UNSW professor Veena Sahajwalla, has been awarded the inaugural US$50,000 (AU$62,480) PLuS Alliance Prize for Research Innovation for her project 'The new science of green manufacturing'.
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UNSW professor Veena Sahajwalla.

Sahajwalla is the director of the Centre for Sustainable Materials Research and Technology in

Australia. Her project is revolutionising recycling to enable global industries to safely utilise toxic and complex wastes as low cost alternatives to virgin raw materials and fossil fuels. The process reimagines the supply chain by ‘mining' over-burdened landfills for resources.

Launched in 2016, the PLuS Alliance is a unique international collaboration between Arizona State University, King's College London, and UNSW Sydney. The alliance's prizes, launched for the first time this year, award innovation in research and education that addresses a globally-significant issue, makes a direct and positive impact, and helps, or has the potential to help communities globally.

In receiving her award Sahajwalla said: "The work we've been doing to help global industries use green materials over virgin raw materials is vital to sustainability. This recognition by the PLuS Alliance for the work we've been doing to drive change and impact communities across the world is a real honour."

The PLuS Alliance Prize for Education Innovation was awarded to Dr Laura Hosman for her project, ‘The Solar Powered Educational Learning Library (SolarSPELL)'. The solar-powered educational learning library is designed to deliver curated content to remote, unconnected or off-grid regions. This portable solar-powered digital library broadcasts over a Wi-Fi hotspot, transforming access to educational opportunities in the most resource-constrained conditions.

Judging the shortlisted candidates from across the US, the UK and Australia were six industry leaders including former LinkedIn vice president, Ellen Levy, now managing drector of Silicon Valley Connect.

"Innovation in research and education is vital to advancing society in a positive direction, whether by addressing some of the biggest challenges our world faces today, or creating new impactful opportunities. It was an honour to review so many inspired proposals and a great privilege to recognise two innovators who are bringing about real and positive change," Levy said.

Managing director of the PLuS Alliance, Paul Ramadge, added that the organisation was impressed the quality of entries nominated.

"All the submissions we received are noteworthy and illustrate real innovation from social enterprise to tech and environmental break-through. I send my heartfelt congratulations to the two winners and look forward to seeing their innovation develop over the coming years," he said.

Two additional prizes were also awarded. Narayana Murthy received the PLuS Alliance Global Leadership Prize for his role in bringing a powerful IT wave to India while professor Francisco Mojica received the PLuS Alliance Prize for Global Innovation in acknowledgement of his foundation research on CRISPR-Cas9 which has underpinned gene editing technology.