Research Partnership Grants 2021

The funding instrument "Research Partnership Grants" aims at developing new joint project proposals or connecting already existing and independently funded projects in Switzerland and in the MENA partner countries into long-lasting cooperation. The goal of this instrument is to allow researchers to conduct desk work, field research or laboratory feasibility studies, in order to apply for grants from other funding agencies (e.g. national funding agencies or EU funding schemes), and/or to develop long-term partnerships between two institutions or research groups. Activities to intensify joint teaching or curriculum development are also eligible for this grant.

This instrument will be launched once a year in 2021, 2022 and 2023. The text of the 2021 call is available below. Minor changes will be made for the 2022 call, which will be launched in May.

Awarded projects

The first call for projects was launched in October 2021. At the deadline (3rd January 2022), 36 applications had been submitted. After an eligibility check, an evaluation by external reviewers, and a final committee selection, ten projects were awarded a grant. You can find detailed information about the awarded projects below.

Partner in Switzerland:

  • Hochschule Luzern: Sabine Sulzer (main applicant), Uwe W. Schulz

Partner in the MENA region:

  • New York University Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates: Daniel James Johnson

 

Project presentation

The global community is debating, arguing, negotiating, and slowly developing approaches to reduce CO2 emissions and to increase renewable energy use. Progress requires overcoming the complex problem of balancing technology, investments, and social interests. How can the handling of this challenging problem be understood and disseminated?

Educational games have demonstrated great potential for informing students, policymakers, and the general public on environmental resources and societal issues. Evidence has been obtained using the online game Sarnetz.ch. The tool is based on a physical version developed by ETH, as part of Energia 2020, and has been exposed to students by HSLU in Switzerland and abroad, as part of the Expo’s in Japan, Kazakhstan, and Dubai. It was found that further engagement to reduce CO2 emissions requires suitable measures for the geographical region of interest.

In this project, HSLU together with NYUAD intends to investigate the feasibility of transforming Sarnetz.ch for the Middle East Region by gathering the relevant data necessary to adapt the online educational environmental game specific to the environment and needs of communities in Abu Dhabi, the UAE, and the GCC. With this collaboration, local knowledge and competence is added to the academic excellence with access to key stakeholders to also investigate funding sources and connect with funding bodies to develop the game in future projects using the knowledge gained in this work.

Partner in Switzerland:

  • Ecole polytechnique fédéral de Lausanne EPFL: Karen Scrivener (main applicant)

     

Partner in the MENA region:

  • New York University Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates: Kemal Celik, Rotana Hay

 

Project presentation

The ubiquity of concrete in the built environment poses serious environmental concerns. Ordinary Portland cement (PC), the main binding agent in concrete, is manufactured from limestone (CaCO3), which decomposes and releases CO2 during an energy-intensive calcination stage as part of the production process. The cement industry emits approximately 3.2 billion tonnes of CO2, accounting for approximately 7-8 % of the total global anthropogenic CO2 emission. Over the past years, partial replacement of PC by supplementary cementitious materials (SCMs) such as ground granulated blast furnace slag from steel production plants, fly ash from coal power plants, or natural pozzolans has been successfully implemented to help reduce the CO2 emissions from the industry. However, geographical constraints, a shift from coal to cleaner energy sources, and increased recycling of steel raise concerns about their long-term availability. A combination of limestone powder and calcined clay as PC replacement (LC3) was shown to bring about a synergistic effect, leading to an enhancement of the composite performance and a significant reduction in the environmental footprint relative to the PC.

Even though the geology of the Middle East region does not appear propitious to finding suitable clays, our preliminary studies revealed the existence of clays with limited reactivity and potentials for incorporation in LC3 formulations. The main objective of the proposed study is to identify and assess the properties and commercial viability of local clays for LC3 implementation to contribute to decarbonizing the cement industry in the AUE. We will focus on the identification of sources of potential clays, their performance assessment, and incorporation in concrete. In addition to geological survey and sampling, a series of comprehensive characterization techniques will be performed and will include calcination, ball milling, thermal gravimetric analysis (TGA), reactivity testing, X-ray diffraction (XRD), X-ray fluorescence (XRF), calorimetry, compression testing and scanning electron microscopy (SEM) will be performed. Successful identification of potential clays will stimulate interest and adoption of this sustainable binder in the UAE.

