Funded Projects | 2005 – 2016

Funded Projects 2005 

Sector: Energy & Environment
Coordinator: Prof. Robert Ghirlando
Coordinating Organisation: Faculty of Engineering, University of Malta
Grant Value: € 46,588

High Temperature Air Combustion (HiTAC), also known as Flameless Combustion, is an innovative     combustion technology which offers numerous advantages over traditional technology: · improved heat transfer characteristics · higher efficiency and thus reduced fuel consumption · reduction of NOx and CO2 emissions · a reduction in the physical size of the facilities. In this research project, a Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) model of a furnace working on high temperature air combustion was developed using a CFD software package, FLUENT, with its in-built turbulence, combustion and radiation models. The model was validated against experimental data obtained from another research team at KTH in Sweden. The predicted results from the simulation were very promising and led to the application of the same model to one of the boilers of Delimara Power Station. A CFD analysis was performed on the boiler in order to compare the performance of the boiler working on HiTAC technology (with methane as fuel) against ordinary combustion technology (with heavy fuel oil as fuel).  The results from this analysis indicated that NOemissions from the boiler would be reduced to levels which comply with the Large Combustion Plant Directive, if the boiler were to be fired with methane. A further      reduction in NOx emission levels can also be expected if HiTAC technology is applied.

Sector: Social Sciences
Coordinator: Dr. Suzanne Gatt
Coordinating Organisation: Faculty of Education, University of Malta
Grant Value: € 23,294

The negative image that has become synonymous with a scientist’s profession is one of the detrimental factors that discourage students from opting for a scientific career. This project focuses on researching the perceptions students have with regards to scientists and how the media helps shape these perceptions. What role do films and documentaries have in the dissemination of the stereotypical image of a scientist as a middle-aged Caucasian male, detached from everyday life and isolated to the confines of his lab. This research project will include a literature review of work in the area, both on national and international level, profiling of the different types of scientists that one can find in Malta, further research in the influence of media in the formation of these stereotypes and the development and piloting of a number of teaching activities for   primary and secondary levels that present a realistic image of scientists and their work.

Sector: Health & Biotechnology
Coordinator: Prof. Christian Scerri
Coordinating Organisation: Faculty of Medicine & Surgery, University of Malta
Grant Value: € 50,082

Coeliac Disease is an inflammatory disease of the upper small intestine caused by gluten ingestion in genetically susceptible individuals. This disease was in the past considered as an uncommon disorder with prevalence rates of 1 in 1700, however recent studies have shown that it may be much commoner and may affect as many as 1 in 133 individuals.  Gluten is found in a number of cereals including wheat,  barley and rye, meaning that those suffering from this condition are affected by a broad range of foodstuffs. The pathophysiology of coeliac disease is multi-factoral and includes both genetic as well as environmental factors. The full spectrum of genetic factors in coeliac disease is largely unknown. One way of identifying the predisposing genes is through the linkage analysis of genetic patterns amongst the family members where at least one (preferably more) of the members has the condition. This project investigated the genetic profiles of individuals suffering from celiac disease as well as of their first degree relatives, in a bid to identify genetic risk loci that confer susceptibility to the disease. Following the setting up of a data and specimen bank of individuals with coeliac disease and their family members, a preliminary study on a number of known genetic polymorphisms (mutations that apparently do not produce any pathological change in the protein product) was performed. A full genome genetic linkage analysis was performed on all members of one family.  This linkage analysis identified a number of interesting sites within the genome and a particular locus was identified for further analysis. The study revealed the presence of two polymorphic sites which have been found in all the coeliac cases within this family but not in the unaffected individuals. Further studies are being conducted to identify the cellular pathology resulting from these mutations. The identification of such pathologies can result in the identification of possible pathways where one can intervene therapeutically and hence produce novel ways of treatment of coeliac disease. This study has already attracted attention from foreign based biotech companies that have shown an interest to support further research amongst this and other Maltese families both on coeliac disease as well as other related disorders such as diabetes, rheumatoid, arthritis and other inflammatory bowel disorders.

Sector: Health & Biotechnology
Coordinator: Dr. Anthony Fenech
Coordinating Organisation: Department of Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics, University of Malta
Grant Value: € 40,531
Chemokine receptors constitute a novel drug target for the management of bronchial asthma, and receptor antagonists have been produced and patented. Genetic variation in transcriptional regulatory regions of pharmacological targets is an important source of pharmacogenetic patient-to-patient variation. The CCR4 chemokine receptor promoter will be identified, characterized and screened for polymorphisms in asthmatic and non-asthmatic individuals. Identified variants will be studied using functional transcriptional activity assays in cell culture as well as a family-based transmission disequilibrium testing approach.
The results will contribute towards identifying potential pharmacogenetic-dependent interpatient variation in treatment responses to CCR4-antagonists, and will identify whether specific promoter variants contribute towards the phenotype of asthma.
Sector: Health & Biotechnology
Coordinator: Dr. Simeon Deguara
Coordinating Organisation: AquaBioTech Innovia Ltd.
Grant Value: € 65,222

As traditional fishing continues to decline and many fish stocks are becoming threatened due to overexploitation, consumer demands for fish products has continued to rise and so is the price consumers are prepared to pay for the product.  Aquaculture is one possible solution but presents a challenge in terms of developing the required cultivation techniques in an artificial habitat. Moreover, the cultured produce should be free from chemicals, antibiotics and contaminants. The purpose of this research is to develop and operate two prototype recirculation systems for the intensive culture of the Pacific White Shrimp, Lithopenaeus vannamei. The prototype design is one that has been developed by AquaBioTech Innovia Ltd. and is referred to as an Intensive Vertical Shrimp Culture (IVSC) unit.  The unique design allows for the high-density culture of shrimps using a synthetic material suspended in the water column so as to increase the viable surface habitat and feeding area. This high-density culture is believed to produce shrimps of very high quality utilising the entire water column allowing for high yields per meter squared compared to existing shrimp culture.

Sector: ICT
Coordinator: Dr. Simon Fabri
Coordinating Organisation: Department of Electrical Power and Control Engineering, University of Malta
Grant Value: € 55,905

Computational intelligence, a computing methodology closely related to artificial intelligence, aims to develop machines that are able to learn and autonomously adapt themselves to changing environments. This paradigm is based upon the development of sophisticated algorithms such as fuzzy systems, neural networks and evolutionary computation, inspired by nature’s way of dealing with complexity and uncertainty. Modern advances in technology are leading to highly complex systems that need to be controlled within rigorous specifications and under higher levels of autonomy. Such demands are bound to increase in future technology, making the design of automatic control systems ever more challenging. Applications of the techniques are very diverse and could include robots that can move autonomously and are being used to explore the surface of planet Mars, as well as the control of prosthetic devices for disabled persons. In reality, a controller that is able to meet such elaborate levels of performance and autonomy must    exhibit features that are normally attributed to intelligence. These include the ability to adapt to unanticipated situations, to learn complex, previously unknown behaviour and the capacity for automatically planning reliable control strategies. In essence, such automatic controllers attempt to mimic the intelligent traits and self-organising features found in nature. In this project, specific emphasis was placed on artificial neural network techniques for learning reliable control strategies aimed at guiding an autonomously mobile robot and for controlling the movement of a robotic arm, despite uncertainties or changes taking place in the physical structure of these robotic systems. A series of innovative control algorithms have been developed and tested by simulation. Novel contributions from this research have been presented at several international conferences and seven papers have been published in peer-reviewed conference proceedings, with a number of others currently undergoing their review process. This research has the potential of transferring knowledge to local  companies with the aim of upgrading their capacities for the design, development and implementation of novel and advanced automation and control products.

Sector: Materials Science
Coordinator: Prof. Joseph Grima
Coordinating Organisation: Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Science, University of Malta
Grant Value: € 66,853

Materials within negative Poisson’s ratios (auxetic) exhibit the unusual properties of becoming wider when stretched and thinner when compressed whilst materials with negative thermal expansion coefficient expand when cooled and get smaller when heated. This project will investigate these two properties in an attempt to understand more clearly how these two unusual properties may be achieved.

Sector: ICT
Coordinator: Mr. Thomas Galea
Coordinating Organisation: Megabyte Ltd.
Consortium: Faculty of Engineering, University of Malta
Grant Value: € 87,771

Most 3D acquisition systems are high-cost and typically have long acquisition times. While this is suitable for static subjects, such as cultural heritage artefacts, much shorter acquisition times are necessary for human subjects. This can be achieved by using multiple cameras, however,  for the required accuracy this would significantly increase the cost. Therefore, we propose to develop a system which uses lower-grade and hence, cheaper cameras, to meet the low-cost requirement and develop data fusion algorithms that exploit redundancy to obtain the required accuracy.

Sector: ICT
Coordinator: Dr. Victor Buttigieg
Coordinating Organisation: Department of Communications and Computer Engineering, University of Malta
Grant Value: € 30,748

Searching the Internet for information using keywords is something that everybody practices and is an efficient way how to retrieve information from the unstructured repository that is the internet. However, while the retrieval of textual information is highly developed, there exists no corresponding search facility for the vast base of multimedia content. While the inference of semantics comes naturally to humans, it is a daunting task for machines as there is no single feature which can be identified analogous to keywords in text documents. Over the past  decade, a large amount of research has been directed towards the solution of this problem. Early Content-Based Multimedia Retrieval (CBMR) systems aimed at inferring semantics from low-level features such as colour, texture, shape and motion extracted from the multimedia through signal-processing techniques. This project will attempt to develop an enhanced CBMR system using ordered relevance feedback from the user to improve the performance of the search system.

Sector: Social Sciences
Coordinator: Dr. Sandra Scicluna
Coordinating Organisation: Institute of Forensic Studies, University of Malta
Grant Value: € 27,952

This research was born from the idea that victims of domestic violence are often neglected. The researchers decided to assess the   available services for victims (women, men, youth and children) of domestic violence in Malta and in the province of Trapani (Sicily). Trapani was chosen because of similarity in the population and culture and because work had already been done with professionals in the province, therefore access would not be a problem. Prior to the commencement of the research the researchers believed that the services for victims of domestic violence would be comparable, mainly due to the similarities in the culture and mentality of the people living on the two islands. In order to assess the situation, interviews were conducted with professionals (in Malta and Sicily) working in the field. The results show that although the Maltese and Sicilians organise their services differently, both islands lack a major ingredient – synergy of the different services.  Besides the need to co-ordinate the services, another major factor that needs to be addressed is the gradual change of the Mediterranean culture through a series of educational programmes that address the issue that violence in the family is unacceptable.

Sector: Health & Biotechnology
Coordinator: Prof. Christian Scerri
Coordinating Organisation: Laboratory of Molecular Genetics, University of Malta
Grant Value: € 27,952

Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) equipment is a veritable workhorse in the field of molecular genetics. From its humble beginnings as a tool to amplify a section of DNA for further analysis, it has become an analytical tool in itself through the evolution of real time PCR. The purchase of such an instrument has the potential of placing the Maltese researcher in the forefront research involving the identification of expressed genes and thus in the understanding of the cellular physiology.

Sector: Health & Biotechnology
Coordinator: Dr. Claire Shoemake
Coordinating Organisation: Department of Pharmacy, University of Malta
Grant Value: € 10,389

Computational Chemistry is emerging at the forefront of contemporary drug design techniques. This specific project targets the oestrogen and androgen receptors, which may lead to the development of breast & prostate cancers respectively. The aim of this project is to create predictive tools via which the in vitro binding activities of oestrogen and androgen recptor ligands may be confidently estimated. It is also aimed to design, in silico, synthetically feasible non-steroidal anti-oestrogens and anti-androgens, which exhibit equivalent binding affinities to steroidal drug molecules which are currently being used. Three dimensional crystallographic structural co-ordinates of the oestrogen and androgen receptors were obtained from the Protein Data Bank. A series of steroidal and non-steroidal ligands for which ligand binding affinity had been  determined experimentally in vitro was obtained from literature. Numerical predictions for in silico ligand binding affinity expressed as predicted pKd were obtained using an empirical binding estimation of free energy of the ligand to its receptor as implemented in SCORE, and correlated with those elucidated experimentally. Minimisation of the oestrogen and androgen receptor (steroidal and non steroidal) was carried out in order to evaluate the effect of minimisation on the correlations between in silico and in vitro estimations of pKd. However the research showed that this on its own did not provide an accurate model. It was hypothesised that the binding of high affinity ligands causes conformational changes to the androgen receptor specifically to the Helix 12 motif, that are significantly different from those caused by the binding of low affinity ligands. It is evident that the presence or absence of a steroidal nucleus has no bearing on the orientation of Helix 12, and it is also evident that low affinity ligands may be identified through analysis of Molecular Dynamics trajectories of the bound complexes, and that, furthermore, the apo receptor may be used as a yardstick for comparison. It is also evident that Molecular Dynamics studies represent a more reliable albeit numerically unquantifiable prediction of ligand binding affinity.

