Congratulations to our Newton Prize winners, Professor Siew Moi Phang, Institute of Ocean and Earth Sciences, University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) and Dr Adrian Fisher, Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology at the University of Cambridge (UK). ©

Katie Clark, Newton Fund

A ground-breaking UK-Malaysia British Council Institutional Links project that generates sustainable electricity from effluent waste processing has been awarded the Newton Prize worth £112,000. This Newton-funded project, spearheaded by lead researchers from the UK and Malaysia, paves the way for greater access to energy supply particularly for the rural population in Malaysia.

British High Commissioner to Malaysia, Her Excellency Vicki Treadell, and Malaysia’s Science Advisor to the Prime Minister, Prof. Emeritus Tan Sri Zakri Abdul Hamid today (Tuesday 28 November) presented the award to the winning project’s lead researcher, Professor Phang Siew Moi from University of Malaya who also accepted the award on behalf of the project’s UK co-lead researcher, Dr. Adrian Fisher from the University of Cambridge.

Their winning project, titled Integrating Algal Biophotovoltaics for Bioelectricity Production with Agro-industrial Wastewater Remediation using Tropical Algae (case study) is a project under the  Newton Fund in Malaysia (known as the Newton-Ungku Omar Fund), delivered by the British Council with co-funding provided by Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology (MiGHT). The project successfully developed an integrated microbial fuel cell prototype using tropical algae from wastewater. This new innovation represents a blueprint that aims to meet the demands for sustainable energy and cleaner wastewater in rural areas such as Sabah and Sarawak.

The Newton Prize recognises excellent Newton Fund research and innovation projects in support of economic development and social welfare in partnering countries, including Malaysia (branded as Newton-Ungku Omar Fund in the country). The winning project was chosen through an evaluation process of Newton-Ungku Omar Fund projects launched since 2014 to early 2017, with the Prize funding awarded to the winner for use in advancing their research.

At the award presentation, Her Excellency Vicki Treadell lauded the diversity of the Newton Prize finalists’ projects, which seeks to tackle a range of global challenges such as renewable energy, sustainable urbanisation, hazard and disaster monitoring, medical cybersecurity, as well as health and healthcare policy.

Her Excellency Vicki Treadel said: “It is wonderful that researchers are looking at everyday issues and finding solutions based on collaborative endeavour, expertise and experience. All the Newton Prize finalists’ projects are great examples of UK-Malaysia joint research in action, leading to practical solutions which can be used in Malaysia and even more widely around the world."

Academic researchers, small-medium enterprises, and current Fund recipients among others attended the event and heard from the top five Newton Prize finalists who presented about their projects and shared best practices. 

The Newton-Ungku Omar Fund was established as a partnership between the Malaysian and British government to promote science, technology and innovation collaborations between both countries. It plays a vital role in growing the capabilities and capacities of Malaysia’s scientific community, allowing local researchers the opportunity to collaborate with research partners in the UK on projects that address global challenges. More than 250 collaborations have been initiated, which involves over 55 institutions and 50 industrial partners, supporting more than 300 researchers, and with approximately 500 participating students and teachers.