Partner in Switzerland:

  • Ecole polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne EPFL: Isabelle Vonèche Cardia (main applicant), Denis P. Gillet

Partners in the MENA region:

  • An-Najah National University, Palestine: AbdelKarim Abdelraziq

  • Birzeit University, Palestine: Abdel-Razzak Natsheh: Osama Mimi, Rania Qasim

 

Project summary

According to the World Bank, “technology is one of the main drivers of productivity and economic growth”, but developing countries like Palestine have had difficulties to develop new technologies or absorb foreign ones. This said, Palestine has young highly educated entrepreneurs who are eager to learn about the latest developments, and get up to date with digital technologies.

Our project will organize a one-week workshop in Palestine for Swiss Educational Technology students to set an innovation agenda and allow more
interaction between the latter and their Palestinian counterpart. During this event Swiss students will form a tandem (one Swiss student, one Palestinian student) to start a project in social entrepreneurship and EdTech. Their collaboration will then continue online until they meet again in Switzerland thanks to another project.

Partner in Switzerland

  • Scuola universitaria professionale della Svizzera italiana SUPSI: Giacinta Jean (main applicant)

Partners in the MENA region

  • Lebanese University, Lebanon (main partner): Yasmine Makaroun

  • Université Saint-Joseph de Beyrouth, Lebanon: Nayla Tamraz

  • Université Saint-Esprit Kaslik, Lebanon: Joseph Zaarour

 

Project presentation

The explosion that hit Beirut on 04.08.2020 had a devastating effect on the city and its inhabitants. The material and immaterial damage of such an event requires an unimaginable effort to recover acceptable living conditions. In the recovery process, actions aimed at the restoration and care of the cultural heritage can play a fundamental role in giving life and dignity back to a displaced population.

The project aims to enhance interdisciplinary collaboration, creating an international network for the care of cultural heritage and it will develop new
methods, techniques and approaches, know-how and skills, to support disaster recovering (from emergency intervention to preservation and restoration) and for promoting awareness of the values of cultural heritage among local people. It will shape new professionals and ensure the continuity of traditional craftsmanship, contributing to rebuild a sense of place.

The project, led by prof. Giacinta Jean from the Conservation-Restoration unit of SUPSI, will be developed in strong collaboration with dr. Yasmine
Makaroun, Director of the Center of Restoration and Conservation, Faculty of Fines Arts and Architecture, Lebanese University; prof. Joseph Zaarour, Head of Conservation Restoration of Cultural Property Program, Holy Spirit University Kaslik; prof. Nayla Tamraz, Director of the Master and Ph.D. program in curatorial studies, University of Saint-Joseph, the Swiss Embassy and the Restart Beirut Fonds.

Partner in Switzerland en Suisse

  • Haute école spécialisée de Suisse occidentale HES-SO (HES-SO Valais-Wallis - Haute Ecole d’Ingénierie): Haifa Sallem (main applicant)

Partners in the MENA region

  • Université de Tunis El Manar - Ecole nationale d'ingénieurs de Tunis ENIT, Tunisia (main partner): Adel Hamdi, Khalil Mansouri, Tarek Mabrouki

  • Université de Tunis - Ecole nationale supérieure d'ingénieurs de Tunis ENSIT, Tunisia (additional partner): Habib Sahlaoui

 

Project presentation

Industry 4.0 promotes the integration of smart factories, among these, Additive Manufacturing (AM) known as 3D printing technologies which are
considered one of the most promising technologies in the transformation towards the digitalization of the industry, generating huge interest in several sectors such aerospace, automobile and biomedical. However, there are technical challenges related to the reproducibility and the quality monitoring, to bring these recent technologies onto the production lines.

