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The first winners of Qatar's US$25 million international research awards were announced last week (5 December).

The National Research Priorities Programme (NPRP) will spread the awards over three years amongst the 47 winning research projects, with US$10 million awarded in the first year.

Ten Qatar-based institutions will benefit, in collaboration with 23 institutions from the Arab region and the rest of the world.

The awards are organised by the Qatar National Research Fund (QNRF) to support Qatari research and raise the country's profile in the international research community.

The winning projects include developing cleaner, more efficient petroleum technologies, modelling infectious disease control, studying genetic disorders and advanced materials, and improving use of water resources.

Abdul Sattar Al-Taie, QNRF director, said that the programme attracted proposals from more than 1,000 scientists in over 50 global institutions, to collaborate with their counterparts in Qatar.

He added that the award rate — 47 out of 206 proposals received — was similar to that of international funding agencies like the US-based National Science Foundation.

Amongst the award winners is Malcolm Potts, lead scholar at the Biological Sciences Department at Qatar University, who received US$503,000 to establish a Middle East research consortium (MERC) in collaboration with the Tunisia-based Centre of Biotechnology of Sfax.

Potts said MERC aims to act as a model to encourage research and training collaboration between the young people of countries in the Middle East.

Hadi Nasrabadi, from the petroleum engineering faculty of Texas A&M University at Qatar, received a US$413,000 award to study carbon dioxide injection in oil reservoirs and saline aquifers.

The project — a collaboration with the US-based Reservoir Engineering Research Institute — aims to improve oil recovery and protect the environment from carbon dioxide produced as a by-product of natural gas production in Qatar.

Hassan Bazzi from Texas A&M University received US$639,000 to develop novel biodetection methods with colleagues at McGill University in Montreal, Canada.

Bazzi's research will look into advanced polymers, nanotechnology, and genomic factors on health.

"Qatar has been undergoing a massive educational, scientific, and industrial development over the last ten years. Our proposed research will contribute to this development," he said.