SWCF donations

The Simon Wolff Charitable Foundation closed at the end of 2016. In its last few months, the foundation made grants to the following organisations:

Friends of the Earth

FoE is a well-established charity which focuses on a number of environmental issues. It shares SWCF concerns on air pollution and associated health problems. We were therefore delighted to be able to donate £750 to the FOE Clean Air Appeal. You can read more about FoE here: https://www.foe.co.uk/


This small charity is campaigning to achieve safer streets for us all, and to increase walking and cycling, which have considerable health benefits. The Trustees of the SWCF are pleased to be able to support their road danger reduction campaign through a donation of £500. You can find more information about Roadpeace on their website: http://www.roadpeace.org/


HACAN is an organization working to reduce the environmental impact of airports, with particular respect to air and noise pollution. The SWCF was pleased to be able to donate the sum of £400 towards their information campaign. The chair of HACAN, John Stewart, is an experienced transport campaigner who worked with Simon Wolff in the 1990s. Read more about HACAN’s work here: http://hacan.org.uk/

Simon Wolff Charitable Foundation to close

It is now over 20 years since the SWCF was founded after the untimely death of Dr Simon Wolff, aged 38. At the time of his death Dr Wolff had already made significant contributions to science within the fields of diabetes and free radicals, as well as being an active participant in the campaign for better public transport in the UK.

A fund to further research in the fields in which Dr Wolff was active was launched at his Memorial Service in April 1996. Over the following months it was decided to broaden the scope of the fund and to apply for charitable status. We became an officially approved UK charity in August 1996.

Donations from many well-wishers in the early years, the invaluable contributions of a few regular donors and the efforts of unpaid Trustees have enabled the charity to campaign, fund and promote activities, research and education in the following areas:

  • Transport and health
  • Alternatives to cars
  • Science travel grants at university level
  • Science prizes at school and university level

Part of the remit of the SWCF was to communicate with the wider community about scientific, transport and public health issues. In the first ten years or so, information bulletins were typed up, photographs pasted in by hand and the resulting documents taken to a printing company. Boxes of leaflets were picked up a week later, and the following evenings were spent stuffing envelopes and sticking on stamps. Carrier bags full of envelopes were taken to the local post office and over the coming days the bulletins would be delivered by Royal Mail. How times have changed! Now we have our own website and we communicate with the world by email. The Trustees are unanimously agreed that we do not miss all that stamp licking.

Like many small charities, the SWCF has been run by idealists on a shoestring budget. From the outset we realized we were never going to be in the same league as national charities with generous advertising budgets and full-time, paid staff. Although our contributions may be quite modest on a national scale, we are nonetheless proud of what we have managed to achieve.

Activities and achievements

The SWCF has

  • commissioned and co-funded a report by Professor John Whitelegg on the Thames Gateway Crossing to show that a new bridge would not deliver regeneration, economic revitalization and job creation for local communities.
  • given expert evidence at a major transport inquiry in London into the Thames Gateway Crossing. The scheme was for a motorway-sized road bridge which would have greatly increased traffic in residential areas. It also posed a tremendous threat to Oxleas Wood, one of the few remaining ancient woodlands in London. Using professional statistical analysis, the SWCF dissected the road builders’ own figures and showed that on the whole areas with few major roads, like the London Borough of Richmond, are more prosperous with little unemployment, while areas crisscrossed with major roads like Tower Hamlets are poor and with high unemployment. We exposed a number of contradictions in the road builders’ case, and other objectors also presented cogent expert information. After weeks of deliberation, the Inspector at the public inquiry ruled against the motorway bridge and in favour of the protestors. This decision was highly unusual, and a tremendous boost for organisations campaigning for better public transport.
  • funded a major transport pollution study in collaboration with Birmingham University into air quality in urban areas.
  • written many letters to local authorities and other organisations on public transport issues.
  • set up a system of awarding travel grants to young scientists in the fields of diabetes, free radicals and public health.
  • received and evaluated numerous grant applications.
  • awarded travel grants to young scientists wishing to present their ideas to an international audience and to learn from face-to-face communication with experts in their fields.
  • published reports from the recipients of travel grants to disseminate their ideas to the general public.
  • made three non-monetary awards for contrarian ideas within academia, for which Dr Wolff was well known.
  • made a Motivation for Science award to a local authority school engaging pupils in an innovative manner.
  • made book awards to sixth formers at Dr Wolff’s old school (Rugby School) who combined scientific endeavour with an outstanding interest in communicating ideas.

The end of an era

It has gradually become clear to the Trustees that the charity has achieved as much as is possible with the limited resources at our disposal. Further work would require considerable fund-raising and recruitment of new Trustees with the time and expertise to move the charity forward. Regretfully, we have decided that it is now time for the charity to close, and for residual funds to be transferred to other organisations working within the fields with which the SWCF has been associated.

The digital footprint of the SWCF will not be disappearing, however. The SWCF website will remain active for many years to come. Over the coming months we will be publishing information about the charities receiving residual SWCF funds. We will also be posting a final travel grant report from a young scientist going to Shanghai this summer with the assistance of the SWCF to attend the triennial World Conference on Transport Research.

In many ways this travel grant is a fitting final tribute to Dr Wolff and the truly international spirit of his research. He supported several young Chinese scientists coming to Britain in the 1980s and 1990s, and visited Shanghai himself in 1985. He would very much have appreciated the fact that the final recipient of a SWCF travel grant is a young scientist who is doing research on the interplay between public health and public transport policy, and who is very keen to communicate with experts and peers on the international stage. Science, transport and health, politics in action, communication – everything the SWCF has stood for.