Sector: Health & Biotechnology
Coordinator: Dr Everaldo Attard
Coordinating Organisation: Institute of Agriculture, University of Malta
Grant Value: € 49,080

Records shoe that the traditional use of medicinal and aromatic plants (MAPs) by the Maltese dates back centuries.  As with other cultures, the Maltese exploited plants to improve their well-being and that of the animals they domesticated. However, with the advent of modern medicine, the use of plants for the treatment or control of diseases has declined, particularly during the last century. On the other hand, some natural compounds derived from plants are being investigated for their potential use worldwide. The Institute of Agriculture (IoA) teamed up with the Department of Anatomy, Faculty of Medicine and Surgery (DA/FMS) to screen Maltese MAPs for potential pharmacological activity. Although it has been estimated that approximately 458 plants have been utilised in traditional medicine, we were particularly interested in the investigation of the most common plants utilised and the most abundantly found on the Maltese Islands. Primarily, a survey was carried out to assess the relative abundance of the Maltese MAPs and information inputted in a database.  The plants were systematically collected in groups and selected according to their flowering period.  Over 350 extracts were obtained from approximately 70 species and these were then tested for their constitution of natural compounds. A primary screening test was carried out on some of the extracts, from which a smaller number was selected to be investigated for their effects on human lymphocytes. Although this is an ongoing project, beneficial outcomes are already perceived.  Through this project, MAPs are being organised into a  database that will provide ease in data collection and cross-referencing within the database and with other databases. Another aspect is the link of this research   project to other projects through data collected during the course of the project.  This project will, hopefully lead to the discovery of extracts used in traditional medicine, which might still have value in the modern world. This would be an asset to the Maltese economy and hence will have to be taken forward with industry.

Sector: ICT
Coordinator: Mr Michael Rosner
Coordinating Organisation: Faculty of ICT, University of Malta
Consortium: Malta Information Technology and Training Services (MITTS) Ltd
Grant Value: € 25,623

The Maltese Language Resource Server (MLRS) project has two related objectives that concern the creation of electronic resources for the Maltese language. Both are crucial if the language is to flourish within the information society. The first is an electronic dictionary; the second a Maltese National Corpus of language data. Examples of application areas include: spell and style check; information extraction and retrieval; document classification, multilingual translation; dialogue management and voice control. The creation of Maltese-sensitive computer programmes is of immense interest in the context of the evolving information society in Malta. However, a major obstacle to the creation of such programmes for Maltese is the lack of suitable resources, and it is this issue that the project seeks to address. One resource that is of crucial importance is an electronic dictionary or “computational lexicon”. Such a lexicon is an essential building block of any language-enabled system and must contain information about every potential word form which the system might come across, in order to guide subsequent processing. Besides spelling, such information includes pronunciation, contexts of use, meaning etc. The project aims to develop a framework for the creation, maintenance and deployment of a computational lexicon of Maltese. The core functionality of the system is built into a server. Many of the basic services are accessible over the Internet using an ordinary web browser. At the same time, the system supports the addition of new lexical services in response to evolving demands. The team has designed a specialised client programme for use by lecicographers for the maintenance of lexical entries over the web. The content of the dictionary is another issue that is being tackled. It cannot  be the copy of a paper dictionary because of copyright issues and the fact that paper dictionaries quickly become outdated. The approach in this project is to address these problems directly by extracting words from current primary sources known as “language resources”. Once the words have been extracted, information about the respective entries will be added by specialists.

Funded Projects 2007

Sector: Energy & Environment
Coordinator: Ing. Marco Cremona
Coordinating Organisation: Sustech Consulting
Consortium:  Department of Public Health Island Hotels Group
Grant Value: € 112,877

As much as 55% of Malta’s potable water supply is produced from seawater using reverse osmosis technology. This carries a high cost both in economic as well as environmental terms. Today it is technologically feasible to convert wastewater into potable water using run of the mill technology. Singapore has gone as far as to reintroduce treated water into its drinking water supply in its NEWater initiative. However, it may be a while before such initiatives achieve widespread acceptance. Malta is rapidly moving towards its objective of treating all wastewater to produce second class water suitable for irrigation and other uses. Unfortunately, wastewater treatment on a national level presents a significant problem in terms of utilization of the treated product, since this would require the laying of a new infrastructure of pipes to enable delivery of the treated product to potential users. Since such an infrastructure does not exist, Malta’s treated wastewater is simply discharged into the sea. There exists an opportunity for localised treatment of wastewater by high-consumption water users such as hotels, where it may be economically feasible for such organisations to operate their own wastewater treatment plants within their own premises. It is then possible to utilise the treated water without any great difficulty, for example for the flushing of toilets and for irrigation. The aim of this project is to develop an innovative water recycling process to maximize reuse of water and minimise discharge. The proposed system will be based on the innovative Membrane BioReactor wastewater treatment process used in combination with a low-pressure low-energy reverse osmosis process. The combination of these two advanced processes will make it possible to recover as much as 70 – 80% of the water being bought in by the hotel. The process will provide first-class water to EU Drinking Water standards for use in the guest rooms of the hotel, whilst also meeting all second class water requirements (for toilet cistern flushing, laundries and landscaping purposes. It is believed that this water recycling system will provide for an extremely efficient and cost-effective way of reducing wastewater discharges from the tourism  sector in Malta, thus alleviating pressure on the natural water resources used for the public water supply.

Sector: Health & Biotechnology
Coordinator: Mr Joe Grima
Coordinating Organisation: Baxter Ltd
Grant Value: € 113,513

Intravenous sets Intravenous sets are used extensively in the medical world, as most patients in a hospital or clinic require some form of fluid delivery device for the transfer of medication. International contamination prevention laws  require that after use, such sets (principally composed of plastic and rubbery components) be disposed of through incineration. This is performed at a significant financial cost with an adverse environmental effect. Players in the medication delivery business are generally constricted by the need to offer a vast portfolio of products, mainly due to the large variety of fittings used. These are greatly dependant on the function, type of medication and area of application of every singular patient. Hospitals and clinics are thus forced to stock a wide range of sets for a variety of purposes, within their already constrained stores.   Reusable components The objective of the project is to develop a modular intravenous device which permits reuse of some components whilst respecting the requirement for avoidance of the possibility of contamination. Secondly this projects aims to create reusable non-fluid path components, in a bid to increase the pack factor in packaging boxes, and reduce the amount of plastic scrap incinerated by hospitals following use.

Sector: ICT
Coordinator: Dr. John Abela
Coordinating Organisation: Ascent Software Ltd
Consortium: Dr Bernard Debono, Bioinformatics Consultant
Grant Value: € 125,688

A vast amount of information relating to large-scale pathway and organic molecular structure is freely available over the web under an open standard format. However, comprehensive tools for graphical depiction of this information are still lacking. This project aims to create an interactive visualization tool for biologists which will assist in the creation of meaningful animations using biological structures. BioStructor will achieve this by automatically creating an intuitive representation of bio-molecular structures (e.g. an ATP molecule) within the context of an animation of the biological process (e.g. the glycolysis pathway) that such structures are involved in. Such pathway information will provide a route to construct such interactions in a well-defined way. The program will also be able to (a) create new interactions from scratch, and (b) support the importation and   display of commonly used representations such as gene-bearing chromosomes, domain-bearing proteins, protein-bearing membranes and cell compartments. Functionality will also exist to create additional actors using a combination of basic geometric shapes. It is believed that the product will have numerous applications, such as the facilitation of distance learning. This innovative application will provide a powerful medium for online forums in biology research and technology, as well as assisting directly in the creation of biomedical training material. This toolkit is targeted at three main sectors, namely:

  • Publishers producing teaching material for biomedical education (e.g. textbooks, lecture and multimedia presentations)
  • Academic and biotech/pharmaceutical research industry
  • Companies involved in drug design requiring a visualisation tool as an aid in the design and development process.
Sector: ICT
Coordinator: Dr. John Abela
Coordinating Organisation: Ascent Software Ltd
Consortium: Dr Bernard Debono, Bioinformatics Consultant
Grant Value: € 125,688

A vast amount of information relating to large-scale pathway and organic molecular structure is freely available over the web under an open standard format. However, comprehensive tools for graphical depiction of this information are still lacking. This project aims to create an interactive visualization tool for biologists which will assist in the creation of meaningful animations using biological structures. BioStructor will achieve this by automatically creating an intuitive representation of bio-molecular structures (e.g. an ATP molecule) within the context of an animation of the biological process (e.g. the glycolysis pathway) that such structures are involved in. Such pathway information will provide a route to construct such interactions in a well-defined way. The program will also be able to (a) create new interactions from scratch, and (b) support the importation and   display of commonly used representations such as gene-bearing chromosomes, domain-bearing proteins, protein-bearing membranes and cell compartments. Functionality will also exist to create additional actors using a combination of basic geometric shapes. It is believed that the product will have numerous applications, such as the facilitation of distance learning. This innovative application will provide a powerful medium for online forums in biology research and technology, as well as assisting directly in the creation of biomedical training material. This toolkit is targeted at three main sectors, namely:

  • Publishers producing teaching material for biomedical education (e.g. textbooks, lecture and multimedia presentations)
  • Academic and biotech/pharmaceutical research industry
  • Companies involved in drug design requiring a visualisation tool as an aid in the design and development process.
Sector: Value Added Manufacturing
Coordinator: Dr Michael Saliba
Coordinating Organisation: Faculty of Engineering, University of Malta
Consortium: Cheops (Malta) Ltd. Prominent Group of Companies (Malta) Toly Products Ltd. Federation of Industry (FOI)
Grant Value: € 138,293

In high added-value product manufacturing, where the trend is towards high product variety and relatively low product quantities, competitiveness hinges on the implementation of versatile automation systems. Development of appropriate systems may be a complex procedure requiring specialised knowledge which is often lacking in local industry. As a result, automation in the Maltese manufacturing industry, particularly within the smaller companies, is generally less widespread and effective than it could be. This compromises the efficiency and competitiveness of this important sector. The modular reconfigurable automation systems concept relies on the availability of modular automation components which can be reconfigured to accommodate changes in the manufacturing process. There have been few, if any, attempts to utilise such technology in the local context or even to assess its suitability. Robotics Test Beds enable industry to try out potential automation applications without the requirement of prior commitment of investment. They also serve as a showcase of automation technology and provide industry with an opportunity to develop expertise in the area of industrial automation. This project will start off with an  analysis of existing data on local manufacturing industry to assess the level of automation and identify any correlation between automation and productivity. This study will be supplemented with the gathering of new data in order to enable a more comprehensive analysis. The preliminary study will conclude by identifying those sectors which stand to benefit from increased flexible automation. The project will also develop a number of critical resources targeted towards facilitation of the implementation of automation in the local context. The deliverables will include a set of comprehensive guidelines on the implementation of effective production automation systems within the Maltese environment, as well as a pilot version of a versatile automation test bed which is targeted towards use by local industry for trying out new automation strategies.

Sector: Value Added Manufacturing
Coordinator: Prof. Jonathan Borg
Coordinating Organisation: Faculty of Engineering, University of Malta
Grant Value: € 107,761

As electronic components continue to diminish in size, so also mechanical engineers continue to push the boundaries of mechanical devices. Miniaturisation brings with it a range of new design and fabrication challenges, thus appropriate guidelines on the design and production of miniature components are indispensable if a successful result is contemplated. One of the options for local industry wishing to move up the value chain is for them to develop expertise in this area. This project brings together the Department of Manufacturing Engineering from the University of Malta as well as a number of industry partners to collaborate on the design and manufacture of a miniature mechanical device.  It is believed that the expertise developed by the various participants during the course of this project will enable them to better face emerging    challenges and venture into new areas of production. One sector where miniaturization is increasingly important is the field of biomedical devices. These frequently consist of micrometer-scale features that need to be designed and manufactured to a very high degree of accuracy. Laparascopic tools present an excellent case-study and were selected as the subject of this project. The project also includes dissemination and exploitation activities explicitly aimed at transferring the expertise developed in this project to other industrial stakeholders.

