A crowd of people in a market in India

October 20, 2017, by Rob Ounsworth

University of Nottingham professors shortlisted for prestigious Newton Prize

Two University of Nottingham professors have been shortlisted for the 2017 Newton Prize, an annual £1 million fund awarded for the best research or innovation that supports the economic development and social welfare of developing countries.

Professor Michele Clarke and Professor Malcolm Bennett are in with the chance of winning up to £200,000 from the prize to be used to advance or develop their work in India.

Professor Clarke’s SMArt CitIES Network for Sustainable Urban Futures project uses an 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. Using the concept of city-level urban observatories is helping several municipal authorities to reframe their approach to Smart City information gathering to inform better decision making.

Professor Michele Clarke

Professor Michele Clarke

“Urban observatories offer real-time information on the dynamics of urban life, enabling citizens of the smartest cities, including the poor, to inform inclusive city-level decision-making,” said Professor Clarke.

Professor Bennett’s project looks at the way root systems in rice acquire water and nutrients to improve the plant’s ability to thrive in poor soils in India. His research has discovered the key genes that control the rice root traits that improve the plant’s ability to forage for phosphate in low nutrient soils.

This is providing innovative new tools to advance the performance of rice varieties and minimise the use of phosphate fertilisers for rice production. The development of new rice varieties able to grow efficiently in low nutrient soils promises to have major economic impact by supporting the sustainable intensification of agriculture and reducing environmental pollution.

Professor Malcolm Bennett

Professor Malcolm Bennett

The Newton Prize is part of the broader 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 £735m up until 2021, and each partner country provides matched funding and resources for every programme, making it an equitable partnership.

Professor Dame Jessica Corner, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Knowledge Exchange at the University of Nottingham, said: “To have the two of the University’s researchers shortlisted for the 2017 Newton Prize is hugely exciting.

“Professors Michele Clarke and Malcolm Bennett are not only world leaders in their respective fields; their collaborations  with our partners in India show how the University of Nottingham’s international partnerships increase the impact of our research and influence the development of societies facing key challenges – in this case building resilient cities and sustainably feeding growing populations.”

More than 150 Newton funded projects, fellowships or other awards 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.

The Newton Prize winners will be announced at celebratory award ceremonies held in each of the partner countries:
· India – 1 November· Thailand – 8 November· Malaysia – 14 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 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.


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