Inaugural PluS Alliance Prize winners announced
The PLuS Alliance has announced the winners of the inaugural PLuS Alliance Prize, which recognises innovation in both research and education.
Launched in February 2016 as a collaboration between Arizona State University, King’s College London and UNSW Sydney, the PLuS Alliance enables research-led solutions to global challenges while expanding access to world-class learning. The PLuS Alliance Prize awards US$50,000 annually to highlight innovation in research and innovation in education that addresses a globally significant issue; makes a direct and positive impact; and helps or has the potential to help communities globally.
For the inaugural prize, students, staff and alumni from the collaborating universities were eligible to nominate a candidate in each of the categories of Research Innovation and Education Innovation. Judging the shortlisted candidates were six industry leaders, including former LinkedIn VP Ellen Levy (now managing director of Silicon Valley Connect); NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer Mary O’Kane; Timothy Irish, the former VP of GE Medical Europe; and the three presidents of the PLuS Alliance universities.
UNSW’s Professor Veena Sahajwalla was awarded the PLuS Alliance Prize for Research Innovation for her project ‘The new science of green manufacturing’. She is reimagining the global supply chain by demonstrating the viability of ‘mining’ overburdened landfills for resources — such as noxious electronic and automotive waste — to produce cost-effective ‘green’ metals and alloys.
“The work we’ve been doing to help global industries use green materials over virgin raw materials is vital to sustainability,” Professor Sahajwalla said. “This recognition from by the PLuS Alliance for the work we’ve been doing to drive change and impact communities across the world is a real honour.”
The PLuS Alliance Prize for Education Innovation, meanwhile, went to Dr Laura Hosman for The Solar Powered Educational Learning Library (SolarSPELL) — a digital library for Pacific Island teachers, healthcare workers and students who have no access to the internet. The compact, ruggedised, all-in-one, self-powered library works off a Raspberry Pi in a box powered by a plastic solar panel, which offers up a Wi-Fi hotspot that any Wi-Fi enabled device can connect to.
“It’s a great privilege to be selected as the education innovation winner for the PLuS Alliance Prize this year,” said Dr Hosman. “SolarSPELL is making a difference in the lives of thousands of people living in remote areas around the world by removing barriers to learning. This distinguished award will help our team continue this important work.”
In addition to the main prizes, two extra awardees were announced. The PLuS Alliance Prize for Global Leadership went to Narayana Murthy, an Indian IT industrialist and co-founder of Infosys. The judges found that Murthy’s values and clear vision of leadership have not only resulted in extraordinary growth for his companies but have also been integral in bringing a powerful IT wave to India.
“To be recognised as a global leader by three great universities today, collaborating under the PLuS Alliance, is an honour,” said Murthy. “Leadership plays such a vital role in fostering innovation so it’s humbling to be recognised among so many innovators who are bringing about positive change in the world.”
Finally, the PLuS Alliance Prize for Global Innovation was awarded to CRISPR researcher Professor Francisco Mojica. As the scientist who first investigated the natural CRISPR-Cas9 systems, Professor Mojica’s discoveries underpin the widely acclaimed gene editing technologies which most recently have been linked to accelerating a cure for Huntington’s disease and ALS.
“In a way, I fell in love with CRISPRs in the ’90s as a PhD student, when they were just a curiosity in the genome of a weird microorganism,” Professor Mojica said. “Since then I have continued to pursue my passion, which has led to great discoveries and wonderful collaborations ... To be recognised by the PLuS Alliance today means credit for that from my community.”
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