University of Nottingham professors shortlisted for prestigious Newton Prize

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

Professor Michèle 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 further develop work in these areas:

  • 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 working on the project 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.
    “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.

Commenting on the shortlisting, Professor Dame Jessica Comer, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Knowledge Exchange, said:

“To have the two of the University’s researchers shortlisted for the 2017 Newton Prize is hugely exciting and rewarding. Professors Michèle 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.”

The Newton Prize — which provides a total of £1m in funding annually — 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 £735 million up until 2021, and each partner country provides matched funding and resources for every programme, making it an equitable partnership.

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.

All of the Newton Prize winners for 2017 will be announced in November. The prize winners for India will be announced on Wednesday 1 November.

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