Funded Projects 2008

Sector: Value Added Manufacturing
Coordinator: Ing. Michael Attard
Coordinating Organisation: IMA Engineering Services Ltd
Consortium: PowerSwitch Ltd Faculty of Engineering, University of Malta
Grant Value: € 196,366

Miniaturisation of semiconductors As semiconductors are becoming smaller and more densely packed, the resulting increase in power density causes problems in effective thermal management and performance. Current thermal management techniques utilise conductive materials to transfer heat directly away from the semiconductor chip. However, voids inherent in the soldering process often create hotspots which can lead to overheating and component failure.   Nanotechnology to the rescue Copper composites reinforced by conventional carbon fibres with diameters of around 7-10 µm have been used for many years as reinforcement in various metallic matrices since they are characterised by a low thermal expansion and high thermal conductivity. Attempts to prepare copper–carbon nano-fibre composites have already been reported. The processing methods used are basically powder metallurgical processes as well as the coating of nano-fibres by copper using electrochemical deposition followed by hot pressing. One of the problems with this approach is the difficulty in achieving a homogenous distribution of the nano-fibres in the copper matrix without destroying them.   Intermediate layers This problem can be somewhat overcome by using an electrochemical coating, but even here the thermal properties achieved in practice are far below the predicted properties due to dewetting taking place at the interface. One possible solution is the use of intermediate layers. In this project, intermediate layers shall be deposited onto carbon fibres by means of electrochemical coating  techniques to achieve a minimum   coating thickness of a few hundred   nanometers, thus obtaining a dense and homogeneous coating. Reinforcement of copper matrix composites shall be developed to give a material combining high thermal conductivity and a reduced coefficient of thermal expansion. This combination of properties is very attractive for applications in highly thermally loaded devices, for example as heat sinks for high power modules or optoelectronic components. The project will investigate the configuration and geometry of C-Cu material matrix, namely, copper and nano-fibres to develop a next generation advanced material with improved thermal conductivity and mechanical strength. The developed material will then be tested in the thermal management of solid state power modules used for power conversion application.

Sector: Energy & Environment
Coordinator: Dr. Stephen Abela
Coordinating Organisation: Faculty of Engineering, University of Malta
Consortium: Water Services Corporation Solar Desalination Technik
Grant Value: € 210,669

The Maltese islands have become increasingly dependent on the use of Reverse Osmosis technology for the production of potable water. This process is very energy intensive, and places a significant strain on the country’s economy as well as contributing to its COfootprint. Solar energy can be utilised to convert seawater to potable water by evaporation using solar desalination units. The Department of Metallurgy and Materials Engineering at the University of Malta (UoM) has been conducting research on such units for a number of years. A number of conceptual designs have been developed and a miniature operational prototype has been constructed. This unit has yielded very encouraging results, but there is still ample room for improvement of the design in search of superior operating efficiency. This will require the construction of additional prototypes based on different operational principles in order to establish the most efficient and economically viable design for the Mediterranean environment. The aim of the project is to design and develop desalination units which are thermodynamically efficient, economically competitive and which could be easily manufactured in Malta. Water Services Corporation (WSC) will house the prototype units on which many of the tests will be conducted during the development stages. The laboratories at WSC will be responsible for testing to ensure that the water quality produced by these units is up to the relevant EU standards.

Sector: Health & Biotechnology
Coordinator: Ms Claudette Gambin
Coordinating Organisation: Viticulture & Oenology Unit (MRAE)
Consortium: Institute of Agriculture, University of Malta
Grant Value: € 115,700

Wine fermented from the local grape varieties, including those from the Gellewza and Girgentina varieties, often fail to reach the minimum level of alcohol stipulated by Council Regulation (EC) 1493 of 1999.  In order to overcome this problem, it is customary to add sugar to the extracted grape juice prior to the fermentation process. This practice has only been allowed on the basis of a derogation which comes to an end in 2008. It is believed that this problem can be overcome, and may be a result of lack of standards and good practice in the cultivation and harvesting of these grapes.  This project aims to identify existing local strains which are best suited to cultivation and to demonstrate that correct cultivation and harvesting procedures can yield the desired results. The project will be carried out with the collaboration and participation of a spectrum of local stakeholders. All identified deliverables of the project are required by the local viticulture and wine industry in order to make cultivation of local grape varieties economically feasible and for the continued production of quality wines using local varieties. The beneficiaries will be the local viticulture community and those involved in the local wine industry.

Sector: Health & Biotechnology
Coordinator: Dr Stephanie Bezzina Wettinger
Coordinating Organisation: Institute of Health Care, University of Malta
Consortium: Mater Dei Hospital
Grant Value: € 159,090

Atherosclerosis is a common chronic disease that results in vascular events such as myocardial infarction (MI) or stroke. It is the major cause of death in males in developed countries and the second most common cause of death in females. It is expected that it will become the major cause of death worldwide in future years. Malta is no exception to this trend. The underlying etiology of atherosclerosis leading to MI is complex and involves a multitude of genetic, lifestyle and environmental risk factors. Known environmental influences include lifestyle factors such as smoking, diet and exercise. A number of physiological conditions predispose to the disease, such as elevated cholesterol and triglyceride levels, diabetes, elevated homocysteine levels, hypertension and increased body mass index. These triggering factors are themselves complex conditions with their own genetic and environmental influences and with    inflammation frequently playing a key role. While heritability of atherosclerotic disease exceeds 50%, it has not been possible to identify the relevant genetic component. The Maltese population offers an excellent base in terms of genetic studies. Since the population is relatively isolated, it is expected that the Maltese harbour a smaller selection of mutations that cause disease compared to mainland Europe. This has indeed been found to be the case in single gene disorders that have been studied locally, such as thalassaemia and abnormal haemoglobins. This greatly increases the power of genetic studies in complex diseases. This study will be investigating the hypothesis that inflammatory RNA markers in the circulation are elevated in patients with a history of MI. The project will collect and analyse samples from Maltese patients with a history of MI, from their family members, and from a control group. Samples for DNA, RNA, protein and biochemical analysis will be banked. Levels of selected inflammatory RNA molecules and related proteins will be measured, together with DNA polymorphisms in the relevant genes. Genes of related function will be studied for combined effects. Due attention will be given to alternative transcripts and splicing mutations.

Sector: ICT
Coordinator: Dr. Alexiei Dingli
Coordinating Organisation: Department of Computer Science and AI, University of Malta
Consortium: St James Hospital Holdings Ltd
Grant Value: € 124,975

Providing patient-centred healthcare services is the goal of healthcare institutions. However, this is becoming increasingly difficult to achieve due an ever-expanding range of medical services, as well as to the increasing demands of an ageing society.  It is therefore important to leverage  technology to decrease the time wasted on mundane tasks such as filling in forms and looking up patient records, thus maximising the time that doctors and nurses can dedicate to their patients. Technology can also be used to help extend the independent living of elderly people rather then placing them in retirement homes. Ambient Assisted Living systems which make use of Ambient Intelligence technologies can help achieve these objectives. These systems can be used to monitor the patients’ stay in a hospital, trace down their medical records, monitor their diet, track their movement and detect incidents (such as falls). Unfortunately, such systems rarely make the transition from laboratory to hospital for two reasons; firstly, the technology used is relatively expensive (although these costs are rapidly going down) and secondly, most elderly patients are not confident with new technology. PINATA will seek to develop an automated patient-care system based upon Pervasive Ambience  Intelligence techniques. It will be developed in collaboration with St James Hospital, which will provide important input in terms of the requirements of the medical sector, and will be piloted under controlled conditions in a live setting. The system will make use of Radio  Frequency Identification (RFID) sensors to track the movements of patients and medical staff in order to direct staff members effectively during emergencies. It will provide staff with handheld devices capable of displaying patient information automatically during critical situations. These devices will also have the facility to remind staff about specific tasks (e.g. time to give pills), to access records of past interaction with the patient and to record notes. Finally an automated camera system will monitor the patient and alert staff in case of emergencies

Sector: Value Added Manufacturing
Coordinator: Prof. Joseph Grima
Coordinating Organisation: Department of Chemistry, University of Malta
Consortium: Methode Electronics Malta Ltd
Grant Value: € 140,000

Foams are low density and highly porous materials with a relatively low stiffness. A considerable amount of research has been carried out on foams, particularly on foams used for automotive seats. These foams are required to perform in such a way that they not only ensure the safety of the driver but also provide for his comfort through reduction and redistribution of pressure at the driver-seat interface. Despite the advances that have been made in foam technology, there still remain various unsolved problems associated with the use of foams, such as, for example, creeping of the material, which results in lack of comfort after prolonged periods of use. One class of superior foams are ‘auxetic foams’, which exhibit the unusual property of becoming thicker as they are stretched. These foams are much more suitable than conventional foams for seating   purposes because they have a natural tendency to form ‘dome-shaped’ curvatures, and therefore tend to fit around body curves in a more versatile way, thus providing the user with added  comfort. Unfortunately, today there is only one way of manufacturing such foams, and this is not suitable for production on an industrial scale but is limited to the manufacture of relatively small foam samples. There is a pressing need for the development of new processes for manufacture of auxetic foams. The project coordinator has already developed a novel process for the manufacture of auxetic foams   starting with conventional foams. This project will seek to further develop this process on a larger scale, and will conduct the necessary testing to ensure that the auxetic foam possesses the desired properties. The project is being conducted in association with Methode Malta Ltd, a manufacturer of high-quality car seats which will assist in evaluation of the macroscopic behaviour of the auxetic foam and assess its suitability for use in car seats.

Sector: ICT
Coordinator: Dr Gordon Pace
Coordinating Organisation: Department of Computer Science, University of Malta
Consortium: Ixaris Systems Ltd
Grant Value: € 71,000

As software systems grow in size and complexity, it is becoming harder to ensure the correct functioning of such systems under all conditions. In particular, security-intensive systems such as software which handles online financial transactions, are particularly difficult to test for robustness, since their correctness depends on a combination of the system’s behaviour, that of potentially malicious users, all working in a real-time setting. Potential errors or unexpected sequences of user interaction in the code may lead to huge losses for the service-provider, and loss of trust at the users’ end.  A number of techniques are currently used to improve software robustness, including extensive testing prior to the online deployment of the systems. However, the difficulty of testing such systems limits the number and type of errors which can be identified. Execution paths not covered in the testing phase may still contain errors which thus remain undetected. Recently, other approaches have been proposed and explored. One such approach is runtime verification, a complementary technique to traditional testing regimes, which enriches the system with monitors which validate the execution path of the system either at runtime or offline through logs produced by the system. The traffic load on such a system, and the complexity of the checks which need to be conducted could render it impractical to perform such verification in real time.  In this project, runtime verification techniques will be used to monitor such systems for correctness and time-dependent properties. The project will seek to develop techniques to perform this verification asynchronously on separate machines, and to develop a mechanism which will enable the live system to perform a rollback to undo incorrect action sequences should this become necessary.

Sector: Value Added Manufacturing
Coordinator: Dr Lilian Azzopardi
Coordinating Organisation: Department of Pharmacy, University of Malta
Consortium: Starpharma Ltd
Grant Value: € 80,000

The proper design and formulation of pharmaceutical dosage form requires consideration of the physical, chemical and biological characteristics of the active ingredients and excipients required in the manufacture of the product. In addition, in the manufacture of modified release oral dosage forms either the drug dissolution profile is modified by controlling access of biological fluids to the drug or the drug diffusion rate from the dosage form is controlled. These factors need to be taken into consideration to achieve a formulation that is pharmaceutically and economically viable. During scale-up, when the manufacturing process is being transferred from research and development to production, obtaining high yields to ensure the reduction of production costs and the reduction of errors may sometimes prove difficult. The number of pharmaceutical firms that manufacture slow release solid oral dosage forms is limited due to the specialised knowledge required in  carrying out research for the development of such dosage forms. Malta has one of these few manufacturing industries which is totally dedicated to the Research and Development of slow release generic dosage forms and to the follow-up  production of such dosage forms. There exists a problem connected with the satisfactory yield of active ingredient due to wastage in the   processes followed to-date. The loss is due to the extraction process. This project brings together the Department of Pharmacy at the University of Malta and Starpharma, a local pharmaceutical manufacturing company which develops and manufactures modified release oral dosage forms (tablets and capsules). Changes in the extraction procedures and equipment will be  developed by the company and the process studied and validated by the Department of Pharmacy. The implications of changing extraction rates on build up of heat inside the pan and consequently risk of overheating of the  product is assessed. Algorithms to establish the extraction rate and other modifications that could be adopted when changing from a Research and Development batch to an industrial batch will be prepared and implemented in practice during industrial batch design. The Department of Pharmacy will also carry out pilot bioequivalence studies to ensure that the changes in the extraction procedures did not affect the bioequivalence of the product.

