EPSRC project crowned winner of Newton Prize in India

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Photo of Professor Upadhyaya receiving the prize at an awards ceremony in New Delhi

Professor Upadhyaya receiving the prize at an awards ceremony in New Delhi

An EPSRC Newton-funded project that has advanced technology to create cleaner, more sustainable and affordable energy to improve the quality of life in villages in India has been awarded the Newton Prize worth £200,000 at an event in New Delhi today.

The Newton-Bhabha APEX-II programme is a flagship project in solar energy between India and the UK, building on the achievements of an earlier programme that focuses on addressing the challenges of perovskite solar cells (PSC), which utilise perovskites, a class of easily-synthesisable and cost effective materials. This has proved successful in terms of efficiency and costs but has shown materials and device instability from ambient humidity and oxygen in the air.

The project has advanced the technology and led to patents. Cheaper and low upfront cost processing has attracted interest in India and abroad may wish to adopt PSC technology for manufacturing once it gains stability against ambient factors.

In addition, the project has built up strong partnerships between academic groups from the two countries, marked by several offshoot projects, high-quality, high-impact joint publications, patents and more than 50 exchange visits of early career researchers.

Professor Hari Upadhyaya, from Brunel University, led the project with his counterpart in India, Professor Viresh Dutta of the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi.

Professor Upadhyaya said: The project has advanced the technology and led to patents. Cheaper and low upfront cost processing has attracted interest from manufacturing companies in India and abroad, which may wish to adopt PSC technology for manufacturing once it gains stability against ambient factors.

I am extremely happy to receive this news, which truly signifies and recognises the team efforts jointly pursued by the UK and India. I am proud of all my team members.

The enthusiasm gained by the awarding of the Newton Prize will build a new drive amongst the team members to achieve the big unfinished technological challenges ahead of us on excitonic solar cells in general, and Perovskite Solar Cells in particular.

The Newton Prize is an annual £1 million fund awarded for the best research or innovation that promotes the economic development and social welfare of developing countries. Minister for Universities, Science and Research Jo Johnson and Sir Venki Ramakrishnan, Chair of the Newton Prize Committee and President of the Royal Society, present the winner with their award today at the National Science Centre in New Delhi, where all shortlisted projects for the Prize for India showcased their work.

A Medical Research Council-funded Newton project that has tested the introduction of a new vital sign device into routine maternity care in hospitals in India and Africa was also awarded the Newton Prize worth £200,000 at the event.

Jo Johnson said: The Newton Prize demonstrates how the UK is working with partners to address important international issues. This complements the work we are undertaking as part of our upcoming Industrial Strategy to support our world-class research and innovation sector, helping them work collaboratively to address the great challenges of our time.

More than 150 Newton funded projects, fellowships or other awards applied for the Newton Prize from the eligible countries for this year - India, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam. There are 25 shortlisted applications in total and five Prizes of up to £200,000 will be awarded to each winner to be used to advance or develop existing Newton funded work.

EPSRC is one of 15 UK delivery partners for the Newton Fund, which builds research and innovation partnerships with 18 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.

The Newton Prize aims to incentivise researchers to participate in the Newton Fund as partners with the UK, and to work on the most important challenges facing Newton countries. The concept for the Newton Prize has been developed to demonstrate how UK partnerships with Newton countries are solving global challenges.

Further information is available on the Newton Fund website. Follow their Twitter feed for regular updates about the Newton Prize.

Reference: PN 68-17