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Materials Processing Institute joins with IChemE to support the Ashok Kumar fellowship scheme

ByDave Stopher

Jul 15, 2021

Applications are invited from postgraduate chemical engineers for a fellowship scheme in memory of former Teesside MP Ashok Kumar.

Jointly funded by the Middlesbrough-based Materials Processing Institute and The Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE), it provides a three-month placement working alongside policymakers in the influential Parliamentary Office for Science and Technology (POST).

Dr Kumar, the Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, was the only chemical engineer serving in Parliament at the time of his sudden death in 2010 at the age of 53.

The Ashok Kumar Fellowship was launched shortly afterwards and funding for the scheme has now been secured with the support of the Materials Processing Institute.

Chris McDonald, the Institute’s Chief Executive and an IChemE Fellow, said: “We are delighted to be supporting this hugely important Fellowship – founded in memory of someone who was passionate about Teesside’s future.

“Ashok Kumar was also a respected chemical engineer who championed the profession and dedicated himself to promoting and shaping government policy around science and technology.

“I was fortunate enough to work alongside Ashok here at the Institute in the 1990s and saw first-hand his passion for chemical and process engineering. This Fellowship offers a huge opportunity for a science based postgraduate student to support decision makers, at a time when this country needs to be committed to maximising the economic opportunities created by investment in science and technology.”

Prior to becoming an MP, Dr Kumar worked as a research scientist from 1988 until 1997 for British Steel at its Teesside Technology Centre, which later became the Materials Processing Institute.

Tom Blenkinsop, who worked in Dr Kumar’s parliamentary office and served as the constituency’s Labour MP from 2010 until 2017, said: “Ashok was an outstanding constituency member of parliament.

“Walk down any street in East Cleveland or Middlesbrough and everyone knew who he was immediately. The lead cheerleader for Teesside’s steel and chemical industries, he worked very closely with industry as he understood that industrial and technology clusters are key to economic development.

“He had many special qualities; not least that in a political world dominated by lawyers and journalists, he was fiercely proud of his technical background, and he remained a chemical engineer until the day he died.

“In his role, Ashok was one of few parliamentarians to properly understand the implications and application of science and technology so I know he would be so proud of this Fellowship in his name and excited about how it will support young chemical and process engineers on their career path.”

Simon Clarke, the current Conservative MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland since 2017, paid tribute: “Ashok was a great advocate for our constituency, a thoroughly decent man, popular for all the right reasons and he is sadly missed. He was also a chemical engineer who fundamentally understood the industries that are so vital to the prosperity of our region.

“It’s so important that Parliament benefits from the perspective of individuals who not only understand but are able to represent the interests of industry from the inside. As we approach a cleaner industrial future, Parliament needs, now more than ever, to have a clear understanding of science and engineering challenges.

“The Ashok Kumar Fellowship is an excellent scheme that will help ensure that the voice of industry is heard by the people who ultimately make the decisions that will chart the green industrial future. It is a fitting tribute to Ashok.”

Alexandra Meldrum, IChemE Vice President Learned Society, said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for anyone who is keen to understand what it’s like on the inside of Parliament and to get first-hand experience of how chemical engineers can positively contribute to UK policy.

“IChemE’s Learned Society Committee is delighted to support this initiative and is grateful to the Materials Processing Institute for supporting the next phase of this Fellowship to enable and encourage professional development of the successful candidate.”

Applications to the Ashok Kumar Fellowship are open until 5 September 2021. For more information on the eligibility criteria, visit https://post.parliament.uk/ashok-kumar-fellowship-2021-22/