Sector: Health & Biotechnology
Coordinator: Dr Neville Vassallo
Coordinating Organisation: Department of Physiology & Biochemistry, University of Malta
Consortium: Institute of Cellular Pharmacology
Grant Value: € 83,000

Amyloidogenic diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s  disease, Huntington’s disease and prion diseases are major neurological conditions with an increasing prevalence rate in the general population. These disorders are characterized by misfolding, aggregation and accumulation of toxic amyloid peptides inside or outside cells. A unifying characteristic of these molecules is that they bind to target membranes and assemble into  multimeric, membrane-spanning pores, a process that leads to cellular damage and death. The fact that such a diverse group of diseases have a similar structural origin strongly indicates that a  common therapy might be possible. Consequently, strategies based on purging formation of toxic amyloid peptides have gained in importance. Published data is consistent with the idea that all model antiamyloid strategies are superior when initiated long before onset of amyloidosis. Indeed, interventional strategies early in life should not only prevent amyloid pathology, but also take advantage of the regenerative capacity of the human brain at younger ages. Plants and plant cells can synthesise complex metabolites that represent a vast resource of chemical diversity. These complex metabolites are generally low-volume/high added value products such as pharmaceuticals, food and beverage supplements, cosmetics, perfumes and others. The project aims to use robust molecular screens to identify novel bioactive compounds from terrestrial and  marine plants that would be able to inhibit and/or destabilise clumping by amyloid proteins. The most promising drugs will be tested directly on neuronal cultures. Bioactive plant compounds can be marketed as food supplements or used as nutraceuticals and even pharmaceuticals, intended for the chemoprevention of these late-life degenerative disorders.

Funded Projects 2010

Sector: Energy & Environment
Coordinator: Dr Tonio Sant
Coordinating Organisation: Institute for Energy Technology, University of Malta
Consortium: General Renewable Energy Ltd – Ecofys Honeycomb Services Ltd
Grant Value: € 97,788

This project deals with the development of a novel deep water supporting structure for offshore wind turbines. Established design methodology will be applied to assess the technical requirements for supporting wind turbines in depths of 70 metres in Maltese wind and wave conditions. The project will evaluate the feasibility and costs for constructing such structures locally and to develop a large offshore wind farm in the Maltese waters. This project is a preliminary phase of a much larger project, in line with the country’s strategy and planning, intended to develop deep offshore wind energy in Malta up to depth limits of 70 metres, in an area which is distant (5 to 14km) from the coast and that has the potential of generating circa 33% of the current electricity demand.

Sector: Value Added Manufacturing
Coordinator: Dr Duncan Camilleri
Coordinating Organisation: Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Malta
Consortium: Composite Solutions Ltd
Grant Value: € 100,000

Composite materials offer an attractive alternative to metals in the automotive, aerospace, marine and civil industries. The correct combination of strong, high modulus properties of polymer/ fibre reinforced composites provide means to produce light, yet very strong assemblies. Various process techniques are possible to manufacture composites. This project looks at relatively new process called structural reaction injection moulding and establishes optimum percentage composition of reactive thermoset resins and glass fibres through a series of material testing and finite element modelling. The project aims to develop and produce innovative fibre reinforced composites with high structural performance at minimal cost that can be used for manhole covers, gratings, fire hydrants and many other applications in the marine, civil, automotive and aerospace industries.

Sector: Health & Biotechnology
Coordinator: Mr Charles Saliba
Coordinating Organisation: Institute of Cellular Pharmacology (ICP)
Consortium: Department of Anatomy, University of Malta
Grant Value: € 100,000

This research will use the University of Malta’s Anatomy department expertise on stem cells, and cancer – in particular in relation to the use of biological extracts in these two pathological states. This will stretched into the field of diabetic cellular research, a field which has however already been  delved into by colleagues from the adjacent molecular pathology laboratory and which should therefore be relatively easy to migrate into. It will use the patented products from  the Institute of cellular pharmacology, which have been shown to stimulate heat shock protein production. The consortium will study the effects of these heat shock protein stimulants on the response of healthy adult cells, stem cells and cancer cells to stress – such as chemotherapy or growth stimuli. It is our honest expectation that some of this research at least will lead to novel ways of using the already patented products to allow the SME to expand into new fields of  therapeutics.

Funded Projects 2011

Sector: Health & Biotechnology
Coordinator: Ing. Vince Maione
Coordinating Organisation: MCAST
Consortium: Technoline Ltd KNPD
Grant Value: € 115,763

This project proposal entails the development of an Integrated Personal Mobility Device (IPMD) whose purpose is to provide an unparalleled level of independence to persons with severe physical disabilities.  Disability is a condition which reduces the potential of person to enjoy life and contribute to society. Disability is most often not self-inflicted and yet persons suffering from most severe types of disabilities, together with their immediate family members are often excluded from society and have to go through significant psychological as well as physical hardship. The increased physical difficulties together with the resulting social exclusion often expose these families to an increased risk of material poverty. Through this devise the user will be able to move both indoors and outdoors at a range of speeds which are suitable for his/her safety. The device would also enable the user to move independently in the house and have full independent access to the standard amenities within including hanging cupboards, sanitary facilities, bath, and bed. This unprecedented flexibility will be achieved by the incorporation of an innovative docking mechanism. Furthermore, the vast potential of this device could be further extended in the future to enable the user to use independently an adapted stair escalator, generic public amenities and an adapted car. This research project is being carried out by a consortium made up of the Malta College of Arts, Science and Technology (MCAST), Technoline Limited and the National Commission Persons with Disability (KNPD) and co-financed under the Research & Innovation (R&I) Programme 2010 through the Malta Council for Science and Technology.

Sector: Energy & Environment
Coordinator: Mr Noel Gauci
Coordinating Organisation: DexaWave Energy Malta
Consortium: Institute for Sustainable Energy, University of Malta IOI-Malta Operational Centre, University of Malta
Grant Value: € 195,463

Malta is an island with no traditional energy resources, and with only one supply channel. Moreover there is a target of 10 % renewable energy use by 2020, posing the need for the country to go as green as possible – as fast as possible. Current strategies are mainly focusing on wind, solar energy and biomass fuels. While these technologies have their merits and will contribute to achieve the 2020 targets, there are limitations such as those imposed by physical space on the number of PV panels or wind turbines that can be installed due to the small territorial size of the Maltese Islands and the few shallow coastal sea areas. The purpose of the BLUE OCEAN ENERGY® project (BOE) based on the DEXAWAVE converter is to transfer technology from DEXAWAVE ApS to DEXAWAVE Energy Malta Ltd for the adaptation of the DEXAWAVE converter from North sea conditions to Mediterranean conditions. This will be done by constructing a 1:10 scale model of the converters which will be subjected to real Mediterranean sea conditions.  This 1:10 prototype developed for Mediterranean waters and the current project proposal by DEXAWAVE Energy Malta Ltd shall establish the extent to which the eventual full scale project is likely to meet the needs of its beneficiaries in terms of reliable and competitive CO2 neutral wave energy off shore Malta. This project will also provide the Government of Malta, the Ministry for Resources & Rural Affairs, Enemalta Corporation and the consortium behind the project with sufficient information to justify acceptance, modification or rejection of the proposed project for further financing.

Sector: Value Added Manufacturing
Coordinator: Ing. Michael Attard
Coordinating Organisation: IMA Engineering Services Ltd
Consortium: Dept of Metallurgy & Materials Engineering, University of Malta Austrian Technology Institute (ATI)
Grant Value: € 88,313

DIACOM focuses on the design of metal-diamond composites with high thermal conductivity and low thermal expansion. The realisation of materials with extraordinary thermal properties shall be achieved by the application of nanoscale coatings on diamond particles with functional layers. Such properties lead to: Thermal cycling stability, CTE matching, enhanced design, flexibility, higher power densities, increased lifetime and increased performance. DIACOM shall use rapid manufacturing techniques to manufacture materials with improved thermophysical properties which find their applications as heat spreaders in the micro-, opto and power-electronics fields. Applications include:

  • Integrated heat spreader and submount for laser diodes
  • Advances of solid state lasers
  • Heat Sink or Heat Spreaders in CPUs
  • Base plates in higher power electronics (e.g. IGBT base plates)
  • Heat Spreaders for LED and HB-LEDs
  • Heat Sink for RF and microwave packages
  • Heat Sink for microelectronic packages
  • Thermal management of high thermally loaded electric components
Sector: Health & Biotechnology
Coordinator: Dr Everaldo Attard
Coordinating Organisation: Institute of Earth Systems, University of Malta
Consortium: Golden Island Ltd.
Grant Value: € 91,724

Malta; known to the ancient Greeks and Romans as Melite, which derives from the Greek word meli meaning honey,  has long been associated with beekeeping and honey production, since the times of the Phoenicians; who started by domesticating wild swarms using earthenware jars, still found today in some Punic apiaries (Migbha). Today after millennia, Maltese honey still remains a well sought and prized gourmet product. All this aside, the extensive development of key foraging countryside (garene) and the introduction of disease which has greatly diminished the unique Maltese honey bee sub species (Apis Mellifera Ruttneri). This research project between Golden Island Ltd. and the Institute of Earth Studies, within the University of Malta; intends using the grant awarded through the National R&I Programme 2010, administered by the Malta Council of Science and Technology (MCST), to enable the scientific   evaluation of Maltese honeys, not only via international recognized standard techniques, but also to investigate and develop further novel techniques with respect to better honey authentication. This study is to develop a database derived from microscopic pollen analysis (melissopalynology) as well as the DNA pyrosequencing of all pollens contained in seasonal and regional local honeys. Through the creation of a DNA pollen database, this project will also help to map out the islands’ best bee foraging areas, required to be safeguarded for future generations for honey production. In the long term, this project aims to also be able to produce a Maltese Honey Standard, which will not only benefit the end user but also protect the local beekeeping industry/craft from imported counterfeit products.

Priority Sector: Energy & Environment
Coordinator: Mr Alberto Miceli Farrugia
Coordinating Organisation: Architecture Project (AP) Ltd.
Water Services Corportation
Department of Biology at the University of Malta
Grant Value: € 185,143


For nations experiencing increasingly severe drought conditions and chronic water shortages, second class water produced from urban municipal waste has great potential for irrigation purposes in landscaping projects but the common practice of piping wastewater long distances for treatment is inefficient and costly. Moreover the quality of treated effluent from a conventional municipal plant may not be ideal for a particular reuse application and may require further polishing. This proposal addresses these limitations by treating municipal sewage in situ using an innovative, compact treatment system with recognised advantages over conventional membrane systems. Treated effluent will be subjected to a follow-on phytoremediation process, polishing the water for public spaces and irrigation purposes, fountains and more. The project will set new standards for sustainability in landscaping projects, agricultural activities, golf courses and recreational areas where sufficient water supply is not available.
Sector: Value Added Manufacturing
Coordinator: Dr Claire De Marco
Coordinating Organisation: Dept of Mechanical Engineering, University of Malta
Consortium: Buccaneer Boats Ltd
Grant Value: € 95,660

Research into composite materials has gained rapid popularity in many industrial applications, mentioning only a few:  the marine, aerospace and automotive industries.  The composite material, a specific combination of fibre reinforced resins, produces a combination and intimate relationship between the constituent materials.  A superior material which is more efficient and fit for purpose is produced.  The aim of this project is to extend the use of the composite by combining with a core material to produce a sandwich material combination.  The fabrication of the sandwich panels, together with vacuum bagging is relatively a new concept for Malta, to produce a hybrid advanced composite sandwich panel of superior material properties and characteristics. The hybrid sandwich materials produce a weight saving, cost efficient and higher performance material, when components and structures are subjected to in service loading conditions.  The resulting ‘new’ material is targeted for the marine and boat building applications. Laminated composite hull panels are widely used in high speed light craft (HSLC), small pleasure craft and sailing yachts.  The superior stiffness of the high-modulus fibres has resulted in an increase in use of these materials for fast marine vessels from lengths ranging a few meters long to vessels in excess of 50 m. Properties such as light weight, corrosion resistance, low maintenance costs, enhanced properties, and low magnetic characteristics have been successfully applied to marine vessels of all kinds. Single skin composite laminate panels may lack stiffness due to their relatively low thickness, and when dealing with long ships, hull flexibility must be considered, since composite vessels have relatively low stiffness when compared to similar vessels of aluminium or steel construction, fatigue damages in the hull may result.  In small craft design and in typical boat building locally, the boat builders, traditionally introduce stiffeners of wood encapsulate in additional fibre and resin, producing additional frames for strength, thereby adding to the weight of the boat and increasing the construction complexity. A sandwich construction consisting of two high strength composite laminate skins are separated by a core material.  The core material is light weight, with favourable properties of shear strength and stiffness.  The panel which although may increase in thickness, does not suffer a weight penalty, and offers additional strength support, which acts as an I-beam shear web, as the global sandwich panels bend and flex during the in service loading, such as hydrostatic loads, bottom slamming loads, and impact load on the side shell. The use of sandwich construction in boat building requires the utilization of advance construction techniques in order to gain the maximum performance from the build materials.  Vacuum bagging is one such technique which lends itself not only to the primary structure of boats, but to all aspects of boat building. This fabrication process is an effective, cost-effective techniques utilising pressure difference to produce a superior high strength hybrid sandwich material.

