Newton Prize winners to use Mathematics to restore power to the people

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Long electricity blackouts have a big impact on a country's economic activities, social stability and security. Latin America's energy infrastructure currently lacks the resilience to deal with the increasing frequency of climate-related extreme weather events and natural disasters that cause power supplies to fail.

Scientists working in the UK and Chile on a project called strengthening energy infrastructure to withstand extreme weather and natural disasters have won funding through the Newton Prize for Chile.

They are using new mathematical models to strengthen power systems in Chile and other countries vulnerable to environmental hazards.

The models will help energy providers prevent or reduce wide scale electricity outages when power systems are exposed to high-impact, low-probability events. They inform planning practices to help shape a robust, cost-effective and low-carbon Chilean transmission network.

Pierluigi Mancarella, UK Principle Investigator on the project, said: The Newton Prize will enable further improvement of our advanced resilience assessment and planning tools and, importantly, facilitate their application to more developing countries which face varying threats related to extreme weather and natural hazards.

The application of this research will benefit power system planners, regulators and policy makers, contributing to the development of a more resilient, affordable and clean energy supply. Already, the Chilean independent system operator has included resilience as an explicit factor in its system planning for the first time and has proposed resilient network investments worth 50 million US dollars.

Jane Nicholson, Associate Director at the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, said: This project is a great example of how engineering and physical sciences can help address real challenges. It will use mathematics to plan and design electricity grids that are more resilient to extreme weather events and the harsh environment of Chile. This joint UK-Chile research will help reduce the disruption power cuts cause and the knowledge gained will benefit other countries in the region too. The Newton Fund is making connections that bring people closer together worldwide.

National and international networks developed through the project have built the capacity of researchers in the wider region, and the potential impact of this project could benefit countries affected by extreme weather and natural hazards worldwide.

Project delivery partners: Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (UK) and the National Commission for Scientific and Technological Research (CONICYT).

2018 Newton Prize

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, climate change and public health.

This year 140 Newton funded projects, fellowships or other awards applied for the Newton Prize. Four prizes of up to £200,000 each will be awarded to winning projects with the eligible Latin American countries: Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Mexico.

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.

Sam Gyimah, the minister of state for science, research and innovation (PDF): The annual £1m Newton Prize builds upon, celebrates and further encourages research partnerships. It's great to see this year's applications representing the breadth of the Newton Fund's work from public and private sector organisations based around the world.

The uniqueness of the Newton Fund is the partnership working between the UK and partner country at all levels from government to government, delivery partner to delivery partner through to project lead to project lead. From energy and healthcare, to agriculture and digital, the Newton Fund demonstrates how bringing researchers together has enormous potential to change lives for the better across the world.

The Newton Prize was judged by a distinguished and independent Newton Prize committee with expertise in the development sector, the Latin American region as well as science and innovation. It was chaired by Sir Venki Ramakrishnan, President of the Royal Society and Nobel Laureate. The committee reviewed the short-listed applications, along with feedback from over 400 expert peer reviewers, and chose the winners.

Notes for Editors:

Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is part of UK Research and Innovation, a non-departmental public body funded by a grant-in-aid from the UK government. EPSRC is the main funding body for engineering and physical sciences research in the UK. By investing in research and postgraduate training, we are building the knowledge and skills base needed to address the scientific and technological challenges facing the nation. Our portfolio covers a vast range of fields from healthcare technologies to structural engineering, manufacturing to mathematics, advanced materials to chemistry. The research we fund has impact across all sectors. It provides a platform for future UK prosperity by contributing to a healthy, connected, resilient, productive nation.

Reference: PN 73-18

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