protect people’s health and the environment.

Project lead: Mr Peter Njeri, Mega Gas Alternative Energy, Kenya

Delivery partners: Royal Academy of Engineering and the Kenya National Innovation Agency

 

Safi Organics: decentralized, customisable, and carbon-negative fertiliser production for rural communities using locally available resources and labour

Safi Organics has developed locally-run carbon-negative fertiliser production for rural communities that prevents soil degradation, protects food security, and increases income of smallholder farmers.

Project lead: Mr Samuel Rigu, Safi Organics Limited, Kenya

Delivery partners: Royal Academy of Engineering and the Kenya National Innovation Agency

 

Paradigm shift in Fecal Sludge Management in Kenya for environmental management and food security

A new safe and cost-effective way to convert human waste into fertiliser is driving a sanitation revolution Kenya, benefiting local schools and communities and leading to the country’s first sanitation research centre. 

Project leads: Professor Prasanta Dey, Aston University and Ms Joy Riungu, Meru University of Science and Technology, Kenya

Delivery partners: British Council and the National Research Fund, Kenya

 

UK-South Africa

Food insecurity in the Western Indian Ocean ― an impending humanitarian crisis driven by a warming ocean

Rapid warming of the Western Indian Ocean could see the collapse of marine ecosystems within 15 years. A landmark UK-SA project is unearthing vital new knowledge to prevent a looming crisis for people's lives and livelihoods.

Project lead: Professor Michael Roberts, National Oceanography Centre/Nelson Mandela University, South Africa

Delivery partners: British Council and the National Research Foundation, South Africa

 

The roles of plasma levels and genetics of haemostatic factors in cardiovascular disease development in Africans

Tackling non-communicable diseases (NCD) is a global priority. This research aims to help decrease NCD prevalence in South Africa with targeted intervention.

Project leads: Dr Fiona Green, formerly University of Manchester, Professor Bernard Keavney, University of Manchester and Professor Marlien Pieters, North-West University, South Africa

Delivery partner: Academy of Medical Sciences and the National Research Foundation, South Africa

 

An epidemic in retreat? Establishing the population impact of combination prevention strategies in a resource-poor, hyper-endemic rural African population

South Africa has the biggest HIV epidemic in the world. Using one of the world’s largest population-based HIV cohorts, a UK-SA team has informed public policy to reduce infections. Now they plan to use the data to tackle COVID-19.

Project leads: Professor Andrew Phillips, University College London and Professor Frank Tanser, Africa Health Research Institute, Nelson Mandela Medical School, South Africa/University of Lincoln

Delivery partners: Academy of Medical Sciences and the National Research Foundation, South Africa

 

Training and knowledge exchange in early Bantu language development assessment

A UK-SA team is tackling poverty & inequality in vulnerable communities with freely accessible tools and resources to improve children's early cognitive development for better educational and life outcomes.

Project leads: Dr Katherine Alcock, Lancaster University and Professor Heather Brookes, University of Cape Town, South Africa

Delivery partners: British Academy and the National Research Foundation, South Africa

 

Social Protection for Food Security in South Africa

Despite a comprehensive social protection system, many South Africans experience poverty & food insecurity. UK-SA research has identified key issues such as seasonal hunger among farm workers, that will help policymakers address inequalities.

Project lead: Professor Stephen Devereux, Institute of Development Studies/University of the Western Cape, South Africa

Delivery partners: British Council and the National Research Foundation, South Africa

 

UK-Turkey

Dissecting the role of centriolar satellites in spatiotemporal regulation of centriole duplication

With over 300 million patients affected worldwide, rare diseases represent a global health problem. This project contributed to revealing how two rare diseases work at the molecular level and aim to open up new avenues for diagnosis and therapeutics.

Project leads: Dr Fanni Gergely, University of Oxford and Dr Elif Nur Firat Karalar, Koc University, Turkey

Delivery partners: Royal Society and The Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey

 

A SPR sensor system using molecular imprinted polymer-nanoparticle composites for ultrasensitive detection of pharmaceutical emerging contaminants in fresh water sources

Water pollution affects about 1.2 bn people worldwide. This team behind this project developed a portable sensor that can be used for both monitoring and separation of pharmaceutical pollution in water sources. They now want to use the tech to find Covid-19 in water.

Project leads: Professor Humphrey H Yiu, Heriot-Watt University and Professor Memed Duman, Hacettepe University, Turkey

Delivery partner: Royal Society and The Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey

 

Lego construction system of “green” structural components for low-cost housing

The construction and demolition industry accounts for 30% of total urban waste and colossal Co2 emissions. This team has created ‘green concrete’ made from recycled construction waste with the potential to significantly reduce environmental damage and contribute to the Turkish economy.