Sector: ICT
Coordinator: Dr. Saviour Zammit
Coordinating Organisation: Department of Communications and Computer Engineering, University of Malta
Consortium: iMovo Ltd
Grant Value: € 171,332


A system capable of remote execution of games will be designed and implemented. Any PC game applications will be executed on a Computing Cloud but played on mobile devices over WiFi and/or 3G. The special feature of this project/product is that any PC game can be played on any mobile device be it a Smartphone/Tablet (running any operating system) or PC or Laptop equipped with WiFi and/or 3G/4G data connection. Such a platform is not currently available. Existing Cloud Systems either allow you to watch games being played from a Smartphone but not play from a Smartphone, or to play games that have been tailor-made for the Smartphones. The proposed system can play any high-end PC game on any Smartphone or Tablet device.

Sector: Energy & Environment
Coordinator: Ing. Ryan Xuereb
Coordinating Organisation: Econetique Ltd
Consortium: Alurwind Ltd Dept of Mechanical Engineering, University of Malta Architecture Project (AP) Ltd
Grant Value: € 128,641

Vertical Axis Wind Turbines (VAWTs) are a class of wind turbines that, due to their intrinsic design, do not need to be oriented into the wind direction. Whilst this gives them a number of advantages over other types of wind turbines, current technology for VAWTs suffer from problems of start-up and maximum torque output. The SATVAWT project is aimed at developing a novel design adaptation to VAWTs in order to improve their starting speed and control capability. The development will lead to an increase in efficiency and range of applications, making this type of wind turbine attractive for use in densely populated areas by integration to existing landscape. The development will also bring about knowhow on the most feasible design for future manufacture and distribution from local industry.

Sector: ICT
Coordinator: Ms. Analiza Abdilla
Coordinating Organisation: S-TEC (Superyacht Technology Expansion Centre) Ltd, part of MARSEC-XL Cluster
Consortium: Malta College fof Arts, Science & Technology (MCAST)
Grant Value: € 131,784

Logbooks are very important artefacts for mariners. However, logging can be a tedious repetitive task, and may thus be logistically cumbersome for busy mariners. MARLON aims to facilitate this necessary task by providing an electronic solution for logging, where a significant portion of the required data is logged automatically, in virtual communication with the vessel’s state. For this project, the application will be developed for iPad, but MARLON’s results can also be used to develop other versions on different platforms. An online community website will be launched to support the future of digital logkeeping. Nonetheless, the idea of automatic/assisted logging has not been explored yet; possibly due to the difficulty of integrating instruments to data logging modules. The results will be evaluated for possible implementation of digital logkeeping in the commercial sector.

Sector: ICT
Coordinator: Ms. Analiza Abdilla
Coordinating Organisation: S-TEC (Superyacht Technology Expansion Centre) Ltd, part of MARSEC-XL Cluster
Consortium: Malta College fof Arts, Science & Technology (MCAST)
Grant Value: € 127,230

Leisure yachts are nowadays premier showcases of luxury and comfort.  The large number of onboard entertainment and operational devices are invariably connected to the power system, together with a growing trend of increased electric and/or hybrid propulsion.  With increased integration, however, comes increased complexity and the management of such intricate power networks becomes more complex.  An onboard power management system which is able to monitor and display power consumption in real-time is therefore proposed as a means of gauging power usage.  Coupled with hybrid systems incorporating energy storage, the power management system displays important information such as remaining autonomy and charging demand.  What-if scenarios are suggested by the system to hint at better operating modes leading to reduced energy use.  This is achieved through a software application performing the power management and monitoring functions, operating off an onboard cloud-based server.

Sector: ICT
Coordinator: Ing. Kenneth Chircop
Coordinating Organisation: Department of Electronic Systems Engineering, University of Malta
Consortium: QuAero Ltd
Grant Value: € 138,948

The project focuses on the optimisation of flight profiles of commercial aircraft flying in and out of Malta to minimise carbon emissions in Maltese airspace.  New and emerging technologies in flight trajectory optimisation and weather information management will be used to design and develop a new ground-based concept involving stakeholders such as operators and ANSPs to coordinate optimal flight operations and enable pilots to fly better trajectories for minimal fuel burn and reduced emissions.

Sector: Energy & Environment
Coordinator: Ing. Marco Cremona
Coordinating Organisation: Sustech Consulting
Consortium: Dept of Civil and Structural Engineering, University of Malta Solid Base Lab. Ltd. Malta Resources Authority (MRA) St. Theresa College
Grant Value: € 127,931

Urbanization is increasing all over the world but cities’ storm-water infrastructure is generally not being upgraded at the same pace, resulting in flooding during storm events. In urban areas, spaces that were traditionally allocated for rainwater reservoirs are becoming scarce. This project will carry out research on the innovative idea of using boreholes to divert runoff from roofs of buildings into the ground and develop a product (the GEO-INF system) that will meet the dual objectives of flood mitigation and groundwater recharge, while taking up minimum space and set-up costs. The research will focus on deriving raw data on the permeability and water-filtration characteristics of geological formations, the development of a low-cost filtration/recharge system and a methodology for the drilling of the infiltration boreholes. The GEO-INF system has the potential to become the state-of-the-art for buildings that cannot incorporate a cistern, and a retrofit solution to already-built buildings without cisterns.

Sector: Value Added Manufacturing
Coordinator: Prof. Joseph Grima
Coordinating Organisation: Metamaterials Unit, University of Malta
Consortium:  Tek-Moulds Precision Manufacturing Ltd. HM RD Ltd
Grant Value: € 160,555

Stents (“molol” in Maltese) are devices used in treatment of disease in humans. The use of innovative geometries will be explored through experimental and modelling techniques in order to achieve better functionality in stent design.

Funded Projects 2012

Coordinator: Dr Ing. Philip Farrugia – University of Malta – Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering Partners: Tek-Moulds Precision Engineering Ltd., Techniplast Ltd., Playmobil Malta Ltd. Grant Value: €142,651   In Malta’s Vision 2015, Advanced Manufacturing has been clearly identified as one key target sector.   Withinthis context and given that Malta already has astrong plastic manufacturing base employing thousands of people, this project aims to contribute towards makinga quantum leap ininjection mouldingto result inhigher valueadded manufacturing i.e. that of Multi-Material Injection Moulding atthemicro-scale level. To achievethis objective, this project aimsat generating and sharing new knowledgeonthe design and manufacture of multi-material micro components fabricated by injection moulding. By exploiting multi-material micro injection moulding, it is expectedthatthe competitiveness of the Maltese manufacturing industry will be enhanced since, for instance, assemblyofmicro componentscan be partially orfullyeliminated. Inaddition,by involvingindustrialpartners with complementary expertise, this project will contribute towards clustering a number of relevant Maltese companiestocatalyse local multi-material micro injection moulding expertise.

Coordinator: Dr Stephanie Bezzina Wettinger – University of Malta Partner: Department of Pathology –  Mater Dei Hospital Grant Value: €199,980   Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) allows high throughput DNA or RNA analysis to the extent that a whole genome can be sequenced in a matter of days. There has been considerable investment in developing capacities in the Biotechnology and Health research sectors in Malta with injection from ERDF funds for specialised equipment which includes a NGS platform. With some further investment Malta can move to the forefront in this field. In this project medics and scientists can apply to test suitable samples with next generation sequencing technology with the aim of finding the genetic cause of diseases. Expertise in this technology and in analysing the massive volumes of data generated will be developed. Some funds are specifically allocated for the study of myocardial infarction where testing of novel markers and further subphenotyping will be performed to improve selection of samples for NGS. Genes, or candidate genes, causing diseases will be determined, with potential for development of improved diagnostic tests, risk markers, and eventually possibly improved disease treatments. This will enhance the reputation of Malta in this field, attracting further funding and investment and creating jobs in the field.

Coordinator: Luciano Mule’ Stagno – University of Malta Partners: Pandia Energy Malta Ltd, General Membrane (Malta) Ltd. Grant Value: €199,702 Malta is currently implementing three proven renewable energy generation technologies – wind (on and off-shore), biomass and photovoltaic (PV). To meet the 2020 targets we will be installing virtually all the wind and biomass we can. While more rooftops and some open field space will remain for PV installations after that target is reached we will always be limited by our lack of land space. A10MW solar farm takes roughly as much area as 30 football fields – difficult to find on these islands. So looking at offshore PVs makes sense as long as these can be deployed safely and generate powerat a similar cost as land based systems. We propose 3 streams of research – two involving traditional PVs with innovative ways of deploying them at sea while the third involves PV panels made specifically for floatation. All three streamscould potentially lead to a technically feasible and commercially viable solution enabling the commercialization of the most promising of the three. The project aims to develop and assess the best solution for each case and optimize its output. It also aims to develop an innovative new type of PV panel designed specifically for sea use and innovative ways of floating conventional panel

Coordinator: Ing. Renzo Curmi – Galea Curmi Engineering Services Ltd. Partners: JCR Ltd., University of Malta – Institute for Sustainable Energy in collaboration with the Faculty of the Built Environment Grant Value: €179,921 This project aims to develop a building element which has a higher resistance to the transfer of heat over traditional building materials. Specifically, the building element under the spotlight for thisproject is a hollow concrete block (HCB) which is used extensively in the construction industry in Malta. The HCB available on the local market is a load bearing element made up of a mixture of aggregate hard stone and cement bound together with water. The aim of the project is to develop an HCB which has the same dimensional as well as load bearing characteristics as the traditional HCBbut with an improved U-value. The need for such improvement in the insulation characteristics of the traditional HCB becomes more evident when one compares the U value of this extensively usedbuilding element to other materials used in Malta as well as in other EU countries. Over and above the HCB itself, this project also aims to develop thermal rendering products which can be appliedover the thermal HCB to further improve the U-value.

Coordinator: Dr Ruben Gatt – University of Malta Partner: Mater Dei Hospital Grant Value: €172,944   Skin grafting is an important techniquewhich is used tocure patients who have suffered extensiveburns or skin traumas. Thistechniqueposesanumber of challengeswhich include reduced drapablility of the grafted skin, amount of healthy skin which is available for transplantation andcontraction ofthe grafted skin. In order toreducethese problems, skin graftsare normally meshedby inserting a number of vertical slits. Here weproposethatthequality of grafts vis-a-vis its stretching properties in twodimensions and drapabilitywouldbe largely increased by modifying the mesh design.

Coordinator: Prof. Ing. David Zammit-Mangion – University of Malta Partner: QuAero Ltd. (QuA) Grant Value: €136,835   Pilots currently fly civil air transport aircraft primarily through direct interaction with the auto pilot and flight management system (FMS), providing inputs via the flight control unit (FCU) on the cockpit glare shield or via the control and display units onthe central pedestal. Involving International cooperation through the involvement of French industry to build one merging technologies in large cockpit displaysand, in particular, on the single end-to-end cockpit display concept, Touch-Flight aims to revolutionise the way pilots interact with the aircraft by developing a new, safe and ergonomic concept of flight guidance and management using touch technology such as multi-touch andgestures with graphical displays. The new concept will contribute to the reduction of pilot workload and increased operational safety, whilstalso contributing tothe advancement of technologies on board the flight deckand increased competitiveness of avionics products. Within the scope of the project, a prototype interactive display will be built and the concept will be evaluated  and demonstrated to industry.

