Newton Prize 2017 winners Dr Vo Nguyen-Son (left), Duy Tan University, and Dr Trung Duong (right), Queen’s University Belfast. ©

Katie Clark, Newton Fund

A British Council Institutional Links project that has developed a communications system that can work even when extreme weather and natural disasters strike has been awarded the inaugural Newton Prize, worth £200,000, at an event in Hanoi, Vietnam today (16 November).

Dr Trung Duong, from Queen’s University Belfast, led the winning project, Building a Foundation for Sustainable Development: Networked Societies for the Cities of Tomorrow (read the case study), with his counterpart in Vietnam, Dr Vo Nguyen-Son from Duy Tan University. The researchers were awarded the Newton Prize by the British Ambassador to Vietnam, Giles Lever, at an event where more than 120 including researchers, representatives from industry, and Government, attended to celebrate three years of the Newton Fund Viet Nam and its growing success in research and innovation collaboration between the UK and Vietnam.

The Newton Prize winning project team designed an integrated heterogeneous wireless system (IHWS), which is robust in maintaining communications during disasters such as floods, landslides and droughts. It copes with issues such as physical destruction of telecommunication networks, lack of power supply and network congestion. The system also provides early warning of natural disasters by detecting water level, vibration and wind. In cities, the IWHS can detect increases in dust, temperature, noise and carbon dioxide levels. Academic staff and students from 20 universities throughout Vietnam have been trained in the system and several leading telecommunication companies are interested in bringing it into production.

Dr Trung Duong said: “I am so pleased to have won the 2017 Newton Prize. Natural disasters are a big problem not just in Vietnam but throughout the whole world and the impact is worse for those in remote and isolated areas with no access to the ICT facilities that are essential to providing vital warning information and aiding in rescue missions. 

This prize money will allow myself and my team to develop the system further and to work with the key telecommunications companies in Vietnam. By doing so we can provide citizens with better warning, measurement tools and education initiatives."

The Newton Fund Viet Nam is the first formal research and innovation partnership programme between the UK and Vietnamese Governments. Both countries have agreed the five priority areas of mutual interest as health and life sciences; agriculture; environmental resilience and energy security; future cities; and digital innovation and creativity. Over the last three and a half years, the fund has disbursed nearly £5 million and rolled out 35 calls over 15 schemes. This has resulted in 162 grants that benefit nearly 400 individuals, mostly researchers from 60 Vietnamese and 43 UK research organisations.

British Ambassador to Vietnam, Giles Lever, said: “International cooperation with a variety of ideas and perspectives plays a very important role in research and innovation. As a dynamic emerging economy with a strong vision of the importance of science and innovation in human development, Vietnam is a natural partner for the global Newton Fund. By working together and exploiting each other's strengths, we can achieve more than what we do alone. I look forward to new opportunities ahead and a bright future for the Newton Fund Vietnam."

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. 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. 

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