Global Heritage research project at NTU shortlisted for Newton Prize 2020

Professor Mohamed Gamal Abdelmonem’s project ‘Virtual Reality of Medieval Culture’ is shortlisted for award recognising outstanding international research partnerships that address global challenges.

An international research project led by Professor Mohamed Gamal Abdelmonem has made the shortlist for the Newton Prize 2020. The Newton Prize launched in 2016, and celebrates outstanding international research partnerships that play an important role in addressing challenges in developing countries and around the world, such as the problem of producing clean energy, HIV prevention, the protection of historical sites, how to tackle water pollution, as well as the current COVID-19 pandemic.

The shortlist for this year’s prize features 27 research and innovation projects between the UK and Egypt, Jordan, Kenya, South Africa, and Turkey. Each year the prize enables international research partnerships supported by the Newton Fund to continue working together on solutions to some of these key global challenges. Research and innovation is recognised as an effective way to help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and improve the quality of life for people in developing countries as well as the UK.

Professor Abdelmonem’s project is co-led by himself as lead for NTU’s Centre for Architecture, Urbanism and Global Heritage, and Professor Gad ElQadi of the National Research Institute of Astronomy & Geophysics in Egypt. Entitled ‘Virtual Reality of Medieval Culture: Collaborative Network for Cultural-Feed Virtual Heritage platforms of medieval Cairo’, the project partners with Arts and Humanities Research Council, part of UK Research and Innovation, and the Science, Technology & Innovation Funding Authority, Egypt.

Professor Abdelmonem told us: “It is wonderful to be recognised by The Newton Prize Committee for our research work and its impact in the future of Egypt heritage. We worked closely with our Egyptian partners and the Ministry of Antiquities to identify present and future challenges to heritage economy and tourism in Egypt, undermined by travel restrictions and regional instability over the past decade, developing innovative and sustainable solutions that provide real social and economic impact.”

He continued: “Our project, Virtual Reality of Medieval Culture, managed to build capacity amongst heritage professionals, entrepreneurs and SMEs to maintain a sustainable heritage economy that’s future-proof, opening Egyptian heritage up to the world and to contribute to revitalising the tourism industry in the country, especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our research focusing on Medieval Cairo led to more collaborations and support for ancient and medieval heritage sites in Egypt, providing a strong platform for a progressive heritage and tourism industry.”

One prize of up to £200,000 will be awarded to a project in each eligible prize country (Egypt, Jordan, Kenya, South Africa and Turkey) that demonstrates high quality research and impact. An additional prize called the Chair’s Prize, worth up to £500,000, will be made to a project that can demonstrate impact in on of three specific United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals: Good Health & Wellbeing, Gender Equality, or Sustainable Cities & Communities.

The shortlisted projects have been peer reviewed and will be judged by a panel of independent experts. The Newton Prize Committee is chaired by Professor Alice Gast, President of Imperial College. Committee Member, Professor Dame Jane Francis, Director, British Antarctic Survey said: “The Newton Prize generates some amazingly innovative ideas from many  nations in partnership with the UK. It’s inspiring to read proposals that cover a wide range of important topics, ranging from how renewable energy will improve village life, how children’s health can be improved, how coastal communities can be protected, how waste can be turned into power, and how we can learn from past human rights violations. Serving on this committee is an extremely rewarding experience.”

The winners will be announced in November 2020 at a virtual awards event.