Coordinator: Dr Ruben Cauchi –  Laboratory of Functional Genetics, Dept. of Physiology & Biochemistry -University of Malta   Partners:  Laboratory of Molecular Physiology, Department of Physiology & Biochemistry – University of Malta, Institute of Cellular Pharmacology (ICP) Ltd.   Grant Value: €186,128     Formation of toxic amyloid proteins and mitochondrial dysfunction have been linked to many common devastating human neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease (AD), Parkinson’s disease(PD) and motor neuron disease (MND). Methods for efficient inhibition of amyloid toxicity, particularly those targeting mitochondria, are therefore highly clinically important. In the current research proposal we aim tostudy disease models of AD, PD and MND in thefruit fly Drosophila melanogaster to provide a rationale for therapeutically targeting mitochondria by natural polyphenols andextracts. Drosophila models that recapitulateessential featuresofthe respective human disease are already established. Small-molecule compounds and plant extracts to be tested in thei n vivo disease modelswill beselected based uponprevious, published research by one of the applicants: these comprise 3 polyphenols from Mediterranean diet, 2chemical compoundsobtained from the German National Centre for Neurodegenerative Diseases in Munich (collaborative venture) and 2 extracts patented by theInstitute of Cellular Pharmacology Ltd, a Maltese biotech SME based in Mosta Technopark. An additional novel strategy involves thedevelopment of a ‘mitochondrial toolkit’, namely a set of assays that will provide a robust indicator of the physiological health of mitochondria. The ultimate aim is to identify drugs that rescuethe degenerative phenotype in the fly disease models and ameliorate mitochondrial physiology in vivo. These scientific deliverables will allow patentable claims of anti-degenerativeactivity of a drug, and might also permitlicensing for its use as an additional treatment option in AD, PD and/or MND. Finally, we will have established a working model for drug discovery thatmay give rise to start-up companies in the BioMalta campus.

Coordinator: Prof. Ing. Kenneth P. Camilleri – University of Malta Partner: School Resources Department, Directorate for Quality and Standards in Education, Ministry of Education and Employment. Grant Value: 167,683   The prospect of communicating by eye gaze to provide an alternative communication channel for disabled persons is becoming increasingly appealing. Although this approach has generated worldwide interest, eye-gazetechnology is presently hampered by various open issues which slow down its widespread use. One limitation which remains prevalent is the prohibitive cost associated with eye-gaze tracking systems, hindering access by those persons who may potentially benefit from this technology from actually affording it. This project, therefore, proposes to investigate suitable methods to address open issues associated with eye-gazet racking, while at the same time seeking low-cost solutions that maybe afforded by the individual consumer and which permit the user to move naturally without demanding additional equipment other than the required cameras.

Funded Projects 2014

Coordinator: Christian Colombo – University of Malta Partner: Ixaris Systems (Malta Ltd.) Grant Value: €129.641   In the financial industry, it is common for software companies to invest up to 50% of development budget on writing automated tests.  This is done to minimise the risk of introducing vulnerabilities in a financial system which could cause major financial loss and serious damage to reputation. The quality assurance process is typically performed on test systems and are not always able to cover all scenarios that can occur in a production environment. This project aims to maximise the return on investment on the testing process by automatically transposing the checks performed during testing to the live environment. With no extra cost to the software company, this will ensure that any potential vulnerabilities are captured instantly, thus eliminating a number of potential losses.

Coordinator:  Prof. Giuseppe Di Giovanni – University of Malta Partners: AAT Research Ltd, University of Cardiff, UK Grant Value: €199,889   One percent of the general population; about 50 million people worldwide, and more than 2000 in Malta, has epilepsy. Despite the advent of new pharmacological treatments and the high success rate of many surgical treatments for epilepsy, a substantial number of patients either do not become seizure-free or they experience major adverse events. New treatments that permit greater control over the activity of specific circuits during epilepsy but that spare normal brain function are sorely needed. With this project we aim to explore an entirely novel approach to treating epilepsy which overcomes the limitations of current treatments. This approach relies on using new genetic methods to alter the electrical activity of discrete neural clusters using light, in rodent models of epilepsy. This project will further our understanding of the pathophysiology of epilepsy and will allow us to develop and commercialise a close-loop devise for animal research and consequent human application.

Coordinator: Ing. Ray Vassallo – MCAST Partner: Econetique, Malta Mariculture Ltd., Mining Innovation Rehabilitation and Applied Research Corporation (MIRARCO) Grant Value: €199,018   The proposal is for the installation and testing of an 8kWp rated floating photovoltaic array to be deployed off the coast of the Maltese Islands. The development concept is innovative and original because it utilises flexible amorphous silicon photovoltaic modules mounted directly on the surface of the sea. The seawater acts as a heat sink, cooling the panels while they generate electricity, and thus improves module efficiency and overall yield (kWh/annum) compared with systems erected on floating pontoons where modules are cooled in air. The concept proposed also promises further benefits in the form of

  • reduced capital costs;
  • improved reliability and;
  • substantially mitigated collision risk, in comparison to alternative offshore photovoltaic systems and other forms of marine renewable energy, such as offshore wind, wave and tidal energy.

This project aims to:

  1. demonstrate the technical feasibility of the concept and associated technology;
  2. quantify the differences in yield of the photovoltaic panels due to their flexibility and motion in comparison to identical technology installed on land, and;
  3. permit assessment of the anticipated economic benefits that may be gained from commercialisation at scales at, or more than, 3 orders of magnitude larger.Electrical output from the 8kWp offshore array will be monitored and compared to a 1 kWp ground mounted control installation, which uses identical technologies and experiences the same solar resource.

Coordinator: Prof. Kenneth P. Camilleri – University of Malta Partner: Mater Dei Hospital Grant Value: €165,252   Diabetes is a chronic disease that gives rise to elevated glucose levels in the blood and that can lead to organ and tissue failure. More than 371 million people worldwide have diabetes and the incidence of the disease is particularly acute in Malta.In fact, 10% of the Maltese population suffers from the disease and the island has the highest rate of major amputations as a result of the disease in Europe. This ongoing project involves the participation of a team of engineers, thermographers, podiatrists and surgeons from the University of Malta, Staffordshire University and Mater Dei Hospital investigating the use of Thermal Imaging for Peripheral vascular Disease Monitoring In Diabetics (TIPMID). Diabetic patients are often affected by peripheral vascular disease which gives rise to slight temperature variations in the affected limbs.  These temperature variations can be detected at an early stage prior to the onset of any evident visual cues.The TIPMID project involves an investigation of the changes in the temperature patterns in problematic limbs of diabetic patients with the aim of developing a tool for the automated detection and analysis of these abnormal temperature patterns. Initial clinical trials that have been carried out by the research group are promising, and work on the development of an automated analysis tool are in progress. The availability of an effective clinical tool for the early detection of this problematic condition can significantly reduce the risk of complications and the need for surgical interventions, with huge social and financial impact both locally and worldwide.

Coordinator: Prof. Alex. E. Felice  – University of Malta Partners: Department of Health – Mater Dei Hospital, Complete Genomics Inc., Erasmus Medical Center, Rotterdam, The Netherlands Grant Value: €200,000   This research is intended to discover new DNA variants that cause disease in Malta and may be developed into biomarkers for diagnosis or targets for the development of new drugs. The integration of structural with functional genomics should lead to the discovery of significant regulatory targets. The Lead Partner of this project – University of Malta – shall be for the first time in Malta, developing a National Maltese Human Reference Genome in the form of a public database and a user-friendly web-based viewer. Together with the partner help of Complete Genomics, which is an established human genome sequencing facility based in the USA, shall be conducting the whole genome sequencing on selected Maltese DNA samples available from the established Malta Bio Bank located on Campus, University of Malta. What initially costed 2 billion EURO and took 10 years to complete (from 1990 to 2000), the whole human genome can now be sequenced in less than 2 weeks and under 5000 EURO per genome. The setting up of a National Maltese Human Reference Genome database will have lasting benefits for the Health Sector and major impact on the society. Clinicians from all different sectors can then, compare their patients’ results with this reference genome and pinpoint exactly the underlying molecular lesion. The patient can benefit from personalized treatment and medicine making it more efficient and cost-effective. The presence of this database will also in turn encourage clinicians to conduct and perform and order genetic tests to screen whole exomes / genomes of their patients whereas would have been reluctant if such a reference was unavailable. This project also aims to develop Maltese-specific chips that can be exploited and used for fast-turn around testing that can take for instance up to one day only to test a patients’ DNA how sensitive or resistant he is to prescribed medication in the wards or outpatients clinic. The Malta-specific chip will also be able to assist in disease predisposition testing and risk for common disorders, thus facilitating accurate treatment. In essence, this can potentially be a one-molecular test that by-passes and removes completely all other genetic tests currently being conducted, hence, saving thousands of EURO on the health and national budget.

Funded Projects 2015

Coordinator: Ing. Kenneth Chircop – University of Malta Partners: QuAero Ltd., Malta Air Traffic Services Grant Value: €198,485   Clean Flight 2 builds on the results of the Clean Flight project funded under contract number R&I-2011-021 to further develop the technology and concept of operations (CONOPS) for optimal climbs and descents of commercial air transports within Maltese airspace to reduce fuel burn and emissions. The project will also pave the way for the introduction into commercial operation of the technologies and techniques developed in the said projects. Accordingly, Clean Flight 2 will focus on two pillars of activity. The first is the further development of technology to handle more complex traffic scenarios and to provide more functionality for traffic planning and the refinement of the CONOPS. The second involves conducting of live, in-trial operations, which will bring in commercial operators (airlines) and Air Navigation Service Providers (air traffic control organisations). The project will contribute to the alignment of the national R&I programme with the scope of the European Framework Programmes (FP7 and Horizon 2020) by twinning and bringing in synergies with the SESAR / SESAR2, CLEAN SKY / CLEAN SKY 2 and ACROSS projects.

Coordinator: Lorraine Tagliaferro – Ateknea Solutions Malta Ltd. Partner: Malta College of Arts, Science & Technology Grant Value: €149,693   Cloud HMI addresses the need of small companies with a cost-effective Human Machine Interface (HMI) solution for small automation projects. SMEs currently feel the burden of high expenditure for an HMI system when they require selective use. The proposed solution is not going to replace basic & real time machine controls, but aims at filling the void between basic and advanced HMIs with a solution that can be run in parallel with basic controls. Process data in the PLC will be extracted using a special gateway and uploaded or synced to an online server. A special CMS (Content Management System) will be developed to allow HMI developers to design and deploy HMI User Interfaces online which can be accessed from anywhere using just an internet connection. Designers can create process visualizations, alarms, report and other material found in advanced HMIs using only a web browser and minimal effort similar to the process of creating an online portal today.

Coordinator: Roger Xuereb Archer – 6pm p.l.c. Partner: University of Malta Grant Value: €176,022   After many years of development in the military sector, Remotely Piloted Air Systems* (RPAS) are reaching the critical point at which they could be applied in a civil and commercial scenario, leading market studies to predict that the worldwide RPAS market will expand significantly in the next decade. However, in order to permit the integration of RPAS in civil airspace a number of barriers still need to be overcome including situation awareness improvement. This issue motivated this project proposal which considers the development of a framework system facilitating the implementation of situation awareness and guidance. The contribution of the University of Malta and Hawk Aerospace to this rapidly growing area would continue to maintain Malta at the forefront of world class aviation research and thus help achieve the goal of making Malta a one-off destination in such industry. *An RPAS is a device used or intended to be used for flight in the air that has no on-board pilot. This includes all classes of airplanes, helicopters, airships, and translational lift aircraft that have no on-board pilot. RPAS are understood to include on those aircraft controllable in three axes and therefore, exclude traditional balloons. Their flight can be controlled either autonomously by on-board computers or else by remote pilots in ground stations.

Coordinator: Dr Rena Balzan – Yeast Molecular Biology & Biotechnology Laboratory – Department of Physiology & Biochemistry, University of Malta Grant Value: €200,000   Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), principally aspirin, have anti-neoplastic properties, as shown by epidemiological studies on colorectal cancer and many other types of tumours. The chemopreventive and anti-proliferative properties of aspirin towards tumour cells have been shown to be due to the induction of programmed cell death such as apoptosis, the mechanisms of which are not fully understood. Yeast cells are among the experimental models used extensively for the study of oxidative stress and apoptosis in living organisms because yeast, such as Saccharomyces cerevisiae, retains many of the core eukaryotic cellular processes, including the hallmarks of eukaryotic apoptosis. In this work, we propose to investigate the expression of genes for mitochondrial proteins and enzymes in relation to the induction of apoptosis by aspirin in redox-compromised yeast cells.