Thank you for your interest and support over the last 20 years.

The Trustees of the Simon Wolff Charitable Foundation
May 2016

The SWCF funds an air pollution researcher

Photo of Eleonora Nicolisi with display board explaining her reseasrch
The Simon Wolff Charitable Foundation has helped PhD student at Kings College, London. Eleonora Nicolisi, whose subject is environmental pollution, attend a conference in Milan. Here is a brief report:

The Simon Wolff Charitable Foundation aided the financing of my travel and accommodation expenses to present my poster at the European Aerosol Conference (EAC) held in Milan 7th-11th September 2015.

Continue reading “The SWCF funds an air pollution researcher”

Results of pilot study on transport pollution and health funded by the SWCF

The SWCF was delighted to be able to part-fund an air quality study in 2014 by Pallavi Pant and colleagues at Birmingham University. This continues the work started by Dr Simon Wolff in the 1990s.

Pallavi Pant summarised the findings of the study as follows:

Non-exhaust emissions are gaining prominence as a significant contributor to air quality in urban areas, and this pilot study has helped us in improving our understanding of the composition of PM10 road dust, as well as potential health risks. Although we have identified some trends (e.g. Cu was found to be associated with oxidative stress), this was a small study, and we plan to continue this assessment with larger datasets with samples from different locations to generate conclusive evidence on health risks associated with exposure to road dust.

Click here to read a summary report

You can download the full academic report, which has now been made available to the Simon Wolff Charitable Foundation, from here: The academic report download

Young engineer helped to attend conference by the Simon Wolff Charitable Foundation

PhD student Mohammad Afkhami attended the ESCAPE 24 conference in June 2014 with help from the Simon Wolff Charitable Foundation. Here is his report:

Photo of Mohammad Afkami giving lecture

The Simon Wolff Charitable Foundation aided the financing of my travel and accommodation expenses to present my paper as a speaker at the 23rd European Symposium on Computer Aided Process Engineering (ESCAPE 24) held in Budapest from 15th-18th June 2014. I am currently in my final year of a PhD in the Institute of Particle Science and Engineering, School of Process, Environmental and Materials Engineering at the University of Leeds under the supervision of Dr. Ali Hassanpour and Prof. Michael Fairweather. Continue reading “Young engineer helped to attend conference by the Simon Wolff Charitable Foundation”

Biomedical Materials researcher attends conference with the help of the SWCF

Biomaterials 26th European Conference on Biomaterials—Liverpool (August 2014)

Picture of Aisling O'Carroll

Aisling O’ Carroll obtained her BSc in Biomedical Science (1st Class Hons) from National University of Ireland, Maynooth, Ireland (NUIM). She received a Special Research Scholarship and began her PhD studies in the School of Pharmacy, Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) in the area of medical devices in October 2013. Her research involves the development of a biomaterial with improved biocompatibility to modulate the Foreign Body Response. Upon receiving a generous Simon Wolff Charitable Foundation (SWCF) travel grant, Aisling attended ESB 2014 Annual Conference, the 26th European Conference on Biomaterials (www.esb2014.org), held from August 31st to September 3rd, 2014 in the Liverpool Echo Arena. This event was organised by the European Society of Biomaterials, and also encompassed the 11th Young Scientists Forum, aimed at postgraduate students, encouraging discussion and participation in biomaterials education and training, career development and research opportunities.

Continue reading “Biomedical Materials researcher attends conference with the help of the SWCF”

The SWCF helps a young researcher attend a San Fransico conference

High Blood Pressure Research (HBPR) Scientific Sessions—San Francisco (September 2014)

Photo of Ting Yang M.D. Ph.D

I am a Postdoctoral Fellow working at the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology at Karolinska Institutet, Sweden. My current research projects focus on investigating the role of renal and cardiovascular functions in health and diseases.

Cardiovascular diseases are a major health problem worldwide, resulting in an enormous economic burden to the society. Hypertension is one of the most common chronic cardiovascular disorders, with a great proportion linked to renal dysfunction. The kidneys contribute profoundly to maintaining the homoeostasis of body fluid volumes and electrolytes balance, which play key roles in long-term regulation of blood pressure. Many years ago it was proposed that low nephron numbers during nephrogenesis and high salt consumption in the diet are related to subsequent development of hypertension and renal disease in the adult life. However the mechanisms underlying the pathogenesis remain unclear and further studies are urgently needed. Continue reading “The SWCF helps a young researcher attend a San Fransico conference”

Young Econometrics PhD student attends the VIII World Conference of the Spatial Econometrics Association

Zurich—Switzerland (June 11-13, 2014)

Photo of Korter Grace

Spatial econometrics is a well-consolidated body of methodologies for the analysis of externalities, spillover and interactions with applications in so many diverse scientific fields such as regional economics, transportation, criminology, public finance, industrial organization, political sciences, psychology, agricultural economics, health economics, demography, epidemiology, managerial economics, urban planning, education, land use, social sciences, economic development, innovation diffusion, environmental studies, history, labor, resources and energy economics, food security, real estate, marketing, and many others. The VIII World Conference of the Spatial Econometrics Association is an annual conference of the association to promote the development of theoretical tools and sound applications of the discipline. The conference offered a forum for discussing methodological advances and empirical results in all applied fields and encouraged such knowledge and good practice in academic and research institutions and in the society at large. Continue reading “Young Econometrics PhD student attends the VIII World Conference of the Spatial Econometrics Association”