A new fund launched by the UK government aims to resolve the need for aid in 15 countries by fostering ties between researchers in developing countries and the UK; by aiming to boost their economic development. The £375 million Newton Fund, is led by the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) using money allocated from the UK aid budget over the next five years.
A BIS spokesperson has said “the fund aims to use the UK joint strengths in scientific research to promote development across the world and build long-term collaborations with countries that produce leading innovations in the future. Ultimately, we’re resolving the need for aid by creating jobs and unlocking potential”.
The fund is designed to increase research capacity through exchange programs and by establishing joint research centres; encourage research collaboration on development topics and help to translate research findings through innovation partnerships. Chile is the first country to be invited to submit proposals through the fund. Two competitions are now open: a grant for academic exchange to strengthen international research networks and a joint research grant for cutting-edge research and innovation processes. Brazil and China have signed agreements with the UK government to match any funds received through the initiative.
Applicants need to show how their project aims to alleviate poverty by addressing development priorities. The priorities are decided on a case-by-case basis by a core group of UK delivery partners who allocate funds, including the British Council, the UK research councils, the Technology Strategy Board and the Met Office. The Department for International Development also plays a role in top-level decision-making, with its chief scientific advisor sitting on the fund’s governance board. Fifteen countries across Africa, Asia and Latin America whose level of development was deemed sufficient to maximise the benefits from research and development capacity building are eligible to access the pot, including Brazil, Chile, China, Colombia, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Mexico, the Philippines, South Africa, Thailand, Turkey and Vietnam.
Vivienne Stern, Director of UK Higher Education International Unit, which represents the sector internationally has said, “Higher education is a huge economic driver and so it is fantastic that developing countries might receive support in this sector. Focusing on middle-income countries that already have functioning science systems in place may see huge rewards for both countries involved in any partnership. This is because the 15 nations have the means to participate as equal partners, and have specialist knowledge acquired through dealing with their own specific development challenges”.
In addition, the Medical Research Center (MRC) is running a number of calls and initiatives over the next 5 years supporting official development assistance. The calls/initiatives are with a range of Newton Fund partner countries and include research collaborations and capacity building activities.
Dr Mark Palmer, Director of International Strategy at the MRC, says: “The Newton Fund is an exciting new UK government initiative to promote and advance scientific research in developing countries. The MRC is committed to improving global health, and this might only be achieved through coordinated international collaboration and capacity building initiatives. We look forward to working closely with other delivery partners to maximise the impact of the Newton Fund on the numerous health challenges of developing countries”.
The MRC is one of several UK delivery partners for the Newton Fund and works strategically with the funds partner countries to develop a series of research activities to address challenges defined by the ambitions of the Fund. Commitment to the partnership is also demonstrated by matched resource from partner countries, bringing substantial added value. Additional leverage may be achieved through private foundations, multi-lateral organisations or corporate partners.
What additional aspects might be added to the Newton Fund to help economy conditions?