The Vice-Chancellor’s Innovation Awards seek to recognise and celebrate exceptional research-led innovations and products at all University levels that are having societal or economic impact.
The initiative attracted a total of 78 entries, from which four winners were chosen and a further 13 projects highly commended across four categories: team work, building capacity, inspiring leadership and early career success, before an overall winner was selected from the shortlist.
The overall winner was the Smart Handpumps initiative – an innovative technological response to water shortages and handpump service maintenance issues in Africa.
Led by Professor Robert Hope, Associate Professor at the School of Geography and the Environment, a multi-disciplinary team of academics created and installed an electronic device in the handpump’s handle, which automatically alerts maintenance providers when remote sites are damaged or broken.
On 8th March, Dr Robinah Kulabako, Makerere University and UPGro T-GroUP project, was awarded a Golden Jubilee Media during International Women’s Day by President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda. The award recognises her contribution to research and teaching in environmental engineering and natural sciences and that she is an internationally recognised expert she is an inspiration to girls and young women looking to have a career in science.
Roads for Water is integrating road construction and small water infrastructure to harvest rainwater from small catchments for productive use, while reducing road damage and simplifying road maintenance. Improving road drainage design is reducing soil erosion and increasing groundwater recharge. Furthermore, using roads for resource capture can prevent dangerous and inconvenient flooding, and in some cases pave the way for sand harvest and dune management, tree planting and protection of other natural resources.
Starting as an UPGro Catalyst Project, Roads for Water is now scaling up across Ethiopia, Kenya, Bangladesh, Malawi, Uganda and elsewhere with support from the Global Resilience Partnership (USAID, Rockefeller Foundation, SIDA and the Zurich Foundation) and the World Bank. The Roads for Water Learning Alliance was established to bring researchers, implementers, policy makers, trainers, donors and other stakeholders together to share knowledge and to support roadwork for natural resource management and climate resilience. The initiative recently received the second-place prize in the Zilient 2017 Resilience Awards.
MetaMeta and Mekelle University encourage those interested to become part of the learning alliance to contact MetaMeta at firstname.lastname@example.org
On 25th October, the prestigious keynote Ineson Lecture 2017 at the Geological Society in London was given by Dr Callist Tindimugaya, head of Water Resource Planning and Regulation in Uganda’s Ministry of Water & Environment, and one of four UPGro Ambassadors. In his speech he highlighted the importance understanding and managing groundwater well, not for its own sake but because it is a natural resource that underpins most, if not all, African societies and economies.
However, he expressed his frustration that the economic contribution of this resource has not yet been properly quantified so that its invisible contribution is made plain to all, from ordinary citizens to political leaders. Nevertheless, he was encouraged by the many initiatives across the continent to address the knowledge gaps and to improve the visibility and use of groundwater – in particular the importance of the UPGro programme and GRIPP. He concluded: “You cannot milk a cow, if you do not feed it”, likewise if the potential benefits of Africa’s aquifers are to be realised, then investment is needed in research, monitoring, regulation and – most of all – in education and training.
The day-long event was well attended and as well as a lively debate and a presentation by Guy Howard, DFID WASH policy team leader, there were numerous inputs from across UPGro, including: presentations by Prof. Richard Taylor about GroFutures and the Chronicles Consortium; from Brighid Ó Dochartaigh about the Africa Groundwater Altas; from Prof. Alan MacDonald about the Hidden Crisis project; and an array of posters from UPGro Catalyst and Consortia research, including a poster on the AMGRAF project by David Walker (Newcastle University) supported by UPGro and REACH, which had won the award for best Early Career Researcher poster at the recent 44th IAH Congress in Dubrovnik.
A huge thank you to Brighid Ó Dochartaigh and all the organisers at IAHBGS, and Geol. Soc.
Kerstin has been a driving force behind the Rural Water Supply Network, and in particular the promotion of drilling professionalisation and documentation of manual drilling practices. In addition to working on UPGro, she is currently leading an RWSN collaboration between UNICEF and Skat Foundation on professionalising water well drilling in Africa, which includes capacity development activities in Angola, Burkina Faso and Zambia.
