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UNESCO, PhosAgro and IUPAC Award Joint Grants at SPIEF to the Best Young Scientists from all Over the World for Research in the field of green chemistry

2 June 2017
St Petersburg International Economic Forum. June 2, 2017. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (“UNESCO”), jointly with PhosAgro and the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (“IUPAC”), presented grants during the St Petersburg International Economic Forum (“SPIEF”) to the best young scientists from all over the world for research in the field of green chemistry. 

UNESCO supported the initiative of the Commission of the Russian Federation for UNESCO to hold the awards ceremony in Russia as part of SPIEF, as 2017 was declared the Year of Ecology by decree of the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin. This event underscores the important role of the Russian Federation to secure the sustainable development of civilisation and protect the environment, but also demonstrates the inextricable link between the economy and science, and highlights the need for environmentally responsible business.

During his speech at the plenary session at SPIEF, Russia Federation President Vladimir Putin paid particular attention to the increasing pressures on the planet’s ecosystem. “Our civilisation faces fundamental challenges”, he stressed, “and only through joint efforts can we achieve harmonious global development.”

“We need wisdom, responsibility, and collaborative efforts to find innovative solutions, as well as new ways of integrating of business and the scientific community at a regional level. It is necessary to make maximum use of organisations such as the UN,” the President noted. 

UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova, Special Presidential Representative for Environmental Protection, Ecology and Transport Sergei Ivanov, the Russian Federation’s Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Sergey Donskoy, Aide to the President of the Russian Federation Andrey Fursenko, Head of the Federal Service for Supervision of Natural Resources Artem Sidorov, IUPAC President, Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences Natalia Tarasova, PhosAgro CEO and Member of the Commission of the Russian Federation for UNESCO Andrey Guryev, Executive Secretary of Russian Federation Commission for UNESCO Affairs Grigory Ordzhonikidze, member of the Executive Committee under the International Council for Science (ICSU) Nicole Moreau, the Chair of the International Academic Jury for the grants project, Professor John Corish from the University of Dublin and other representatives of the global scientific elite took part in the official ceremony to award the grants.

On 29 March 2013, the decision to implement the Green Chemistry for Life project was adopted at UNESCO’s headquarters (Paris, France). The programme aims to support young and talented scientists who conduct research in the field of green chemistry with the aim to solve critically important problems related to the development of civilisation, promote sustainable development of mankind while preserving natural resources, the environment and human health, and to implement energy efficient and environmentally friendly technologies based on innovative solutions.

The programme is unique because it is the first time in the history of UNESCO and the entire UN system that an initiative of this kind is being implemented on an extra budgetary basis with financing from a Russian business. PhosAgro, with the assistance of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation and the Russian Federation’s UNESCO Commission, has provided funding to support young scientists from around the world doing research and development work. Initially the project was due to run until 2018, but today it has been announced that it will be extended for another three years until 2021.

In 2017, the international scientific jury selected seven PhosAgro/UNESCO/IUPAC grant winners from applications from all over the world (one of them will receive a special grant that was established last year for research in the field of phosphogypsum). The grant winners are from Argentina (Ariel Marcelo Sarotti), Pakistan (Shumaila Kiran), Bosnia and Herzegovina (Maya Stanisavlecich), Tunisia (Mohamed Neifar), Belgium (Demien Debeker), Nigeria (Obesed Olufonso Olumid) and Spain (Maria Ventura Sancez-Nornero). Laureates will be able to use their cash prize to carry out in-depth fundamental and applied research to present ready, innovative solutions in the field of efficient use of natural resource and recycled materials, in particular, phosphogypsum as a valuable secondary raw material. For example, Tunisian scientist Mohamed Neifar’s project is directly connected to the field of fertilizers: his research is devoted to the development of organic fertilizers for sustainable agriculture in Tunisia.

Winners can use their prize money to conduct fundamental and applied research and offer ready-made innovative solutions for the efficient use of natural and secondary resources, in particular, phosphogypsum, as a valuable secondary raw material. For example, Mohamed Neifar, a scientist from Tunisia is working on a project directly related to the fertilizer field- his research is devoted to the development of organic fertilizers for the development of agriculture in Tunisia. 

UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova commented: “We need chemistry to move the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development forward; to eradicate poverty; to mitigate the impacts of climate change; for human rights and dignity. This calls for innovation at every level and in all associated processes. This is why our partnership with PhosAgro and the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry is so important to support the creativity and innovation of young scientists, guided by the Principles of Green Chemistry. Today I call on all young researchers to be bold, to go out and make new discoveries, to shape a better future for the whole of humanity.”

