Women researchers and scientists around the world face many challenges in their research careers. They suffer from marginalization, unequal opportunities, and inequality compared to their male counterparts in the scientific community. The Newton-Musharraf Fund aims to address this issue by empowering women in scientific research communities by providing capacity-building support and implementing their research projects.
This article presents four stories of inspiring Egyptian women researchers who have been able to establish distinguished research projects that contribute to achieving sustainable development. Hopefully, their stories serve as a guiding light for a better future for women in the fields of scientific research and innovation.
Polymers from sugar cane for environmental protection
In support of the fifth objective of Egypt Vision 2030 for sustainable development - to preserve the rights of future generations by enhancing the resilience of the ecosystem, Irene Samy, Researcher at the Egyptian Nile University, is developing environment-friendly biodegradable bags through an innovative research project in partnership with the University of Nottingham, UK.
Egyptians use a huge amount of plastic bags for various purposes. Plastic bags are widely spread due to their low cost. This has serious environmental consequences as plastic is non-biodegradable. Irene's research project aims to use naturally available biopolymers as an alternative to harmful plastics, which can be achieved by improving the performance of these materials and producing them at a low and affordable cost.
'We manufacture food storage bags and packaging materials using sugarcane pulp and making them available at competitive prices. Sugar cane pulp has distinct analytical properties that make it a suitable alternative to the Styrofoam (plastic) currently in use. Our innovative method of manufacturing bags and packaging materials reduces the amount of energy and water required by about half. Thus, the cost of production decreases, and we can make the best use of the product in Egypt,' Irene explained.
The environmental impact of this research project is not limited to finding alternatives to the plastic used in bags, but it also strengthens efforts to combat climate change. Relying on biopolymers from the sugar cane pulp for making bags would encourage the expansion of sugarcane cultivation, which is characterised by its enormous ability to store carbon - by absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. This could reduce carbon emissions by up to 5.2 per cent.
Irene also adds that the support she received from the Newton-Musharraf Fund for her research project was a milestone in her career. The Fund is building bridges between scientific research, industrial challenges, and government policies; thus, helping to develop both scientific research and industry in Egypt. This contributes to establishing a strong and clear framework that ensures the achievement of the SDGs adopted by Egypt and the United Kingdom.
Low-cost clean energy to support Egyptian tourism
Providing low-cost clean energy to tourist facilities in Fayoum is what Susan Abdul Hadi, Researcher at Fayoum University in Egypt, tries to achieve through a research partnership with Imperial College London. This project, funded by the Newton-Mosharafa Fund, aims to develop an ideal design for hybrid renewable energy systems.
The sustainable development of the tourism sector in the Egyptian city of Fayoum is essential to support the local community in that governorate. One way to achieve this is to provide clean, low-cost electricity. Therefore, this project evaluated the efficiency of the use of biomass as well as wind and solar energy in the production of clean electricity within the city. Moreover, it attempted to build a prototype for hybrid renewable energy systems for tourism institutions for to demonstrate the idea and conduct the necessary experimentation.
Through her research project, Susan Abdul Hadi was able to develop a local prototype of a 10-kilowatt hybrid renewable power generation system, which relies on the exploitation of wind and solar power to generate clean, environment-friendly electricity.
'The project provided Egypt Electricity Company technical solutions for the integration of hybrid renewable energy systems with the existing electricity grid on a small scale, which will allow the future expansion of the use of renewable energy,' Susan pointed out.
The project also contributed to the development of the capabilities of the current Smart Grid Energy Management Research Laboratory through the implementation of renewable energy studies. Moreover, the project led to the establishment of a meteorological station at the Fayoum University Regional Training Centre near Lake Qarun.
Susan explained that her research project, supported and funded by the Newton-Mosharafa Fund, contributes to the achievement of a number of sustainable development goals, foremost of which is Goal seven about ensuring access to affordable and clean energy, Goal 11 about the sustainability of cities and communities, as well as Goal 13 about climate action. This is done by supporting the provision of sustainable energy solutions that enhance the efforts of the Egyptian tourism sector, and concurrently combating climate change.