London, April 24 (IANS) In a major boost to science and technology research in developing countries, including India, the British government has launched a five-year, $630 million fund to support science and innovation partnerships with researchers that will focus on economic development.
The Newton Fund, first announced in December 2013, will consist of money transferred from the Department for International Development (DfID) to the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS).
It will go towards meeting Britain’s target of spending 0.7 percent of the GDP on international development – while being also counted as part of the country’s science budget.
“The fund’s primary focus is to develop partner countries’ long-term sustainable growth and welfare through building research and innovation capacity,” a spokeswoman for BIS was quoted as saying in a press release.
The countries under The Newton Fund are: Brazil, Chile, China, Colombia, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Mexico, Philippines, South Africa and ‘wider Africa’, Thailand, Turkey and Vietnam.
“For international development, this is a very positive move to an area that has been ignored,” scientist Xiaolan Fu from University of Oxford added.
The Newton Fund will support joint research projects, student and researcher fellowships, capacity-building projects such as training and infrastructure, and projects to translate basic research into innovation.
Grants will focus on each partner country’s priorities and development goals, such as energy security or climate-change adaptation.
“Science and innovation are central to economic development and growth in all countries. They underpin solutions to many of the development issues facing the world today – from poverty reduction to improved health and sustainable growth,” science minister David Willetts was quoted as saying.
The Newton Fund would use joint strengths in scientific research to promote development across the world and build long-term collaborations with countries that will produce leading innovations in the future, the BIS release added.
So far, Britain has signed agreements for matching funds with Brazil, Chile and China.