PhosAgro CEO and Member of the Commission for UNESCO of the Russian Federation Andrey Guryev said: “I am convinced that the development of innovative technologies for industrial uses absolutely must adhere to the principles of green chemistry. All of us bear a responsibility for our planet and we must understand how important it is to respect the interests not only of the economy, but also of the ecosystem. Thanks to our joint efforts in the Green Chemistry for Life programme, work towards minimising the impact on the environment will receive ever greater practical significance each year. And I hope that it will bring a positive multiplier effect to society as a whole. That’s why we took the initiative in UNESCO’s headquarters to extend the Green Chemistry for Life programme by another three years.”

PhosAgro has a long tradition of caring for the environment by using the best available technologies. The company has consistently reduced the resource and energy consumption of its production capacities, using secondary resources and increasing the depth of its mineral processing. As a result, the controlled parameters of PhosAgro’s impact on the environment have declined to values set out in Russian and European guidelines for the best available technologies. PhosAgro’s enterprises can therefore be classified as ‘green’, or ecologically safe production sites.

IUPAC President Natalya Tarasova commented: “when the adoption of scientific breakthroughs into everyday life reach a mass scale, you have to think about the consequences of such exposure, and the impact on health and on the quality of the environment. Science’s top priority must be the development of technology to ensure further progress only on the condition that it is developed in a ‘green’ way. The Green Chemistry for Life project addresses this serious issue. It is especially important that the grant aims to support the very young scientists who are taking a fresh look at the world and are able to offer fresh, innovative approaches.”

Grigory Ordzhonikidze, Executive Secretary of the Commission of the Russian Federation for UNESCO emphasised: “Green Chemistry for Life is a young initiative, which is already gaining respect in the scientific world. Its winners are promising scientists from all over the world. They not only propose bold ideas in environmental protection, but also bring to them a practical realisation. This project is incredibly valuable, and the support from PhosAgro, as the flag bearer of the Russian chemicals industry, has support has been invaluable. The fact that a company of such renown is investing money into developing science only raises Russia’s prestige on the world stage.”

John Corish, financial director of IUPAC and Chemistry Professor at Trinity College, Dublin, said: “each year among the applications I see many vital and pragmatic projects, in which young scientists either want to develop existing technology or propose completely new concepts, techniques and inventions. I have no doubt that the results of such research will be of invaluable use to humanity and could help solve ecological problems. Therefore, I invite young scientists to continue to create, invent and submit more and more interesting applications to us.”

Artem Sidorov, Head of the Federal Supervisory Natural Resources Management Service, said: The chemicals industry is becoming a leader in the global economy. Green chemistry is helping to formulate the new ethics of progress and the new rules of the game, on which the tasks of industrial development and, more generally scientific and technical progress, are established, in close connection with the observance of the rules of economic security, the conservation of natural resources and our treasures. Our president has approved a strategy for environmental security through 2025. Therefore, I express my sincere gratitude to PhosAgro for their initiative which establishes a system of grants for young scientists. As the Head of the Federal Supervisory Natural Resources Management Service, I would like to note that today PhosAgro’s activities are fully in accordance with the principles of responsible environmental management and an appropriate environmental policy is being implemented. A large number of environmental measures have been undertaken, in which we have been cooperating constructively. 

Rector of the St Petersburg Mining University Vladimir Litvinenko said: “any technology used to work with subsoil resources affects the biosphere. Yet we cannot stop mining and processing natural resources, otherwise mankind would return to the stone age. The question is not whether or not to engage in mining, but how to do so with the least possible environmental impact, minimising environmental risks, using the best equipment and technologies, support scientific development and to encourage students to seek out solutions. This is one of the most important tasks faced by Russia’s mineral resource complex.” 

Mayi Stanisavlevich, a young scientist from Bosnia and Herzegovina said: “I am very happy to have received a grant. This is a great motivation for me and my colleagues to continue our work and develop my research. I hope that it will encourage other young scientists from my country to apply for international grants like the PhosAgro/UNESCO/IUPAC grant.”

Mohamed Neifar, a young scientist from Tunisia emphasised: “the Green Chemistry for Life programme solves fundamental problems faced by young scientists, offers them attractive working conditions and the possibility to move from mere creative ideas to the practical application and development of green chemical processes.”