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UNESCO Awards Fifth Round of Grants to Young Scientists for Green Chemistry Research as part of Global Grant Programme Together with IUPAC and PhosAgro

18 September 2018
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has awarded leading young scientists from all over the world with Green Chemistry for Life grants under a joint programme with PhosAgro and the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) at the 8th IUPAC International Conference on Green Chemistry.

Participants in the 5th annual awards ceremony included Prof. Pietro Tundo, UNESCO Chair on Green Chemistry, Chair of the IUPAC Committee on Green Chemistry for Sustainable Development, Ca’ Foscari University of Venice; Christopher Brett, the president elect of IUPAC; Prof. John Corish, Chair of International Scientific Jury for Green Chemistry, Trinity College, University of Dublin; Irina Bokova, former Director-General of UNESCO, Independent Director on the Board of Directors of PhosAgro; Prof. Supawan Tantayanon, Chairperson of the Organizational Committee of the 8th IUPAC International Conference on Green Chemistry;Prof. Nicole Moreau, Chairperson, Scientific Board of UNESCO’s International Basic Sciences Programme (IBSP); Siroj Loikov, PhosAgro Deputy CEO as well as other representatives of the world’s scientific elite.

The decision to implement Green Chemistry for Life was taken on 29 March 2013 at UNESCO Headquarters (Paris, France), when PhosAgro initiated a fund to provide financial and academic support to promising chemists doing research in environmental protection, healthcare, food production, energy efficiency and sustainable use of natural resources.

The expert jury, which consists of 13 scientists from 11 countries, is responsible for reviewing applications. A winning project must meet several criteria, including academic novelty, global and local relevance, commitment to the green chemistry principles, sufficient qualifications of the researcher and their team, and the technical capacity of the research institute or laboratory to host the project. 

A ceremony celebrating the results of the five years of the Green Chemistry for Life programmeis to take place in the near future. The event will take place at UNESCO headquarters in Paris, bringing together the leadership of PhosAgro, UNESCO and IUPAC, as well as the programme’s grant recipients, members of the international scientific jury and experts. 

Since the launch of Green Chemistry for Life PhosAgro has provided financial prizes to 34 young scientists from 26 countries, including Australia, Argentina, Belgium, Bulgaria, Egypt, France, Italy, Iran, Kenya, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Tunisia, Ukraine and Uruguay. 

The overall number of applications reviewed by the jury since the programme’s launch is well above 600. During the five years that Green Chemistry for Life has operated, PhosAgro has awarded grants worth some USD 2 million (including the phosphogypsum grant, established in 2016). This is the first ever project under the auspices of UNESCO and the UN to be funded by a Russian company.

In 2018 the following nine scientists were rewarded grants at the ceremony: Dr Elisa Souza Orth (Brazil), Dr Gift Mehlana (Zimbabwe), Dr Nadav Amdursky (Israel), Dr Muhammad Shahid (Pakistan), Dr Joaquín García-Álvarez (Spain), Dr Roya Sedghi (Iran), Dr Yasmin Adam Ali Aburigal (Sudan), Dr Suhair Ziad Abed Alhameed Sunoqrot (Jordan) and Dr Paltu Kumar Dhal (India).

The winners may use the grant funding to carry out further fundamental and applied research in order to prepare innovative, ready solutions in the areas of efficient use of natural and recycled resources. For example, Dr Suhair Ziad Abed Alhameed Sunoqrot’s (Jordan) project is about green synthesis of multifunctional nanoparticles from plant polyphenols for anti-cancer drug delivery to affected tissues, while Dr Paltu Kumar Dhal (India) uses an indigenous microorganisms (IMO’s)- based technology for bioremediation of phosphogypsum. Initially, his project was developed for India only, however, it can be implemented at phosphoric acid plants in any other country in the world.

Andrey Guryev, member of the Commission of the Russian Federation for UNESCO and PhosAgro CEO: “When we launched Green Chemistry for Life five years ago one could only dream that it would generate widespread discussion in the scientific community and would attract young scientists from all over the world. I am proud to say that we have achieved all of this. We managed to turn this project into a way to identify solutions for more effective natural resources management, development of renewable energy as well as reduction of the impact of industry on the environment. But these are the tactical objectives. The strategic objective of green chemistry research is global, and it is to support the well-being of future generations.”

Christopher Brett, president-elect of IUPAC “One of the main current objectives of IUPAC, in my opinion, has to do with the application of achievements in the fields of chemistry, and green chemistry in particular, towards promoting and advancing sustainable development. Next year will constitute two anniversaries at the same time: it will mark the 100th anniversary of IUPAC and its role in promoting a common language and global consensus in chemistry, and the 150th anniversary of Mendeleev’s Periodic Table of the Elements, the International Year of the Periodic Table. We thank PhosAgro very much for their sponsorship of International Year events.”

Irina Bokova, former Director-General of UNESCO, Independent Director on the Board of Directors of PhosAgro: “We came up with this wonderful programme during the International Year of Chemistry 2011. This is a unique project as UNESCO and the UN, both of which engage in meaningful cooperation in the areas of education, science and culture, have for the first time established cooperation with a Russian company in the field of science, protection of the environment and innovations.”

Prof. Natalia P. Tarasova, former IUPAC president, jury member: “This competition enables the development of new scientific thinking among youth. Such thinking implies that a scientist who is focussed on building new technological structures or organic synthesis processes does not think about short-term success and would rather assess the impact on the environment. A full 80% of the projects are top-quality scientific projects. The participants present the list of their publications in highly-ranked journals. It is encouraging to see that some scientists have been published dozens of times in such journals. This means that Green Chemistry for Life is dealing with serious scientists, even though they are young.

Prof. John Corish, Chair of International Scientific Jury for Green Chemistry for Life, Trinity College, University of Dublin: “The main global challenge faced by all nations is climate change and minimising its effects. Green Chemistry for Life is focused on helping new and promising scientists whose ideas can assist in achieving this. The initiative is particularly important as it establishes the scientists as independent, enables them to put their scientific ideas into practice, make new discoveries and contribute to worthwhile scientific development.” 

Prof. Pietro Tundo, UNESCO Chair on Green Chemistry, Ca’ Foscari University of Venice: “I have participated in nearly every IUPAC conference dedicated to green chemistry. Now this event is taking place in this region for the first time and we can clearly see how the notion of protection of the environment is spreading across the world through green technologies. I want to highlight the collaboration between IUPAC and PhosAgro on green chemistry summer schools. This year such a school was set up in Venice (Italy) and the next year the lessons will be held in Tanzania (Africa).”

Dr Elisa Souza Orth, a young scientist from Brazil: “Chemistry can be widely applied in many spheres of life, but we chemists have to primarily work on safe reagents and products in simple and mild conditions. The successful implementation of this project will enable us to contribute to Brazil’s development, ensuring sustainable agriculture practices and safe food production.”

Dr Muhammad Shahid, a young scientist from Pakistan: “Green chemistry for Life is a splendid programme. It is well organised and has buy-in from all of its stakeholders, which enhances the quality of people’s lives. We are going to produce green chemical compounds which eventually will help stop the use of chemical substances that pose a risk to the environment.”