Project leads: Professor Ashraf Ashour, University of Bradford and Professor Mustafa Sahmaran, Hacettepe University, Turkey

Delivery partners: British Council and The Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey

 

Collaborative research on epigenetic effects of BPA, BPS and BPF as potential endocrine disrupting environmental pollutants in zebrafish embryos

Plastic pollution in the Mediterranean affects Turkey and the rest of the world. This team set out to explore and shed light on the true impact of plastic chemicals on animals and humans.

Project leads: Professor Ferenc Mueller, University of Birmingham and Professor Ebru Emekli-Alturfan, Marmara University, Turkey

Delivery partners: British Council and The Scientific and the Technological Research Council of Turkey

 

Chair’s Prize

Upesy - A mobile emergency services platform

A new mobile app is helping people reach reliable and affordable emergency services, as well as family and friends, at the press of a button. The app, shortlisted for the #NewtonPrize, is already being used by more than 5000 people in Nairobi.

Project lead: Mr Eric Kithinji, Upesy World Limited, Kenya

Delivery partners: Royal Academy of Engineering and the Kenya National Innovation Agency

 

Urban transformation in South Africa through co-designing energy services provision pathways

Boosting productivity and employment in informal settlements with off-grid, safe and stable renewable energy is the aim of this UK-South Africa collaboration shortlisted for the Chair’s Prize.

Project leads: Dr Federico Caprotti, University of Exeter and Dr Jiska de Groot, University of Cape Town, South Africa

Delivery partners: Economic and Social Research Council, part of UK Research and Innovation and the National Research Foundation, South Africa

 

Design and fabrication of synthetic tissue and organ models for surgical training

A UK-Turkey project is improving outcomes for breast cancer patients by training surgeons in a technique that removes tumours while retaining healthy tissue.

Project leads: Dr Ozge Akbulut, Sabanci Universitesi, Turkey

Delivery partners: Royal Academy of Engineering and the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey

 

Bending press commercialisation for manufacturing sustainability

A new business incubator is helping micro-enterprises achieve an affordable, reliable and sustainable transport for increased social and economic mobility in South Africa. 

Project lead: Professor Khumbulani Mpofu, Tshwane University of Technology, South Africa

Delivery partners: Royal Academy of Engineering and the Technology Innovation Agency, South Africa

 

Development and commercialization of medical products, UniPron (a gel aimed at preventing both HIV/AIDS and pregnancy), Smugel and Smuscan

This project has commercialised two new affordable WHO-certified medical gels to improve women’s sexual, reproductive & maternal health – particularly helpful for women who’ve undergone FGM.

Project lead: Dr Peter Mwethera, Institute of Primate Research, Kenya

Delivery partners: Royal Academy of Engineering and the Kenya National Innovation Agency


Each year the Newton Prize enables international research partnerships supported by the Newton Fund to continue working together on solutions to some of the world’s key challenges.

Research and innovation is recognised an effective way to help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and improve the quality of life for people in developing countries as well as the UK.

One prize of up to £200,000 will be awarded to a project in each eligible prize country (Egypt, Jordan, Kenya, South Africa and Turkey) that demonstrates high quality research and impact.

An additional prize called the Chair’s Prize, worth up to £500,000, will be made to a project that can demonstrate impact in one of three specific United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals: Good Health & Wellbeing, Gender Equality, or Sustainable Cities & Communities.

The shortlisted projects have been peer reviewed and will be judged by a panel of independent experts. The Newton Prize Committee is chaired by Professor Alice Gast, President of Imperial College.

Committee Member, Professor Dame Jane Francis, Director, British Antarctic Survey said:
“The Newton Prize generates some amazingly innovative ideas from many nations in partnership with the UK.

“It's inspiring to read proposals that cover a wide range of important topics, ranging from how renewable energy will improve village life, how children's health can be improved, how coastal communities can be protected, how waste can be turned into power, and how we can learn from past human rights violations. Serving on this committee is an extremely rewarding experience.”

In November 2020 the shortlisted projects will be celebrated at a virtual awards event and the winning projects for each category will be announced.

To register your interest email: karen.manning@odamanagement.org

 

Notes to Editors:

1. The Newton Prize was launched in 2016, aligning with and strengthening the broader Newton Fund’s overall objectives. The concept for the Newton Prize was developed to demonstrate how UK partnerships with Newton Partner countries are addressing the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals. Each year it will be awarded for the best research and innovation that addresses global challenges and promotes the economic development and social welfare of Newton partner countries, DAC Listed Countries.

2. The Newton Fund builds outstanding research and innovation partnerships with select countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America to support economic development and social welfare, tackle global challenges and develop talent and careers. The fund is managed by the UK’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), and delivered by UK and international partners. UK investment is matched by investment and resources from partner countries. 

Find out more:

Read about the 2017, 2018 and 2019 Newton Prize winners

Read the latest blogs from Newton funded researchers

Follow #NewtonPrize on Twitter @NewtonFund 

 

Press contacts:

Mark Gardner

Senior Communications Manager

mark.gardner@odamanagement.org