Nancy Shukri (seventh from right) with the recipients of the research grants to 12 winning collaborative projects under the Newton-Ungku Omar Fund. To her right are Vicky Treadell, Asma Ismail and Zakri Abdul Hamid. Pix by SAIFULLIZAN TAMADI

MALAYSIA and the United Kingdom are set to step up collaborations in the areas of science, technology and innovation with the extension of the Newton-Ungku Omar Fund.

Started in 2014, the fund has thus far enabled local researchers to collaborate with research partners in the UK on projects that address specific issues on climate change and sustainability. Announced last week, the extension will see a 50 per cent increase in committed resources and funding from both countries from 2019 to 2021 to promote larger-scale research calls, innovation-focused activities and capacity building activities that support the development agendas of Malaysia.

“Malaysia is one of the most active of the 18 Newton Fund countries, with one of the highest averages in respect of the quality of their applications. Currently, 18 British and Malaysian funding organisations work together to offer funding opportunities for researchers. A total of 28 activities have been established and about

100 funding grants awarded since the fund’s inception in 2014,” said Professor Emeritus Tan Sri Zakri Abdul Hamid, Malaysia’s Science Advisor to the Prime Minister.

British High Commissioner to Malaysia Vicki Treadell said the Newton-Ungku Omar Fund demonstrates the commitment by both countries towards sustainable development, promoting cross-cutting technology and innovative solutions, and building capacity in science and research. “It is a key pillar of our bilateral partnership,” she added.

Both Zakri and Treadell were speaking at the Newton-Ungku Omar Fund Open Day which was graced by the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, who is also the Minister in charge of the Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology (MIGHT), Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri.

In her speech, she said: “Science and technology are the enablers or catalysts for many of our economic development. The Malaysian government is giving emphasis in science and technology to ensure the sustainable development of the country. International collaboration programmes and activities including the Newton-Ungku Omar Fund is a good model to spur strategic partnership in finding solutions of the global issues.”

Zakri Abdul Hamid

The Newton-Ungku Omar Fund has been progressing rapidly. A cohesive range of research and innovation activities have kicked off that include collaborations on health research involving the UK Medical Research Council and the Academy of Sciences Malaysia; continued work on capacity building by British Council and the UK Academies; and a large scale Research and Innovation Bridges programme on sustainable urbanisation, led by InnovateUK, Research Councils UK and MIGHT.

New programmes rolling out this year include collaborations to improve understanding of the impacts of hydrometeorological hazards led by MIGHT and Natural Environment Research Council UK; and programmes for delivering transferable skills in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM), focussing on transformative and high-quality collaborative projects to raise skill levels in Malaysia involving Science and Technology Facilities Council UK and MoHE.

The Newton-Ungku Omar Fund Open Day brought Malaysia’s science, technology and innovation community together to celebrate the success of the fund thus far. The event saw the launch of the Weather and Climate Science for Service Partnership (WCSSP) — a landmark collaboration between the UK Met Office and National Disaster Management Agency (NADMA) Malaysia, Malaysian Meteorological Department (MetMalaysia), National Hydraulic Research Institute of Malaysia (NAHRIM), and Department of Irrigation and Drainage (DID) Malaysia. This project aims to harness Malaysian and British scientific expertise to improve forecasts for severe weather in Malaysia and the region, to save lives and protect livelihoods.

At the event, President of Academy of Sciences of Malaysia (ASM), Professor Datuk Dr Asma Ismail also presented about £4.6 million (RM25.77 million) worth of research grants to twelve winning collaborative projects under the “Bilateral medical and health research in non-communicable diseases (NCDs)” programme. Funded by ASM and Medical Research Council UK, the two-year programme sees Malaysian and British medical researchers working together on research to tackle NCDs prevalent in Malaysia.

Academic researchers, small-medium enterprises, current fund recipients amongst others attended the Open Day

and participated in a series of talks, workshops and showcases by the fund’s Malaysian delivery partners and successful awardees.

Some of the activities included science communication skills training by British Council Malaysia and ASM, a talk on “How to write a good international collaboration proposal”, a talk and coaching session on intellectual property management by Malaysian Intellectual Property Office (MyIPO), UK Intellectual Property Office, and PlaTCOM Ventures Sdn Bhd, and briefing sessions for new funding opportunities.

The Open Day was co-organised by MIGHT and the British High Commission Kuala Lumpur.

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