During the first day of the 43rd IAH Congress in Montpellier, France the 2016 Awards of the International Association of Hydrogeologists were announced:
“At the Annual General Meeting in the evening, the new Applied Hydrogeology Award was presented to Dr Richard Carter (pictured) in recognition of his life time research in applied hydrogeology in Africa and elsewhere, his support for NGOs working in groundwater and his enthusiastic guidance and of students for many years at Cranfield University in the UK.
Finally, the 2016 President’s Award was given to John Chilton the current Executive Manager of IAH.” – source: https://iah.org/news/43rd-iah-congress-montpellier
We are delighted that Professor Carter, a member of the UPGro Knowledge Broker team and Hidden Crisis project, received the first ever “Applied Hydrogeology Award” from the International Association of Hydrogeologists:
‘for “a groundwater professional who has made an outstanding contribution to the application of hydrogeology, preferably in developing countries or in support of international development”. Seven nominations were received and we are grateful to the panel of Johannes Barth, Jane Dottridge and Callist Tindimugaya for their careful considerations.
The award to Richard Carter recognises that he has practiced, taught and championed applied hydrogeology in developing countries throughout his career and continues to do so with energy, passion and wisdom. He communicates sound hydrogeological science and knowledge to governments, NGOs, donors and communities, and inspires young hydrogeologists to develop practical solutions to groundwater and water supply problems.
Three specific areas that fit him for this award stand out. Firstly, his work on applied hydrogeological science in Africa, including the use of shallow groundwater for small scale irrigation and the development and testing of low cost drilling methods. Secondly, his lifelong support for NGOs, ensuring that good hydrogeological science and practice is made known and available to practioners and policy makers. Thirdly, at Cranfield Richard has been instrumental for more than 20 years in teaching and motivating students from around the world to appreciate and take up the same practical approaches to their work. In his reply, Richard urged those starting out on a career in hydrogeology to apply their expertise in an inter-disciplinary manner to the big problems of poverty and water and food insecurity as a highly worthwhile and fulfilling vocation. He remarked that he was humbled to receive the award, being aware just how many other African and international hydrogeologists are equally or more deserving than himself and finally thanked his unknown nominator and the panel of judges.’
Patrick Thomson, from the Oxford-led UPGro project “Gro For Good”, has won the prize for the best poster at World Water Week 2015 for the work that he and colleagues at the Institute of Biomedical Engineering at Oxford have been doing on shallow groundwater monitoring using Smart Handpumps in Kenya. This work will continue under the UPGro Consortium phase.
A briefing note based on the information presented in the poster can be downloaded:
Dr Sharon Velasquez Orta (Newcastle University) has been recognised by the MIT Technology Review as one the leading “Innovators under 35” for 2015 for her work on developing a low-cost biosensor of measuring groundwater quality. In the UPGro Catalyst project (INGROUND), she and colleagues from Newcastle University and Ardhi University have been developing the sensor in the lab and trialling it in Tanzania:
“Her biosensor detects fecal contamination in water reserves destined for human consumption”
“In low resource areas, like sub-saharan Africa, the absence of water quality data poses a serious risk. For this reason, Sharon Velasquez has harnessed the degradation process undertaken by some organic bacteria to generate electricity which allows her biosensor to detect fecal contamination within the water source.
“The microbial fuel cells (MFC) that Velasquez uses work like batteries, the difference being that with MFCs the current flow is generated by the electrically charged components that batteries produce upon charging.
“In this way it is possible to create sensors that detect the organic material present in the medium as the bacteria begins to metabolize the organic material.
“Velasquez´s biosensor is characteristic due to its cylindrical shape which allows the resulting chemical reaction to happen directly in the environment.
“This technology aims to address the issue of fecal contamination of water supplies, given that this cannot be continuously controlled via existing systems because the detection process is lengthier and requires greater human resources.”
The INGROUND project is due for completion later this year.