Newton Fund: UK-Malaysia STEM Skills Development Programme

Call for applications to attend
Closing date extended to 16.00hrs on Monday 24 July 2017

Newton Fund logo

To attend the workshop you must complete the Expression of Interest (EoI) form (Word, 139KB) and email to STFC Newton Fund by 16:00hrs on 24 July 2017.

The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) and the Malaysian Ministry of Higher Education (MoHE) are pleased to announce a workshop to take place in Malaysian Industry-Government Group For High Technology (MIGHT), Prime Minister’s Department, IMPACT Building, Jalan IMPACT, 63000 Cyberjaya, Selangor, Malaysia on 11-13 September 2017.

During the workshop, UK and Malaysian attendees will scope outline proposals aimed at developing a programme for delivering transferable skills in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM).

This programme will provide training for people with identified priorities in:

  1. Mechanical engineering.
  2. Digital innovation and creativity.
  3. Decision science (data analytics).

The training would be in the context of some of the biggest and most cutting-edge scientific collaborations in the world e.g. the Large Hadron Collider and astronomical telescopes.

Following the workshop, investigators involved in the identified projects will finalise full proposals and submit for assessment by an expert panel. Additional participants who did not attend the workshop will also be able to submit proposals. The closing date for full proposals will be 21 November 2017.

The total amount available for UK-Malaysia collaborative projects is expected to be £1.5 million from the UK Newton Fund and matched resource from MoHE.  Projects will start in April 2018 for three years.

To attend the workshop you must complete the Expression of Interest (EoI) form (Word, 139KB) and email to STFC Newton Fund by 16:00hrs on 24 July 2017. Successful UK participants will be notified in the week commencing 17 July 2017. Submission of the EoI will be taken as indicating availability on the dates of the workshop. The total number of UK participants is limited to 15 and STFC/MoHE will try to ensure a balance across the workshop themes and institutions. Attendance at the workshop does not guarantee funding. Normal STFC eligibility for funding criteria apply for UK applicants.

STFC will cover all reasonable travel expenses for UK participants attending the workshop in line with STFC policy on travel and subsistence expenses. Accommodation and subsistence expenses whilst in Malaysia will be covered by MoHE and STFC.

Background to the STFC-Malaysia Programme

Science and technology are the differentiators between countries that are able to tackle poverty effectively by growing and developing their economies, and those that are not. The extent to which developing economies emerge as economic powerhouses depends on their ability to grasp and apply insights from science and technology and use them creatively. Innovation is the primary driver of technological growth and drives higher living standards (IEET ‘The Role of Science and Technology in the Developing World in the 21 Century’, Lee-Roy Chetty, 2012).

How are these activities directly and primarily relevant to the development challenges of Malaysia?

A key element of Malaysia’s country strategy focuses on developing human capital and capacity in STEM, through to PhD and early career researchers. It is important to develop skills in big data by improving education from school level to postdoctoral level and so broaden employment opportunities. The programme aims to do this by increasing the number of PhD students trained, and the percentage of PhD qualified staff in higher education and their skill level.

Engagement in particle and nuclear physics and astronomy offers an inspiring way to engage students in high-tech careers as well as providing the opportunity to do so. However, the skills in data analysis and engineering that are needed and the higher level researchers that can provide a sustainable training programme do not currently exist at critical mass across Malaysia. This programme will train researchers in these technical skills.

The emphasis of this programme is the development of transferable skills such as; programming and software-development; data-transport and analysis techniques; high performance computing and modelling; silicon sensor design; design and construction with advanced mechanical materials; programming FPGAs and designing associated high-speed PCBs to develop high bandwidth data processing systems.  Exactly which skills will depend on Malaysia’s needs following detailed discussion with funders.

The training would expose people to scientific projects that have the largest and most complex engineering, data handling and analysis skills requirements in the world. Experience would be gained from carrying out project work within the global distributed computing resources for Particle Physics, Astronomy and Nuclear Physics.

Researchers would spend up to two years in this programme based at a UK institution. Meanwhile, PhD students from Malaysia would be allowed an attachment in a UK institution for a maximum period of six months.

How will the outcomes of these activities promote the economic development and welfare of Malaysia?

The Second National Science and Technology Policy (STP II) sets out the path for science and technology to be the engine for the country’s future growth and ensure national competitiveness. It focuses on strengthening research and technological capacity and capability. This activity is targeted at the Malaysia priorities of facilitating connections of existing areas of research excellence with the regions to increase regional science, innovation and education capacity in support of a more equal society. This also contributes to building a programme of research collaboration to support Malaysia’s transition from manufacturing to a knowledge-based economy, and support the sustainability of science and innovation development though promoting a culture of science and technology through inspirational R&D.

Background to the Newton Fund

The Newton-Ungku Omar Fund is a joint initiative established to develop and support the research and innovation collaboration between UK and Malaysia. Established in 2014, the Newton-Ungku Omar Fund is part of the UK’s £735 million Newton Fund to support science and innovation partnerships between the UK and 17 partnering countries. The Fund uses the UK and Malaysia’s strengths in research and innovation to support greater scientific research capacity in Malaysia and build partnerships between British and Malaysian institutions. This call in particular will help UK research organisations form collaborative partnerships with Malaysian counterparts to develop internationally competitive and innovative collaborative projects that will allow the pursuit of shared interests to address Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) skills needs in Malaysia.

The Newton Fund forms part of the UK’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) commitment which is monitored by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). ODA funded activity focuses on outcomes that promote the long-term sustainable growth of countries on the OECD Development Assistance Committee list. Newton Fund countries represent a sub-set of this list. For more information, please visit the RCUK Newton Fund page.

The Newton Fund requires that the funding be awarded in a manner that fits with Official Development Assistance (ODA) guidelines. All applications under this call must therefore be compliant with these guidelines.

This programme will be funded under the People strand of the Newton Fund i.e. increasing capacity in science and innovation, individually and institutionally in partner countries.

For further information please contact:

Stephen Loader, 21 Century Challenges Programme Manager
Tel: +(44) (0) 1793 442111

Richard Traini, External Innovations Grants Manager
Tel: +(44) (0) 1793 442162

Science and Technology Facilities Council Switchboard: 01793 442000