We celebrated the Newton Prize Philippines event in Manila recently. The Prize featured five brilliant Filipino scientists and their teams, who, working alongside their British counterparts, are making incredible innovative contributions to tackling challenges in health, food production, and waste water management. These five were chosen by an eminent panel of leading scientists for having demonstrated outstanding quality of research and innovation. Their partnerships exemplify exceptional British and Filipino science collaboration for a most noble cause: to create tangible impact and push forward the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Partnership sits at the heart of the Newton Fund. The British government, in cooperation with partner governments, launched the Newton Fund in 2014 as a means to build capacity and collaboration in science and innovation in emerging economies. Known as the Newton Agham Programme in the Philippines, five years on, we have seen this partnership in practice. Since 2014, together with our partners from the Philippine government, the Department of Science and Technology, Department of Agriculture, and the Commission on Higher Education, we have jointly supported large-scale research grants, workshops, PhD scholarships, and innovation fellowships. Through these programmes we have jointly supported about 130 British and Filipino institutions, and allowed hundreds of British and Filipino researchers to work together. Together, we have built mutual capacity, strengthened science partnerships, and most importantly fostered lasting friendships among the research and innovation communities of both our countries.
As we face urgent global challenges that are affecting us all, the importance of cooperation to understand the causes of these challenges and to find solutions has never been greater. The Newton Philippines Prize winner, Dr Michael Promentilla, of De LaSalle University, together with Dr Devendra Saroj of the University of Surrey, is developing cost-effective technologies to recover the nutrient phosphate from household wastewater. With further processing, these phosphates, an essential nutrient for growing crops, could be converted to fertilizer. This pioneering work promotes clean water and sanitation, and helps work towards the goal of zero hunger, and sustainable cities and communities, in the Philippines and around the world.
Other excellent research projects highlighted by the Newton Prize include a collaboration between the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the Philippine Research Institute on Tropical Medicine on the eradication of Malaria, by improving the monitoring of disease for high-risk, migrant and mobile populations. A Filipino PhD scholar at the University of Nottingham is looking into better ways to understand and treat asthma, which affects one in ten Filipinos. These are two concrete examples of work supported through the Newton Agham Programme that will enable people to have better, longer and more active lives. And all this while developing mutual science capacity and supporting growth and prosperity.
The Newton Agham Programme is an important part of the UK’s investment in long term international partnerships to help tackle global development challenges and produce excellent science. This February 2020, the UK government launched the Global Talent visa which would fast-track visas for researchers with strong scientific credentials. Supporting the world’s leading scientists sustains our proud history of scientific discovery. We will continue to invest in talent and in cutting-edge research, remaining a strong contributor and leader in innovation and science.
Our cooperation on science with the Philippines continues to deepen and broaden. The UK and the Philippines signed a Memorandum of Understanding for partnership in science, technology and innovation in July 2019. Our openness to work together and our aspirations for excellence form a strong basis for continued collaboration in science, innovation and across many areas of our ever growing relationship between our two countries. We are indeed Closer Than You Think.
Isaac Newton is credited to have said, “If I have seen further it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.” This is the very nature of science – a way forward through collaboration. We have many giants in our two countries, and we hope that together we can work towards the advancement of human knowledge, helping achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and building the future prosperity of our people.
British Ambassador to the Philippines