Six Kenyan projects on research and innovation are among 27 projects from five counties that have been shortlisted for the UK’s Newton Prize 2020 announced today.

The Newton Prize celebrates outstanding international research partnerships that play an important role in addressing challenges around the world, such as the problem of producing clean energy, HIV prevention, protection of historical sites, tackling water pollution and the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Four of the six Kenyan finalists are competing for the country prize worth 28 million. These include: I) Dr Jesse Kitaka, Mount Kenya University ii) Dr Joy Riungu, Meru University of Science and Technology iii) Mr Peter Njeri, Mega Gas Alternative Energy and iv) Mr Samuel Rigu, Safi Organics Limited.

There is also an additional prize called the Chair’s Prize, worth KES 70 million which looks at impact in one of three specific UN SDGs: Good Health & Wellbeing, Gender Equality, or Sustainable Cities & Communities. The two Kenyans shortlisted in the Chair’s Prize are Dr Peter Mwethera from Institute of Primate Research, Kenya and Mr Eric Kithinji of Upesy World Limited   

Jane Marriott, the British High Commissioner to Kenya said:  ‘Science, innovation and technology underpins the UK’s strategic partnership with Kenya. In the current circumstances, research, science, technology and innovation are more important than ever and will help us to uncover the best possible responses to the Covid-19 pandemic in both our countries.’

The Newton Prize continues to invest in research and innovation that makes a profound difference to people’s lives and brings lasting and positive change. By working together, Kenya and UK are better placed to lead future advances that benefit all. Kenya is one of the largest recipients of the UK’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) research funding. KES 23billion worth of research investment has been invested in Kenya over the last five years and Newton-Utafiti partnership represents one of these partnerships showcasing close alignment with Kenyan national research priorities. 

Jane Marriott further notes that:  ‘The six Kenyan researchers and innovators that have been shortlisted for the Newton Prize embody the can-do spirit I have observed in this country, one year-on. The importance of new technologies in Kenya and the UK is increasing both in terms of opportunities for inclusive, sustainable growth, against risks of increased inequality, marginalisation and exclusion

Notes to Editors: 

Profile of the 6 Kenyans: 

  1. Dr Jesse Kitaka, a researcher from Mount Kenya University in collaboration with partners from University of Hull, UK have developed a low-cost device for fast and accurate detection of germs in pregnant mothers targeted at low-resource settings. 
  2. Dr. Joy Riungu, a researcher from Meru University of Science and Technology together with partners from Aston University in UK are converting human waste into fertiliser and animal feed in a new, safe and cost effective way, driving sanitation revolution in Kenya, benefitting local schools and communities and leading to the country’s first sanitation research centre.    
  3. Mr Peter Njeri, Founder of Mega Gas Alternative Energy is producing clean and affordable cooking gas through recycling/refining of plastics and polythene via an innovative process that creates no pollution, no emission and no residue.   
  4. Mr Samuel Rigu, Founder of Safi Organics Limited is using technology to locally decentralise and downsize fertiliser production using locally available resources and labour. Safi organics is producing carbon-negative fertiliser that prevents soil degradation, protects food security and increases income of small holder farmers.    
  5. Mr Eric Kithinji, Founder of Upesy World Limited has developed a mobile App that makes emergency services more accessible by enabling people find help conveniently using their mobile phones. The App enables users to effectively raise an emergency alert by clicking their phone’s power-button or by clicking any of the emergency buttons available on the App. With the growth of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML), the innovator is in the process of developing the technology so that the phones will raise the alert without human intervention!.  
  6. Dr Peter Mwethera, a researcher at the Institute of Primate research is developing medical products aimed at improving sexual/reproductive health, maternal and child health and preventing HIV/AIDS. One of the products is called Unipron, a gel aimed at preventing both HIV/Aids and pregnancy. The project has demonstrated that UniPron is a potential microbicide for HIV infection prevention in-vitro. Together with fellow researchers, they plan to carry out human clinical trials for UniPron before commercialization.   

The Newton Prize recognises and celebrates the most exciting research and innovation to come out of the Newton Fund since its inception in 2014. In Kenya, the Newton Fund was established in July 2016 and is a partnership between the UK government and the Ministry of Education.

For more information:  Janet Sudi Communications Manager British High Commission Nairobi Mob: 0723 824 005 Email: