Two prominent South African academics in Professor Michael Roberts from the Nelson Mandela University and Dr Jiska de Groot from the University of Cape Town have been awarded the 2020 Newton “Country” and “Chairs” prize respectively, following a rigorous and competitive process.
The duo projects focus areas holds relevance for South African: marine and ocean economy features prominently in government’s economic priorities. Similarly, the country is in search of alternative energy sources and the renewables are highly recommended to replace coal.
Professor Roberts was awarded the Country prize for research and innovation in Ocean Science, and holds the Bilateral Research Chair in Ocean Science and Marine Food Security funded by the National Research Foundation (NRF) and the Newton Fund.
His research in marine ecosystems is focused on developing new ways of protecting marine food sources and supporting coastal communities. It is widely expected that the award will add value to the research and student programmes that Professor Roberts is leading.
Dr Jiska de Groot together with Dr Federico Caprotti from the University of Exeter was awarded the prestigious Chair Prize worth a whopping £500,000. The project that won her prize is entitled: “UMBANE: Powering innovative sustainable businesses with productive use of appliances in South African informal settlements at the margins of the grid“.
It addresses the key issue of how to use renewable energy technologies such as solar micro-grids to power sustainable businesses in off-grid parts of South Africa. Dr de Groot is a researcher at the Energy Research Centre, and also a Senior Fellow at the African Climate and Development Institute (ACDI).
The Newton Prize recognises excellent research and innovation which the Newton Fund and its partner countries has invested in since its launch in 2014. It also promotes the economic development and social welfare of Newton Fund partner countries. The prize is awarded to projects which demonstrate proven and tangible impact. Other recipients of Newton Fund Prizes are from Egypt, Jordan, Kenya, and Turkey.
The Newton Fund builds research and innovation partnerships with 17 partner countries with the mission to support economic development and social welfare. It also develops research and innovation capacity for long-term sustainable and equitable growth.
Locally the Fund aims to foster world-class collaborations between academics and innovators in the UK and South Africa as well as to address critical development challenges. The NRF, in partnership with the Department of Science and Innovation, is the main contributing partner for the Newton Fund projects in South Africa.