Researchers at the University of East Anglia (UEA) have been awarded £1.36 million to help tackle health, nutrition, education and environment issues in developing countries.
Announced today, the project has been funded as part of the UK government’s Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) Innovation and Commercialisation Programme, developed to fast track promising research findings into real-world solutions. These include practical tools and commercial opportunities for products and services that can be used by local communities to help make their lives and environments healthier, safer and more sustainable.
UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) has awarded £14.8 million to 18 international partnerships between UK Higher Education Institutions and organisations from across low and middle income countries.
The UEA award will see the creation of four ongoing and interconnected projects in Global South communities, addressing child malnutrition, sustainable food systems, family literacy and microplastic pollution.
Building on existing partnerships in Brazil, Jordan, India, Nepal, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, Malawi and Ethiopia, the projects will work across disciplines and scales, and at levels ranging from communities to implementers, researchers, universities, media agencies, industry and policy-makers, with a view to long-term sustainability.
They will also draw on expertise from across UEA, including the Schools of Education and Lifelong Learning; Pharmacy; International Development; Chemistry; Art, Media and American Studies; and Literature, Drama and Creative Writing, as well as the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research.
Commenting on the award Prof Fiona Lettice, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Innovation at UEA, said: “A key strategic aim at UEA is to tackle issues of global importance and translate our pioneering research into societal impact. This project, working with 14 partners in the Global South, will make a significant difference in these areas.
“These four areas bring together interdisciplinary expertise from across UEA to develop innovative solutions to key global challenges. The overall project also builds on and strengthens existing relationships between researchers across academic partner institutions, industries, and NGOs.”
The project aims to target 14 of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by creating innovative infrastructures and policy solutions to support sustainable development, ultimately to benefit people living in these countries. It will also generate a valuable guide to evaluate the impact of GCRF projects.
A critical global issue, microplastics and plastic contamination levels will be mapped in marine waters across Malaysia, the aim being to inform and influence evidence-based policy changes that support more effective waste management, safer water and air, protection and management of food and marine resources, and environmental quality for future generations. It could also have a wider regional and global impact as this pilot is extended to other countries, such as Indonesia, Vietnam.
In the area of child malnutrition, regional low-cost supplements for children will be developed to effectively combat micronutrient deficiencies in Brazil, Jordan, Malaysia and Thailand. It will support local and sustainable production of supplements through technology development and commercialisation activities to address important nutritional gaps, leading to decreased death rates and increased wellbeing, as well as creating new businesses and jobs.
To address food and nutrition security alongside gender equality in the poorest regions of India, this project will aim to encourage systematic and sustainable upscaling of small-scale innovations on the ground. It will help to improve the well-being of rural and urban communities by upscaling a community interactive media platform to empower women, men, youth and children to express their views, knowledge and aspirations. It will co-produce knowledge and curricula with rural communities for adoption in schools, universities and the training of state development officials.
In Ethiopia, the Philippines, Malawi and Nepal work will take place to demonstrate how a community-based intergenerational approach to family literacy and learning can contribute to increase adult literacy and consequently improve well-being of rural populations, especially women and indigenous communities. It will also benefit national governments by developing a more relevant and sustainable model of family learning based on existing indigenous learning practices outside the school system, influencing family well-being and livelihoods.