Project to improve the lives of urban citizens and elderly people wins Newton Prize 2019 for China

08 January 2020 ChinaNewton Prize

Image of Newton Prize 2019 China winner speaking on stage at London prize event

The first Newton Prize 2019 winner was announced on Wednesday night in Beijing, China. The winning project addresses the global challenge of urban development as cities expand and populations grow old. The work led to improved transportation services, and better access and suitability of services for the elderly.

Countries around the world are struggling to meet the challenge of rapid urban expansion and ageing populations. In developing countries economic progress places even greater pressure on vital but under-resourced services such as healthcare and transportation. There is a need for smarter, more accessible services which improve people’s wellbeing and ability to contribute to society and the economy.

The UK-China partnership, led by Professor Sheng-fen Qin of Northumbria University and Professor Cuixia Ma from the Institute of Software Chinese Academy of Sciences, focused on how to apply big data and service design principles to urban development and improve quality of life. This work helped to improve transportation services, and led to better access and suitability of services for the elderly.

Professor Wang Hongan, Chinese Academy of Sciences Institute of Software Design © Newton Prize 2019

The project, which brought together over 40 early career researchers from the UK and China, has improved awareness of the needs of marginalised parts of society, and helped elderly and often poor and vulnerable people to remain active in the community. The outcomes of this work can be applied to other developing countries facing the same challenges.

Five projects were shortlisted for the China category of the Newton Prize. These included:

  • A new generation of solar panels to reduce fuel consumption and support our transition to a low carbon economy
  • A nature-based solution to tackle the problem of rising water levels due to climate change
  • Protecting cities against the challenges of climate change and extreme weather
  • Vaccines to combat avian disease and support food security

Another three projects from China were shortlisted for the £500,000 Chair’s Award under the Newton Prize, tackling challenges in crop monitoring and smart farming for food security, and cancer. The Chair’s Award winner will be announced on Wednesday 12 February 2020 in London.

Dr Kiki Liang, Head of Science, British Council China: "Through Newton Fund Researcher Links Workshops, over 3000 early career researchers from the UK and China have been able to engage and build links for future collaborations and enhance their career opportunities. Just like ‘a single spark could start a prairie fire’, as said in Chinese proverb, seeds have been planted for wider partnerships in science and research collaborations between the UK and China towards global good."

Professor Wang Hongan, Chinese Academy of Sciences Institute of Software Design: "With Newton Fund support, we have brought together an interdisciplinary research team, combining the UK’s strength in service design and China’s strength in big data analysis and natural interaction technology to provide intellectual and human support to resolve the issues of global sustainable urbanisation.

We hope to use our technology to provide personalised services to vulnerable groups in cities such as the elderly and disabled."

Delivery partners: British Council, UK and National Natural Science Foundation of China.

Read more about the shortlisted projects in the 2019 Newton Prize booklet.

View images from the Newton Prize 2019 London event.

Newton Prize 2019

The Newton Prize is an annual £1 million fund developed to showcase how UK science and innovation partnerships are helping to solve global development challenges. The Newton Prize also incentivises researchers and innovators to participate in the Newton Fund as partners with the UK to work on the most important challenges facing developing countries such as poverty, gender equality and affordable and clean energy.

This year over 150 Newton funded projects, fellowships or other awards applied for the Newton Prize. Three prizes of up to £200,000 each will be awarded to winning projects with the eligible countries: China, Indonesia and the Philippines. An additional Chair’s Award of up to £500,000 will be presented to one project from across the three countries that best demonstrates knowledge exchange and partnership working.

The funding allows researchers to take their Newton projects to the next level, for example by translating their project from the lab into the field, through expansion and/or improvements to their original project, by bringing in more capacity or gaining higher profile; all increasing the likelihood of success.

The UK-China Research and Innovation Partnership Fund

The Partnership Fund is a bilateral fund launched in 2014. The Fund is managed by the UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology. Funding is allocated through competitive process managed by both sides. The Fund is delivered by partners including:

  • UK side: UK Research and Innovation, the Royal Society, Academy of Medical Sciences, British Academy, Royal Academy of Engineering, the British Council and the Met Office
  • Chinese side: Ministry of Science and Technology, National Natural Science Foundation of China, Chinese Academy of Science, and China Meteorological Administration, Chinese Academy of Engineering, among others.


Further announcements

During January the shortlisted projects will be celebrated at award events taking place in China, Indonesia and the Philippines, where the winning project for that country will be announced. These events will be followed by a UK reception in February, co-hosted by Professor John Loughhead, Chief Scientific Adviser, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and Penny Sarchet, Head of news at New Scientist magazine, to celebrate international and science innovation collaborations.

The Newton Fund

The Newton Prize is part of the Newton Fund. The Newton Fund builds research and innovation partnerships with 17 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, with matched resources from the partner countries.

Newton Fund and GCRF are drawing to a close. The International Science Partnerships Fund (ISPF) is a new UK Government fund supporting research and innovation on the major themes of our time: Planet, Health, Tech, Talent. To stay on the Newton-GCRF website click Continue, if you would like to find out more about ISPF click Read more.