23rd July 2015 Moscow, Russia
On UK-Russia scientific cooperation
Guest blog by Sir Martyn Poliakoff, Foreign Secretary and Vice-President of the Royal Society
I am delighted to be contributing to the Embassy’s blog. I am a British chemist, born in London, with a Russian father and English mother. I work at the University of Nottingham, and my research is focussed on Green Chemistry, a hugely important area of research. Green Chemistry is looking for environmentally cleaner and more economic approaches to making chemicals and materials; it seeks to reduce the negative impact of chemistry on the environment by minimizing the use of hazardous chemicals, reducing toxic chemical wastes and using fewer natural resources among others.
I am also the Foreign Secretary of the Royal Society (RS), the UK Academy of Sciences. The Society was founded in 1660 and has a long connection with Russia. As long ago as the 17th century, a letter was sent to Russia asking more than 50 questions about science in Russia and Peter the Great visited the Society in 1698.
The Society is still very much collaborating with Russia. In 2013, we organized a joint Frontiers of Science conference in Kazan attended by 70 young British and Russian scientists. The meeting was a joint project of the Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Tatarstan, the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) and the RS with the support of the Embassy. When in Kazan, I also took the opportunity to visit the chemical museum there to see where the element Ruthenium was discovered, a rare transitional metal belonging to the platinum group with curious application potential. For instance, ruthenium-based compounds have been used for light absorption in dye-sensitized solar cells, a promising new low-cost solar cell system.
As a chemist, I was excited by the discovery of chemical element No 114, synthesized in December 1998 in the Dubna Institute, which I look forward to visiting at first opportunity.
I have a long record of scientific collaboration with Russia and visit Russia frequently. Since 1999, I have been an Honorary Professor at Moscow State University and, in 2012, I was elected a Foreign Member of the RAS. I was a speaker at the 2013 launch of the EU-Russia Year of science and a year later at the UK- Russia Chemistry Week. This year I will be participating in International Conference on Supercritical Fluids in the Kaliningrad Oblas’t in September.
Today UK-Russia scientific cooperation is continuing and the Embassy’s Science and Innovation team has a crucial role to play in catalysing partnerships between researchers in our two countries. I feel that there are good opportunities for UK-Russian collaboration in areas outside my own, for example in the science of the Arctic and Accelerator Science.
I’m also excited about the Russian Government’s Global Education Scheme, which will provide funding to Russian Bachelor and Specialist degree holders to continue their studies in top UK universities I am delighted that the University of Nottingham is one of the UK universities covered by the funding scheme. I am particularly pleased that chemistry, chemical technology, nanomaterials and nanotechnologies can be funded by the Scheme as they all contribute to Green Chemistry.
The University of Nottingham has a long history of Russian scientists doing their research here and contributing to the advance of science. Our School of chemistry currently has two Russian scientists: Elena Bichoutskaia, a leading theoretician, and Andrei Khlobystov, Director of our Nanotechnology Centre.
I look forward to welcoming more Russian students to Nottingham in the near future and, as Vice President of the Royal Society, will continue to work with Russia to develop scientific collaboration.
Sir Martyn Poliakoff