Research beyond borders

16 February 2010

One hundred of the world’s rising research stars gather at the Royal Society in London to celebrate the Newton International Fellowship Scheme.

The development of Terahertz imaging used in body scanners at airports and extreme objects in the outer solar system are just two of the cutting-edge research projects that have been made possible by the Newton International Fellowship Scheme, a £13 million initiative to bring world class international post-doctoral researchers to the UK.  The scheme’s 100 Fellows will gather for the first time in London today (Tuesday 16 February).

The scheme was established in 2008 by the British Academy, the Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering to build ultimately a network of post-doctoral research leaders with life-long links to UK research and educational institutions. It has so far awarded 100 Fellowships worth up to £100,000 each to highly talented and promising young academics in natural sciences, social sciences, engineering and the humanities from countries such as Brazil, China and the USA. Today these Newton Fellows, along with their British sponsors, will meet as a group for the first time to present and discuss the potential applications of their research projects. 

Professor Dame Jean Thomas DBE FRS, Biological Secretary and Vice-President of the Royal Society, said:

“In just two years the Newton International Fellowship Scheme has helped a wide range of UK universities and research institutions to develop their international standing and to establish meaningful global partnerships. It has succeeded in attracting some of the world’s brightest early-career researchers to work in UK labs and in creating links that will benefit our research institutions - and ultimately our economy - for decades to come.

“The UK currently punches well above its weight in scientific research; we have just 1% of the world’s population but produce 12% of citations in scientific research publications. The 2009 Nobel Prizes for chemistry, physics and medicine all included scientists who were educated in or who had worked in Britain. However, in an increasingly crowded global market we must constantly explore ways to retain our competitive edge. Newton Fellows are leading the way for British ‘science without borders’.”

Amongst those speaking at the event will be Lord Rees, President of the Royal Society, Professor David Clary FRS, Chief Scientific Adviser to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Philip Greenish, Chief Executive of The Royal Academy of Engineering and Professor Duncan Gallie, Foreign Secretary of the British Academy.

Professor Michael Bate FRS, Emeritus Professor of Developmental Neurobiology at the University of Cambridge, is a UK sponsor for Newton Fellow Dr Stefan Pulver from the USA.  Professor Bate said:

“Sponsoring a Newton Fellow has been a good experience both for me personally and for the University. We have been able to draw on the expertise and connections of an extremely gifted academic at a key moment in his career. Without this scheme such a collaboration would simply not have been possible. The funding has enabled us to take forward important research into the neural basis of animal behaviour which will help the University of Cambridge – and the UK science community more widely – to consolidate its reputation as a world-leading authority in this area.”

After a completing a PhD in Germany, engineer Dr Oleksiy Sydoruk holds a Newton Fellowship at Imperial College London. He will tell the meeting about his project to develop new, more economic sources of Terahertz radiation, with frequencies between those of a light bulb and a mobile phone. Terahertz radiation can penetrate clothes and plastics, so it can be used to detect concealed weapons or explosives.

Dr Sydoruk said:

“The UK has a phenomenal record of outstanding engineers and scientists and a long tradition of excellence in research. Being associated with Newton – one of the greatest scientists who ever lived – is for me a challenge, an opportunity, but also an honour.”

Professor David Clary, Chief Scientific Adviser to the FCO, congratulated the Newton International Fellows. He said:

"These Fellowships are bringing the best early-career postdoctoral researchers to universities in the UK from all around the world. Over the last two years 100 of these Fellowships have been awarded to researchers from 33 different countries. The Fellowships support two years of research in any academic subject and have the distinctive feature that financial support is continued for six years after the end of the Fellowship. It is very competitive - in each of the last two years there have been over 14 applications per place.”

Fifty Newton Fellowships for 2011 will be announced later this year. For further information visit