The overarching goal must therefore be the integration and the dissemination of reliable AM technologies into engineering teaching, and to bring more scientific comprehension of the process. To that end, this project fosters synergies between the skills provided by the two academic institutions (HEI Valais-Switzerland and UTM/ENIT-Tunisia) to develop a collaborative framework for effective education of a reliable metal AM technologies based on the combination of both virtual and physical prototyping, respectively through the development of numerical predictive models, and printing tangible 3D samples. This approach aims to characterize the achievement of an AM part considering its qualification criteria.

This will help future engineers, master students, PhD candidates and researchers to develop skills in common processing equipment based on scientific concepts and to be immersed in an innovative technology allowing a flexible integration of the metal AM toward the industry4.0.

Partners in Switzerland

  • Haute école spécialisée de Suisse occidentale HES-SO (Haute école d'ingénierie et d'architecture de Fribourg – HEIA-FR): Roger Marti (main applicant), Rudy Koopmans

  • Ostschweizer Fachhochschule: Daniel Schwendemann

  • Université de Lausanne: Valentina Pavlovic, Gastone Faccin

Partner in the MENA region

  • Université Saint-Esprit Kaslik, Lebanon: Nancy Zgheib-Tabet, Marylise Salim, Peter Obeid

 

Project presentation

Plasticycle started as student project on the topic of plastic recycling at USEK in Lebanon. Through SMECEYI first contacts with Swiss UAS were
established. With this project we propose to use technical exchanges to define and initiate cooperation between USEK Lebanon & HES-SO Fribourg and OST Rapperswil to launch joint research projects & student exchanges in the field of plastic/chemical engineering and to expand and strengthen the network within circular plastic economy.

Partner in Switzerland

  • Institut Suisse de Spéléologie et de Karstologie: Marc Luetscher (main applicant)

Partner in the MENA region

  • Office National des Mines, Tunisia: Moez Mansoura

 

Project presentation

Tunisia’s mining history goes back to the Roman period and was heavily expanded during the 19th century before economic constraints forced many mines to close during the 1990’s. These abandoned mines represent a historical heritage which is yet only poorly recognized. Here, we propose to document this unique patrimony by integrating historical information with modern 3D topographic surveys using light-weight lidar technology at Djebel Serdj, where several old mines are documented next to Tunisian’s most extensive speleological networks. The latter host some large chambers which extent can only hardly be assessed without detailed surveys. Results of this acquisition will support spatial analysis of geomorphological features as well as contribute to a better understanding of lead-zinc ore deposits with respect to karst processes. But overall, the 3D visualization of these complex networks will support scientific mediation efforts to protect this unique geological patrimony.

Partner in Switzerland

  • Haute école spécialisée de Suisse occidentale HES-SO (Haute école de travail social de Genève HETS-Genève): Chantal Junker-Tschopp (main applicant)

Partner in the MENA region

  • Université Saint-Joseph de Beyrouth, Lebanon: Joseph Maarrawi, Hicham Abou Zeid, Sandra Kobaïter Maarrawi, Gemma Gebrael Matta

 

Project presentation

Imagine pain in a non-existing body part! Belonging to the daily life of most amputees, phantom pain is yet refractory to available treatments, most patients showing minimal if none persistent improvements.

The project will bring scientific proof to previous clinical outcomes that neuro-psychomotor therapy reduces and even alleviates pain. Research will be held in Lebanon linking both a high potential of medical values with a large community of amputees. 20 amputees suffering from chronic phantom pain will receive either neuro-psychomotor or physiotherapy over 36 sessions. A randomized, controlled, test-retest protocol will investigate changes in the level of pain and in neural plasticity reorganization (MRI + somatotopic map) before, at the end of therapy and 4 months later.

Significant differences in pain level and in brain reorganization will be expected between the two groups indicating that global restructuration of amputees’ disturbed body schema driven by the neuro-psychomotor therapy may be a straightforward remedy offering a novel non-pharmacological/surgical treatment of phantom pain.