Coordinator: University of Malta Partner: Ascent Software Ltd. Funding: €199,900 Abstract: A novel, ultra-wideband, low-cost antenna was developed at the University of Malta. In addition, its planar structure means that it has a very low profile and is easy to manufacture and transport. The importance of having a wideband antenna is that a single antenna can handle a wider range of signal frequencies and therefore, fewer antennas are needed in a given system, e.g. a mobile phone. This particular antenna was developed for the radio astronomy sector, however, it may be applied to mobile communications, radar (both automotive and military), broadcasting, aviation and earth observation activities from space. The antenna has been prototyped and now must be field tested as part of a complete system in order to supply the performance information necessary to take it to market.

Funded Projects 2016

Coordinator: Melissa Medi Ltd. Partner: University of Malta Funding: €199,951.00

MeliMed project aims at developing and implementing a quality and production management system for a honey based gel for skin care product. The purpose of this project will be to structure a technical file/ design dossier for the honey based gel and confirm that test, data and further documentation in relation to the mentioned product are fulfilling the requirements in accordance with the Medical Device Directive. During the application of this project the product will be classified correctly in order to meet the essential requirements for safety and performance and that labelling and instruction meet market requirements. Therefore, a number of consecutive activities will be performed that include the product description and design, the quality and safety assessment of the raw material and the final product, the scaling-up of the Medical device, production, the optimizing of the packaging and the CE mark development. Overall, the project aims to provide the necessary quality management structure enabling Melissa Medi Limited ability to manage product realization through necessary procedures and instructions (Standard Operating Procedures –SOP) so that they can get the QMS approved as well as draw up technical file for product approval.

Coordinator: Universal Import & Export Ltd. Partner: Malta Life Science Park Funding: €199,953.75

The Re-Solve project focuses on the design and development of a novel solvent recycling machine with the scope of enabling industries to recycle their own solvent waste rather than having it treated by a third party. This disruptive technology will simplify waste stream recycling and lower the capital and operational costs required. It is envisaged that the equipment may be connected in-line to the waste streams of robust industrial processes to provide an ‘instant’ recycling solution. Alternatively, the equipment can operate in a standalone manner for more complex or variable solvent recycling. In both cases, a small footprint of factory space would be required for the machine’s installation.


The novel solvent recycling machine being proposed will make use of recently developed technologies from the continuous flow chemistry field to provide an alternative to distillation technology for solvent recovery that is energy efficient, safe, easy-to-use and can operate continuously. The machine will use a combination of chemical separation techniques all adapted and designed specifically for continuous flow operation. Using complementary techniques, the output stream exiting the equipment will be a purified solvent, which can be reused in the same manner as a pristine, non-recycled solvent

Coordinator: University of Malta Partner: MST Audio Visual Ltd. Funding: €199,997.00

This project’s goal is to further develop a novel multiple camera system concept which enables better analysis of high speed events. This project aims to ultimately produce a marketable product and a sound business proposition by filling an existing gap in the high performance vision market. This product will tackle a problem whereby high speed cameras have been largely intended for monocular vision, making it difficult to capture fleeting events from multiple angles using commercially available hardware.


Applications of this technology include the scientific study of fracture propagation, droplet formation, combustion wave fronts or high speed impacts which are all ideally observed and analysed from different angles of view. Such vision equipment needs to be easily adaptable for a variety of situations without redesigning the entire system for each and every use case. This indicates the existence of a requirement gap, whereby electronically-synchronized, multi-vision, high-speed camera systems appear better suited for accurate visual analysis from different orientations.


In addition, the ability to synchronize multiple cameras accurately enables a wide range of technical possibilities such as multi-camera resolution-augmentation, frame interleaving, and real-time stitching of video footage for the creation of larger fields of view than would otherwise be possible with any single high speed vision camera. By combining a variety of user-friendly camera features into one marketable product, a practical product can be made useful for a wide range of scientific and industrial applications, in preparation for commercialization.


By combining a variety of user-friendly camera features into one marketable product, a practical product can be made useful for a wide range of scientific and industrial applications, in preparation for commercialization.

Coordinator: University of Malta

Partner: QuAero Ltd.

Funding: €195,182.00

Pilots currently fly civil air transport aircraft primarily through direct interaction with the autopilot and flight management system (FMS), providing inputs via the flight control unit (FCU) on the cockpit glare shield or via the control and display units on the central pedestal.  New technologies involving touch-screens are now being considered by the industry to reduce costs and pilot workload. Touch-Flight, a project funded by the 2012 R&I programme, developed a novel approach that focusses on bringing pilot-cockpit interaction to a single, line-replaceable tablet-like device.  In this project, flight guidance and management functions were prototyped and evaluated successfully.

Touch-Flight 2 / ePM will build on the results of Touch-Flight, focussing on extending the original concept to now focus on multiple communication channels, including the Touch-Flight console, to further reduce pilot workload, thus contributing to increased operational safety and potentially act as a key enabler to reduced crew operations on board large transport category of aircraft.

Within the scope of the project, a prototype interactive Human Machine Interface will be built and the concept developed within the project evaluated and demonstrated to industry.

Coordinator: Altern Ltd.

Partner: Sports Malta

Funding: €199,577.80

In a world with escalating fuel prices and depletion of non-renewable fuel resources, our constant drive is to find more environmentally friendly, sustainable, and above all, cost-effective energy efficient technologies. Lighting requirements in industrial and commercial sectors is a major source of energy consumption. A solution to this is to switch to more sustainable lighting, mainly through the use of solid-state lighting technologies, more commonly referred to as LED lighting. During the past decade, the popularity of LED lighting solutions has increased drastically and the energy efficiency of LED products has increased substantially since the first products came to market.  LED lighting has a number of advantages when compared to conventional technologies such as higher efficiencies, less heat radiation, longer lifetime and slow degradation. LED lighting has become commercially available in a variety of sectors, giving access to immediate costs savings on the lighting energy requirements, yet most current technologies fall short in the flexible use in commercial and industrial sectors. This project proposal, titled INNOVLED, focuses on the research, design and development of complete LED luminaires specifically aimed for sports applications where lighting energy consumption is high and therefore the energy conservation margins are most beneficial. The project focuses on research on the electrical and mechanical side of the LED luminaires as well as the implementation of a local pilot project consisting of the installation of a number of proto-types development as part of the project in order to allow testing and analysis of the products.

Coordinator : University of Malta Partner:  MCL Components Ltd. Funding:  €199,593.69 Abstract: MaltaHip was developed by a team of researchers at the University of Malta in collaboration with MCL Components and funded through the Fusion Programme of the Malta Council for Science and Technology. The main objectives of the Fusion programme are: to raise the level and profile of locally funded research; to ingrain research and innovation at the heart of the Maltese economy; to spur knowledge-driven and value-added growth and to sustain improvements in the quality of life. Obesity, trauma and prolonged life expectancy are among the factors that increase the demand for hip joint replacements. The first made in Malta total hip joint replacement, the MaltaHip, is based on the principle that although ankle joints carry higher stresses than knee and hip joints, they suffer from less arthritis. The researchers explored the idea of a radical prosthesis design that mimics the unidirectional motion of the ankle whilst maintaining the anatomical degrees of freedom of the hip. Using the knowledge of anatomy, biomechanics and biomaterials, the team managed to develop a novel hip joint prosthesis with a radically new design. The MaltaHip prototypes were machined locally to the highest machining standards and then tested in an accredited implant testing laboratory in Germany. The final results have demonstrated outstanding wear resistance due to its novel design, as compared to conventional hip prostheses with the same materials and tested under the same conditions.

Coordinator: University of Malta Partner:  Flying Squirrel Games Malta Ltd. Funding:  €199,960 Abstract: Language impairment (LI) in children is often attributed to various factors including intellectual disability, autism and hearing loss. However, it is reported that approximately 7% of the global childhood population experience LI in the absence of evident causative factors. Children with LI are often faced with social communication, behavioural, educational and vocational difficulties. Although bilingualism does not cause LI, such disorders can be complicated when children have bilingual or multilingual exposure, which is a common occurrence worldwide. This has particular relevance to the language-learning context of Maltese children. LI in children can often be addressed by a customised intervention programme drawn up by a professional speech-language pathologist (SLP) on the basis of assessment and regular review of the child’s speech and language skills. However, children often lose engagement when subjected to repetitive therapy activities and lengthy assessment procedures. This impinges on the effectiveness of intervention.  Moreover, speech-language sessions offered in the public health clinics often take place during school hours, disrupting children’s routine. Furthermore, with guardian(s) often being engaged in full-time work, it becomes an issue to accompany children during the sessions. Within this context, the project’s goal is to develop a novel, multi-modal device, SPEECHIE, to facilitate language therapy for children with LI both within and beyond the clinical setting. SPEECHIE will be developed as a smart educational toy that entices children to engage with the designated exercises by creating a more rewarding and motivating environment. The device can be used at the child’s own pace to improve speech and/or language skills. The device will also take a clinical dimension in assisting SLPs in assessment and continuous monitoring by recording children’s output and subsequent analysis. The device will also allow an SLP to remotely carry out intervention activities in the presence of the guardian(s) in the comfort of their home. All of these features have the potential to improve the speech and language skills of children, which in turn would reflect positively on their learning, behaviour and social interaction. Therefore, SPEECHIE contributes to improving the quality of life and contribute to the health sector. Due to its multi-disciplinary nature, this proposal cross-cuts with other specialisation areas, namely high-value added manufacturing and ICT. The results of the Commercialisation Vouchers Programme review clearly indicate that (i) existing patented systems have only limited similarities compared to SPEECHIE (ii) the device has a huge international market potential and economic impact.

Coordinator: University of Malta Partners: SR Technics Malta Ltd., QuAero Ltd., 6pm Ltd. Funding: €197,026.70 Abstract: Maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) processes today are highly integrated at the back end, with back offices working closely with stakeholders such as the customer (the aircraft owner / operator), manufacturers and airworthiness organisations to plan the MRO jobs that have to be implemented by aircraft technicians on the job floor.  These jobs may be complex, involving several thousands of person hours to carry out. Due to the nature of the business, all tasks are defined by job cards that relate to specific manuals and repair procedures, require the use of specific replacement parts and tools, etc. and all the work that is performed needs to be documented and tracked for traceability purposes.  This, currently is done throughout the industry via a paper-heavy system which also renders it relatively inefficient from a time and motion perspective on the shop floor. eMRO will develop the basis of an electronic system that automatically generates a set of electronic job cards for the aircraft technician, provides electronic linkage to relevant documentation (such as the aircraft maintenance manuals), listing of spares and tools needed, electronic tagging of said parts and tools used and electronic sign off on a hand-held device that the aircraft technician can use in a convenient manner.  Such a system will be linked to a centralised electronic archive via a secure wireless data network (WIFI) to ensure satisfactory traceability of all documentation as required by the regulatory framework. This will contribute significantly towards the reduction of the dependency of the MRO sector on paper for the execution of tasks and the documentation of activities; via an electronic service that facilitates (quickens) the technician’s job of following instructions, documenting activities and tasks completed, reporting findings, issue of spares and tools from stores, etc.  In this way, the system will contribute to the streamlining and reduction of person hours related to an MRO task and thus to the reduction of the cost of maintenance and air travel in general.

Coordinator: University of Malta Partner: Medserv p.l.c. Funding: €198,206 Abstract: Despite its obvious advantages, significant penetration of off-shore renewable energy sources is still hindered by a few major challenges. Because of intermittency, integration of electrical energy from renewables into the grid is difficult, therefore considerable amount of green energy is still wasted. On the other hand, renewable energy supply is not in phase with energy demand, therefore the energy sector still heavily relies on fossil fuel energy sources in peak times. Our proposed system, FLASC, is an interface between off-shore renewables and the grid, which solves these two major challenges of current infrastructures. Through storing the energy in the form of pressurised fluid, we are able to smoothen out the intermittent output of renewable sources as well as store the captured green energy for short period of time in order to match the energy supply and demand, thus replace fossil fuel energy sources with green energy in the highest possible rate. The University of Malta has been working on this novel concept since 2012. It consists of a stable floating platform (Tension Leg Platform) which is capable of storing energy in the form of a pressurised fluid. The platform is ideal for mounting renewable energy technologies, (such as a wind, solar or wave generators) and for supporting maritime services offshore (for oil, gas and aquaculture industries). The technology has a significant international market potential. A formal patent application has been filed last year and this is now at PCT stage. The development is taken to the next level through collaborative efforts of the University of Malta and Medserv p.l.c.. Following the promising results of simulations, our aim is to construct and test a scaled prototype (1:10) of our system. The prototype will be deployed in a shallow water area within Maltese waters to prove the concept. The tests will last for 18 months, following which the prototype will be de-commissioned. The measurement data will be investigated to characterise the energy storage performance of the system under different weather conditions. The data will also be used to validate in-house developed computer models developed recently and which will eventually be used for designing full-scale commercial systems. The proposed development contributes to a significant jump on the Technology Readiness Level, from level 3 to 6. Appendix 1 provides a detailed explanation of the prototype, the working principle and the key parameters to be measured during the testing.

