Big 'Newton Fund' to boost research in emerging world

Universities in at least 16 countries around the world, including the United Kingdom, are to benefit from a GBP375 million (US$630 million), five-year Newton Fund aimed at boosting research and innovation in 'emerging powers' through international research collaboration.

The fund, announced by UK Chancellor George Osborne in Brazil last Wednesday, is an official development assistance initiative to be run by the UK Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, or BIS.

The countries under The Newton Fund are: Brazil, Chile, China, Colombia, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Mexico, Philippines, South Africa and 'wider Africa', Thailand, Turkey and Vietnam.

In China the initiative will operate through the Newton UK-China Research and Innovation Partnership, in Colombia through the Newton-Caldas Fund, in India through the Newton-Bhabha Fund, and in Kazakhstan through the Newton-Al Farabi Partnership Programme.

The Newton Fund, the government said, was designed to "improve the research and innovation capacity of emerging powers and build valuable partnerships for the UK".

It will grant GBP75 million each year from 2014 for five years, is an allocation in addition to the BIS science and research budget, and hopes to attract extra funding from partner countries, foundations, multilateral organisations and the private sector.

There will be three broad categories of activity, according to the fund:
  • • People: improving science and innovation expertise, student and researcher fellowships, mobility schemes and joint centres.
  • • Programmes: research collaborations on development topics.
  • • Translation: innovation partnerships and challenge funds to develop innovative solutions on development topics.
The news was welcomed by Professor Rebecca Hughes, British Council director of international higher education, who said: "The Newton Fund marks a shift towards large-scale, sustainable and mutually beneficial research relationships between the UK and international partners.

"Many of the countries involved are where the British Council's in-depth knowledge on the ground and trusted reputation can provide the platform for new world-class collaborations grounded in excellence and in intercultural understanding."

Vivienne Stern, director of the International Unit - which is part of Universities UK and supports the international activities of all British universities - said higher education would play a central role in the success of programmes under the initiative.

"This new funding should promote the long-term economic development and welfare of people in these rapidly developing countries and also unlock new opportunities for UK higher education institutions to contribute to global growth and prosperity through partnership."

Details of how to bid for funding will be announced in the next few months, with projects starting within the coming year.