Promentilla (center) and his team of researchers were given the 2019 Newton Prize Philippines Award at an event in Makati City on January 28, 2020. Photo: Angelica Y. Yang

Filipino scientists who worked on turning sewage into fertilizer were awarded the coveted 2019 Newton Prize Philippines on Tuesday afternoon at the Manila Polo Club in Makati City.

The researchers, who bested four other finalists, received funding worth £200,000 (about P13.2 million).

The winning project focused on converting sludge from sewage water into nutrient-rich fertilizer.

“We’re very happy…[and] worried at the same time because there are many things that we need to do, but hopefully this will be a challenge for us to achieve our dream to come up with a system that can recover phosphorus from this type of waste and translate it into a fertilizer that can be useful for farmers,” project team leader Professor Michael Angelo Promentilla told GMA News Online.

Promentilla said that they are planning to conduct their project on a farm, where they will collect sludge from septic tanks and use it to create a slow-release fertilizer.

According to him, slow-release fertilizers are more effective as plants tend to absorb more nutrients from them, compared to fast-release fertilizers.

He added that his team has already started conducting initial studies while trying to look for ways to “perfect” the process of extracting phosphorus from the sludge.

Meanwhile, another team of scientists who worked on developing a 3D bronchial tissue model that can help in asthma research was nominated for the Newton Prize Chair’s Award.

The chosen team will be competing against teams from China and Indonesia for the award in the UK on February 12, 2020.

The Newton Fund

The money for the Newton Prize comes from the £1-million Newton Fund, which is managed by the UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

The fund has 17 partner states known as “Newton countries”: Brazil, Chile, China, Colombia, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Kenya, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, the Philippines, South Africa, Thailand, Turkey, and Vietnam.

The winner of the Newton Prize Chair’s Award will receive a maximum of £500,000 in funding (about P33 million).

The Newton Fund, through the Newton Agham Programme, aims to support research and innovation projects that support the economic development and social welfare in the Philippines.

“I think the program not only delivers those great partnerships between British researchers, institutions and fantastic researchers in the Philippines, but it’s helping us find solutions…When we find answers, we’ll have a safer, sustainable future for all of us,” said British Ambassador to the Philippines Daniel Pruce.

Out of the 20 Newton Prize applications from the Philippines, five projects with innovative solutions to waste management, health and food security were chosen.

Out of the five finalists of the Newton Prize Philippines, three were from the Department of Science and Technology (DOST). — BM, GMA News (source: )