Coordinator : University of Malta Partner:  QuAero Ltd. Funding:  €199,694.53 Abstract: Flight data monitoring (FDM) today forms an integral part of safety systems within flight operations.  Typically, aircraft data is recorded during flight and this data is then used off-line to analyse the performance of the aircraft and how it is being flown. Traditional use of FDM primarily focuses on thresholding of parameters (defining maximum values, or maxvals) and detecting exceedances, which will then lead to further analysis and investigation into whether there is value to analyse the matter further. FDM generates large amounts of data and this provides a wealth of information regarding the operations of an airline which can be used to advantage in terms of improved safety and efficiency, impact on the environment and possibly commercial benefit. However, the current statistical approach employed for FDM is inadequate to investigating big data. Hence this project sees and inter-faculty research collaboration between the Institute of Aerospace Technologies and the Dept. of Intelligent Computer Systems from the Faculty of ICT and industrial partners QuAero to develop a tool by which modern machine learning techniques are adopted to analyse flight data. Some of these techniques include neural networks or Hierarchical Temporal Memory Learning Algorithms. These are required to teach the machine what anomalies to look for when analysing flight data. The tool allows the operator to improve post monitoring analysis, increase operation efficiency and enhance safety, resulting in larger commercial returns and reducing the impact of its operations on the environment. This project proposal has also attracted the interest of TotalAOC, a third party which will be interested to pursue the commercialisation of this research, after the end of this project. TotalAOC is a UK company specialised in providing comprehensive aviation management support, including flight data monitoring services to private and commercial aviation operators. A letter for this project is included with this application.

Coordinator : Celier Aviation Malta Ltd Partner:  University of Malta Funding:  € 199,818.57 Abstract: Helicopters are in their own merit, complex, expensive (in terms of purchasing, operational use and capacity) as well as consume only one specific type of fuel that is not readily available anywhere, except airports. In this respect, Celier Aviation Malta will be embarking on a research and development project involving a multi-purpose gyrocopter to be named the C-66. This aircraft aims at simplifying a complex system into a hybrid rotary wing that can perform the same complex missions, at a fraction of the price of current helicopters on the market as well as reduced operational costs. Our innovation is based on a simplification process that will transform the concept of building a traditionally complex and expensive flying machine into one that is cost effective, economical, easy-to-use, eco-friendly and have multi-purpose solutions with unparalleled safety features. Celier Aviation has set up in Malta to design, test and build this new product for the aviation industry and is partnering with The Institute of Aerospace Technologies at the University of Malta for the execution of this project

Coordinator : University of Malta Partner:  Abertax Kemtronics Ltd. Funding:  €199,956.88 Abstract: Cogeneration or combined heat and power (CHP) is the use of a heat engine to simultaneously generate electricity and useful heat. In separate production of electricity, some energy must be discarded as waste heat, but in cogeneration this thermal energy is put to use. This system increases the overall energy efficiency of the generator from about 40% to more than 85%. A micro-CHP has been designed at the University of Malta. Small enough for households, which would increase the amount of renewable energy used as well as the attractiveness of using other renewable energy devices such as photovoltaic panels. The key design feature of the system is the fact that it treats the grid as an option and not as a compulsary source in meeting the energy needs of a household. The other advantage is that the micro-CHP and the PV panels can be used to generate electricity during a power cut, which is not currently possible. Micro CHP  units are available on the market but these are too expensive for medium income households and do not offer the full flexibility in their operation.

Coordinator : University of Malta Partner:  Applied Biotech Ltd Funding:  € 194,017.59 Abstract: Early diagnosis is crucial to allow proper patient management and increase survival rates.  In this project we aim (1) to develop and validate a diagnostic kit for HER2 amplification in Breast Cancer patients, (2) to prove the technology for similar diagnostic tests for other cancerous diseases such as early diagnosis of colorectal cancers and (3) optimise the technology to measure amplification in circulating exosomes.  The University has developed a method for testing for HER 2 positive breast cancer which is superior to current FISH tests as it has the benefits of: eliminating ambiguous results, increasing processing speed, analysing degraded patient samples and reducing the quantity of biopsy material needed for analysis. The study of amplifications in circulating exosomes isolated from blood samples of Breast cancer and colorectal cancer patients provides the means to measure these prognostic markets at an early stage and in liquid biopsies that are readily available for screening at an affordable cost.  Exosomes from patients with amplifications such as HER2-enriched breast cancers shall be used as a proof of principle for detection of known biomarkers in exosomes. Isolation of exosomes also allows use of the technology during patient management taken routinely during therapy.

Coordinator : University of Malta Partner:  Abertax Kemtronics Ltd Funding:  € 199,137 Abstract: Batteries are a part of our everyday lives. They store energy in a chemical form and can be charged, discharged and reused. With increasing emphasis on greener technologies such as hybrid and electric vehicles, more electric aircraft and renewable energy generation, battery technology becomes more important. In electric vehicles, the battery pack is crucial to the range of the vehicle. In the field of renewable energy generation battery packs can be used to store energy for off peak use, while in modern aircraft batteries power up aircraft systems, provide backup power for critical avionics systems and can power ground support to reduce airport emissions. In each application, careful monitoring of the temperature and voltages of each battery cell is crucial to life and energy storage of the battery pack. Battery overheating is a main concern during repeated cycles of charging and discharging. Indeed, there have been a few cases in consumer electronics , , electric vehicles  and aviation  where battery packs overheated uncontrollably causing thermal runaway to the extent of catching fire.3,4 Such behaviour is a cause of health and safety concerns. Conventional air cooling is inefficient. As the coolant passes over the battery cells, the fluid gradually warms up and its effectiveness to cool subsequent batteries deteriorates. Battery cells in the same pack would hence operate at different temperatures. As the battery chemistry is temperature sensitive, the battery cells would respond differently to dis/charging cycles. The battery cell with the highest temperature limits the dis/charging rates and the energy storage capacity. Moreover, the battery cell at the highest temperature degrades at a faster rate, dictating the life of the pack. While attempts to us liquid cooling proved to be more efficient than air cooling, the same characteristics persists. To counter this problem, the industry has developed complex and expensive electronic battery management systems that monitors the temperature of each cell and adjusts the charging rate. While this protects the cells, it limits the current flow during dis/charging rates causing long waiting times in between battery use. This project addresses this problem by developing a novel evaporative cooling strategy. A liquid coolant with a low boiling point is introduced in the battery pack. As the battery cells warm up and reaches the boiling point of the coolant, it absorbs their latent heat and evaporates turning into gas. The gas travels to a cooler part of the battery pack (for example the casing), where it is allowed to reject heat to ambient and condense back to liquid in the process. The liquid condensate replenishes the liquid pool in the battery pack, creating a self-sustained cooling cycle. As the coolant within the entire battery pack boils at a single temperature, all the battery cells within the pack are kept at one uniform temperature. The project will investigate and develop alternative forms to implement this technology such as immersion cooling, wick assisted cooling and integration of heat pipes into the battery cell. This project promises an improved battery cooling technology which will in turn results in a longer life and higher dis/charging rates

Coordinator : University of Malta Partner:  Seasus Ltd Funding:  €193,943.38 Abstract: Eye movements have long been recognised to provide an alternative channel for communication with, or control of, a machine such as a computer, substituting traditional peripheral devices. The ample information inherent to the eye movements has attracted increasing interest through the years, leading to a host of eye-gaze tracking applications in several fields, including assistive communication, automotive engineering, and marketing and advertising research. This project proposes a passive eye-gaze tracking platform aimed to provide an alternative communication channel for persons with physical disabilities, permitting them to perform mundane activities such as to operate a computer, hence improving their quality of life and independence, or for normal individuals as an additional access method, permitting an auxiliary control input for computer applications, such as games. In the proposed platform, eye and head movements are captured in a stream of image frames acquired by a webcam, and subsequently processed by a computer (and possibly mobile devices) in order to estimate the gaze direction according to the eye and head pose components. Mapping the eye-gaze to a computer screen permits commands to be issued by the selection of icons on a suitably designed user interface. This project addresses challenges associated with eye-gaze tracking under uncontrolled daily life conditions, including handling of head and non-rigid face movements, and reduction or elimination of user calibration for more natural user interaction.

Coordinator : Scope Solutions (Scope) Partner:  University of Malta Funding:  € 200,000 Abstract: An article published by the European Commission states that “the next big evolution for the internet is cloud computing, where everyone from individuals to major corporations and governments move their data storage and processing into remote data centres.” The report continues “Cloud computing is where IT infrastructures, platforms and software are provided centrally and distributed to end users over a network. Centralising data storage and processing offers economies of scale even the largest organisations cannot achieve by themselves. Cloud computing therefore represents considerable savings in IT budgets, and the end of headaches linked to older computing methods.” Yet for decades, SMEs have been working in their isolated setups using traditional software and legacy processes. In today’s world, such setups are being replaced by cloud-based software – or software as a service (SaaS). This move is the natural next step for any business including SMEs. For startups, this transition is relatively straightforward yet for established entities this step is more cumbersome. A number of researchers (such as the Open Group – have established that one of reasons, SME delay to shifting their organisation to the SaaS model is due to the “deep existing business processes that are embedded in the day-to-day running of the operations especially when it comes to recording data for analysis and reporting”. Research also shows that spreadsheet software is one of the most-used technologies for collecting, computing, and displaying data. Accountants and business owners are familiar with spreadsheet software. In spite of the risks associated of operating such a versatile tool, undoubtedly there are also various benefits of operating this flexible tool, if applied diligently (usually through experienced users). The objective of the project is to create a series of innovative tools which help SMEs transition their business to the cloud: 1)              Without having to reinvent all their internal processes / reporting, and 2)              Whilst retaining the ability to push data in the cloud from familiar software such as existing spreadsheets.   This can be achieved by creating a bridge between the data in the cloud and the local machine. Data is typically stored in a database or in a spreadsheet with the latter being the most problematic. The proposed project therefore addresses the latter scenario by providing an application, which connects the spreadsheet to the SaaS application and facilitates this exchange of information in a controlled environment. One of the primary target markets for this product would be the professional accounting practitioners, who invariably have practiced with spreadsheets for a significant part of their career.   These tools need to be built using the same cloud principles to allow users to benefit from the related cloud-based advantages. This concept has already been successfully prototyped for the last 2 years. Results are very encouraging hence the proposal aims to expand, finalise and commercialise these tools. Scope have the necessary facilities to carry out this project including the office space and facilities.  Their offices at the Life Sciences Park are close to UOM premises so both teams can easily meet at either office when required.  Scope offices are already equipped with the necessary network and infrastructure for this project to commence immediately once it has been awarded.

Coordinator : University of Malta Partner: 6PM Funding:  €186,793.22 Abstract: A Brain Computer Interface (BCI) gives a person the ability to communicate with and control machines using brain signals instead of peripheral muscles. BCIs allow people with severely restricted mobility to control devices around them, increasing level of independence and improving quality of life. BCIs may also be used by healthy individuals, e.g. in gaming, and are expected to become a ubiquitous alternative means of communication and control. Our BCI experience and growing interest in BCIs provide an opportunity to innovate and break new ground in BCIs. This project proposes the development of a novel application controlled directly with brain signals, opening up accessibility to individuals suffering from motor disabilities, and providing alternative access methods to healthy individuals. BCIs acquire the electrical brain activity using electroencephalography (EEG) electrodes, relying on brain phenomena such as those evoked by flickering visual stimuli, known as steady state visually evoked potentials (SSVEP). In the proposed system, stimuli are associated to commands, and EEG signals are processed to detect the intent associated to the brain pattern. A BCI challenge is to have BCIs operating in real environments amidst the nuisance signals generated by normal user actions. The project proposes solutions to this challenge, operating in real-time at the user’s will. It also aims at addressing the annoyance factor of the flickering stimuli, ensuring that the system can be used comfortably for long periods of time, if necessary.

This article was last updated on: February 26, 2020