This project will bring empowerment and sustainability to both countries on the level of phantom pain treatment and professionals’ education in the neuropsychomotor therapy. It will also give new understanding of neuropathic pain by exploring the links between phantom pain and body schema, opening new insights to other clinical populations (paraplegic, stroke, neuroalgodystrophia).

Partner in Switzerland

  • Université de Genève: Barbara Class (main applicant)

Partners in the MENA region

  • Centre de recherche sur l'information scientifique et technique CERIST, Algeria: Dalila Bebbouchi

  • Alexandria University, Egypt: Ghada El Khayat

  • Université Mohammed V de Rabat, Morocco: Khalid Berrada, Souhad Shlaka

  • Université de Sousse, Tunisia: Lilia Cheniti-Belcadhi

 

Project presentation

Open Science has been institutionalised in Switzerland in the past years, in-line with Swissuniversities, the European Commission’s, OECD, and UNESCO recommendations (EuropeanCommission, 2020; OECD, 2021; Swissuniversities, No date; UNESCO, 2021). Policies and support exist at national and institutional levels to guide the different stakeholders (e.g. Universite-de-Genève, 2020). In contrast, for Open Education, Switzerland does not have any national policy yet but several initiatives around the topic are flourishing throughout the country (e.g. ZWAH institutional OER policy, Digital academy skills, Swiss OE day, UNIGE-HES-SO mandate, SNSF scientific exchange).

In the MENA region, the movement is rather the opposite. Open Education has been well developed through several international projects supported by the European Commission, ALECSO and different organisations (e.g. ALECSO, 2019; OERWiki@MENA, 2021; OpenBookProject, 2014; OpenMed, 2015; UNIMED, 2018) with growing OERs libraries and national and institutional policies in the making (e.g. OpenMed, 2016). Open Science though is still in its infancy.

Within this project, we will build on each other’s expertise in terms of Open Science and Open Education to educate scholars of the Swiss-MENA region to the Open paradigm. Indeed, the ultimate goal of this research project is to create a pool of scholars from the 5 countries involved (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt and Switzerland) who deeply understand the Open paradigm and act as catalysts and disseminators with the backdrop of an international network of Open scholars. We argue that this is a Swiss-Mediterranean contribution to the building of the collective intelligence needed to craft the knowledge society (Innerarity, 2015).

Partner in Switzerland

  • Université de Lausanne - Centre hospitalier universitaire vaudois CHUV: Pedro Marques-Vidal (main applicant)

Partner in the MENA region

  • Dasman Diabetes Institute, Kowait: Abdullah Alkandari

 

Project presentation

Almost one out of ten Swiss aged over 65 lives with diabetes. In Kuwait, the prevalence over one out of six adults aged 60-69. Diabetes carries a high health and economic burden: for canton Vaud, the health costs range between 170 and 250 million CHF per year. In Kuwait, the estimated cost of treating diabetes is over $1,000 a year per individual per year. Further, almost half of patients with diabetes are inadequately managed in Switzerland, while in Kuwait the rate is almost two thirds. The reasons making a subject with diabetes being inadequately managed are poorly understood; recently, the effect of an unfavourable genetic profile has been put forward, but whether such profile can be used in clinical practice is unknown. Our project thus aims at assessing:

  1. The awareness, treatment and control rates of diabetes in Switzerland and Kuwait
  2. The clinical and behavioural factors associated with awareness and treatment of diabetes in Switzerland and Kuwait
  3. The clinical, behavioural and genetic factors associated with control of diabetes in Switzerland

We will use data from the CoLau|PsyCoLaus study in Switzerland and the Kuwait National Diabetes Registry in Kuwait. The data is available and approval from the corresponding Ethic Committees has been obtained, the study can be conducted easily. The project duration is 12 months. We expect to foster collaboration between the Lausanne University Hospital and the Dasman Diabetes Institute regarding the research on diabetes.