Collaborative water research initiative by Newcastle University and its Malaysia campus receives royal recognition

Newcastle University Medicine Malaysia’s (NUMed’s) collaborative project with its parent campus, Newcastle University, UK, on water safety research has secured the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education.

Newcastle University’s vice-chancellor and president Prof Christopher Day, along with its Earth Systems Engineering chair and School of Engineering research director Prof Richard Dawson had the distinct honour of receiving the prestigious award from the Queen and the Duchess of Gloucester at Buckingham Palace recently.

A testament to the university’s commitment to excellence and innovation in the realm of water security, it marks the fourth time that the university has attained this esteemed accolade.

This interdisciplinary research programme has garnered acclaim for its holistic approach to addressing the multifaceted challenges posed by water scarcity, quality, and public health.

Newcastle University (UK) School of Engineering Global Health visiting professor and NUMed former research dean Dr Michaela Goodson is part of the team involved in this project, having joined the International Water Security and Sustainable Development Hub in 2017.

Dr Goodson expressed her excitement on how the university’s research has advanced through the years, and the opportunities that have arisen across Southeast Asia, Africa, India, South America, and beyond, as a result.

“I am immensely proud to be part of the team driving forward our pioneering water security research. Since joining in 2017, I have witnessed firsthand the remarkable strides we’ve been making in addressing the pressing challenges of water security on a global scale.

“Our commitment to fostering partnerships and facilitating knowledge transfer has not only strengthened our research, but has opened the doors to transformative opportunities across the regions,” she said.

Newcastle University's vice-chancellor and president Prof Christopher Day and Earth Systems Engineering chair and School of Engineering research director Prof Richard Dawson receiving the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education from the Queen and the Duchess of Gloucester at Buckingham Palace.Newcastle University’s vice-chancellor and president Prof Christopher Day and Earth Systems Engineering chair and School of Engineering research director Prof Richard Dawson receiving the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education from the Queen and the Duchess of Gloucester at Buckingham Palace.

Prof Day expressed profound pride in this latest achievement, stating, “Receiving this prestigious prize makes us all very proud.

“It is a remarkable achievement and testament to the excellence of our world-leading water researchers, our colleagues across the university, and our partners, who support this pioneering and globally significant work.

“We have recently launched the Newcastle University Centre for Water that now provides the perfect platform from which to build on this award through interdisciplinary research that spans the whole university,” he said.

The research programme, spearheaded by Newcastle University, had forged partnerships with communities, industries, governments, and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) worldwide, underscoring its commitment to delivering tangible, real-world impact.

Prof Dawson emphasised the significance of collaborative efforts in achieving water security.

“Water is humanity’s most valuable resource. It’s essential to food and energy security, health and wellbeing, economic prosperity, and all life on Earth. Yet, every year roughly half of the world’s population currently experience severe water scarcity for at least part of the year, hundreds of thousands of people lose their lives, property and food are destroyed, because of water-related disasters and waterborne disease. Water security is further threatened by pressures like pollution, over-use, ecological damage and climate change.” he said.

“Our work is solutions-focused, and this award recognises our effort to scale our science and engineering into deployable technologies, policies, and practices that have improved water security in the UK and countries around the world,” he said.

The prestigious Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education was awarded to Newcastle University for its commitment to excellence and innovation in the realm of water security.The prestigious Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education was awarded to Newcastle University for its commitment to excellence and innovation in the realm of water security.

Newcastle University’s innovative approach to water research extends beyond traditional boundaries, encompassing areas such as flood modelling, water resource management, and nature-based solutions implementation.

“Capacity Development was a strong component of the application for the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Water Security. Our researchers delivered a training workshop on Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to a range of water and climate-related ministries and authorities in Johor.

“The researchers from NUMed subsequently held a start-up project meeting with the University of Indonesia. Here we will be applying our methodologies to better understand and manage climate, water quality, and health. This will include training researchers there to use the ‘Lab in a Suitcase’, and to work with local experts to understand the relevant governance structures,” shared Prof Claire Walsh, of Newcastle University School of Engineering (water security).

The portable ‘lab in a suitcase’ is one of the hallmark achievements and technological developments of Newcastle University’s research programme. It enables on-site screening of potentially unsafe water for pathogens. This innovation exemplifies the university’s commitment to leveraging cutting-edge technology for the betterment of society.

Newcastle University’s water quality experts also lead pioneering research aimed at safeguarding public and environmental health. Their work encompasses tackling legacy industrial waste contamination, combating Combined Sewer Outfall (CSO) pollution, addressing persistent pollutants, and even detecting Covid-19 in wastewater. Moreover, the university is at the forefront of supporting the transition to net zero wastewater treatment through innovative technologies, paving the way for scalable implementation at full-scale.

The Queen’s Anniversary Prizes for Higher and Further Education, administered by the Royal Anniversary Trust, serve as a testament to the exceptional calibre of research and innovation taking place within UK colleges and universities.

Newcastle University’s receipt of the Queen’s Anniversary Prize marks a historic milestone in its illustrious research journey. As the university continues to push the boundaries of scientific inquiry and innovation, it remains steadfast in its commitment to advancing knowledge and driving positive change on a global scale.

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