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UNESCO Awards Grants to World’s Best Chemistry Researchers in Cooperation with PhosAgro and IUPAC

14 December 2015
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (“UNESCO”) has awarded leading chemistry researchers from around the world with grants to support research in the field of green chemistry under a joint programme with PhosAgro and the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (“IUPAC”). The event took place during the UN Secretary-General’s Scientific Advisory Board meeting and the Congress of UNESCO Chairs.

The grant award ceremony was attended by UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova, the Secretary-General of the Commission of the Russian Federation for UNESCO Grigory Ordzhonikidze, President of the Russian Academy of Sciences Vladimir Frolov, St. Petersburg Governor Georgy Poltavchenko, the Rector of the St. Petersburg National Mineral Resources University Vladimir Litvinenko, the recently re-elected President of IUPAC and Director of the Institute for Chemistry and Sustainable Development of the D. Mendeleev University of Chemical Technology of Russia Natalya Tarasova, Member of the Commission of the Russian Federation for UNESCO Andrey Guryev, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences Flavia Schlegel, and IUPAC Treasurer, Professor John Corish of the Trinity College Dublin School of Chemistry at the University of Dublin.

The Green Chemistry for Life programme was launched on 29 March 2013 at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris, France.  The goal of the partnership was to support talented young scientists engaged in green chemistry projects aimed at protecting the environment, creating energy-efficient processes and integrating environmentally-friendly technologies with innovative new ideas.

The “Green Chemistry for Life” programme is unique because it is the first time in the history of UNESCO and the entire UN system that such an initiative has been implemented on an extra-budgetary basis with support from a Russian company.  PhosAgro originally suggested the initiative to support basic research by young scientists from around the world in cooperation with the Russian Federation Ministry of International Affairs and the Commission of the Russian Federation for UNESCO.

This year the international scientific jury reviewed 119 applications for grants, and awarded the six best applicants.  The winners hail from Italy (Dr. Daniele Leonori), Australia (Dr. Alexander Bissember), Argentina (Dr. Natalia Quici), Bulgaria (Dr. Svilen Simeonov), Iran (Dr. Mehdi Mohammadi), and South Africa (Dr. Allan Prior).  One of the winners, Dr. Allan Prior from South Africa, is researching a bio-renewable and bio-catalytic approach toward the synthesis of higher value organic products from anacardic acid found in cashew nut shells, a by-product of cashew nut farming in Africa. 

Grigory Ordzhonikidze, Secretary-General of the Commission of the Russian Federation for UNESCO, said: “This project aims to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted by the UN General Assembly in September 2015.  It is no secret that environmental issues are among the top priorities for the world today.  We understand now better than ever that damage to the environment and climate change are too high a price to pay for progress.  This project to support scientists engaged in the development of new technologies aimed at decreasing negative impact on the environmental is an important part of the wide range of steps that we are taking as a global community to protect the environment.”

Vladimir Litvinenko, Rector of the St. Petersburg National Mineral Resources University, said: “Any technology that is used to process mineral resources will have an impact on the biosphere. At the same time, it would be impossible to stop all mining and processing of subsoil minerals – this would force humanity back into the stone age.  This is why we cannot discuss whether or not to engage in mining, but how to minimise the impact on the environment and minimise environmental risks by using the best available equipment and technologies.  This is one of the key tasks facing scientists in this field.”

PhosAgro CEO Andrey Guryev said: “The time for green chemistry is now: we have the opportunity to influence the future of our planet with the help of important new scientific research.  I hope that every one of the laureates will be successful at developing their projects in a way that opens up new opportunities for economic growth combined with protection of the environment for future generations.  Finding real-world applications for these projects, I believe, will also support global food security.

“This programme is an important sign of solidarity between the mineral fertilizers industry and the scientific community, which is supported by PhosAgro’s continued active cooperation with UNESCO and IUPAC on the international Green Chemistry for Life project.”

“First of all this project raises awareness of green chemistry among younger scientists at a most critical time in their careers. Second, it advances the careers specifically of young green chemists. The hardest part of any career is getting started, finding somebody to provide the first independent research funding. This program is “a marriage made in heaven”. The three collaborating institutions are very well matched. PhosAgro very generously provides the funding. UNESCO has tremendous contacts around the world in the basic sciences and IUPAC in which I serve provides the essential scientific expertise.” said the IUPAC Treasurer, Professor John Corish of the Trinity College Dublin School of Chemistry at the University of Dublin.

UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences Flavia Schlegel said: “PhosAgro, well-known for its environmental and social awareness, is the first Russian industrial company in the history of UNESCO to have proposed, and sponsored, an initiative to promote green chemistry. It is doing so through the PhosAgro/UNESCO/IUPAC Partnership in Green Chemistry for Life for which it has generously provided 1,400,000 US$ for a 5-year programme of grants to be awarded for promising research projects proposed by young scientists. The programme, led by an International Scientific Jury, seeks to identify the best young researchers and help them to bring their excellent scientific ideas to fruition. The strategy of the PhosAgro/UNESCO/IUPAC Partnership in support of young scientists will without doubt bring substantial returns, which are particularly called for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals.” 

Dr. Alexander Bissember of Australia, one of the grant recipients, said “in today’s world science and basic research need as much support as they can get.  The fact that this programme was developed specifically to support researchers from around the world at the start of their careers makes it especially useful and important.  I hope that other companies follow PhosAgro’s example and start to support research aimed at developing ‘green’ chemical processes.”