Funded Projects | 2017 – Till date

Home Funded Projects | 2017 – Till date
FUNDED PROJECTS 2020
  • Coordinator: University of Malta
  • Partner: Threis Ltd.
  • Funding: €193,698
  • Abstract: In many domains, ranging from law enforcement to entertainment applications such as FaceApp, a common task is to sketch or modify a facial image. When the facial image is created from a linguistic description, the process is extremely challenging, since it requires the handling of multimodal representations which ground linguistic expressions, such as words or phrases, into visual features corresponding to regions of an image. Even for humans, sketching a facial image from text or speech descriptions is a challenging and time-consuming task, as forensic scientists attest. A further capability that humans have, which is even more challenging for machines, is to add further information to an unfolding context. This is commonly done in everyday discourse, and is also done when the context includes visual information. Thus, a person might begin by describing a face to a sketch artist as “A woman with dark eyes and dark hair”. Subsequently, the speaker may include new information, such as “She also wears glasses”, and the sketch artist is able to incorporate this in the unfolding image.  The face:LIFT project will develop text-to-image technology that emulates this capability, one which goes to the heart of current developments in AI, where the intelligent processing of multimodal information is taking centre-stage, bringing together advances in computer vision and natural language processing. This project will (a) develop new datasets pairing natural facial images with textual descriptions; (b) exploit and extend advanced deep learning techniques based on autoencoders and Generative Adversarial Networks, to develop technology to generate facial images automatically from text; and c) package this technology in an app, initially targeting general users for entertainment and private use. In the long run, the technology is likely to be of value in several other application domains, including forensic science (as a complement to current human-in-the-loop techniques) and education
  • Coordinator: University of Malta
  • Partner: Empav Ltd.
  • Funding: €194,498
  • Abstract: Arthritis of the knee affects more than 4.7 million people worldwide.  Due to its high prevalence  and with many patients not qualifying for major surgery, regular  pain killers  often become necessary.  Injecting stem cells is sometimes proposed as an alternative but this is often oversold and needs very specific conditions and permits.A team of researchers from the University of Malta, together with their Industrial partner EMPAV Engineering Ltd are seeking to develop an intermediate treatment as opposed to the regular surgery of total knee replacement arthroplasty. This project, whose Acronym is MaltaKnee:  grant agreement number R&I-2019-027-T, was financed by the Malta Council for Science & Technology, for and on behalf of the Foundation for Science and Technology, through the Fusion: R&I Technology Development Program. The project team will work towards the production of a device to simplify the treatment of knee arthritis at an earlier stage, possibly avoiding some total knee replacements in the future. The shock-absorbing device in the knee would be implanted through the minimally invasive surgical procedure of arthroscopy, whereby an endoscope is inserted into the joint through a small incision. The ideal end result of this would be that through the implantation of this device, there would be a natural reversal of early arthritis, allowing the recovery of knee health, and possibly even removal of the device.
  • Coordinator: University of Malta
  • Partner: Mater Dei Hospital
  • Funding: €194,982
  • Abstract: When a diver breathes air or other special breathing mixtures under pressure, inert gasses such as Nitrogen are dissolved in their body tissues. If a diver were to ascend rapidly, the dissolved gasses would come out of solution, forming bubbles that lead to decompression sickness. Nowadays, divers keep track of the time spent at given depths via a dive computer, which employs an algorithm to compute an ascent schedule, prescribing stops at given depths to allow the inert gasses to come out of solution slowly. The specific schedule depends on the particular dive profile, and the process is modelled within a generalised theoretical framework that is not diver-specific. This project seeks to establish a link between measurable physiological data and inert gas loading. A state-of-the-art device carrying a specialised sensor will be attached to the diver, yielding real-time data that can be used to tailor the decompression schedule to the individual diver in order to maximise safety. The device will be tested extensively at all stages of development, with final trials envisaged during actual dives, where a prototype will be tested and validated in tandem with a commercial decompression computer.
  • Coordinator: University of Malta
  • Partner: Quaero Ltd.
  • Funding: €194,973
  • Abstract: Flight data monitoring (FDM) is an essential part of safety systems within flight operations. A wide range of aircraft parameters are recorded during flight, such as aircraft speed, altitude, rate of descent, position, engine speed, fuel flow, electrical parameters and aircraft configuration. Once on the ground, this data is analysed off-line to assess the performance of the aircraft and the fleet. FDM software currently makes use of maximum thresholds, which are flagged whenever exceeded. The data would require further investigation to establish if procedures or safety has been compromised. However, the ever-increasing sensors installation aboard aircraft, makes flight data analysis laborious and complex. Current techniques not only miss the ability to establish trends and patterns prior to developing faults. Furthermore, once an anomaly is established, a thorough investigative effort is required to determine the contributory factors leading to the anomaly. The latter heavily relies on the human expert but can be subjective to the trained user. While the University of Malta has already done a substantial amount of work on using Machine learning techniques to detect anomalies in aircraft data, project WAGE consolidates these efforts by introducing the investigative aspect to establish the origins of the anomaly. The project therefore aims to establish contributory factors such as weather, geographical, and engineering parameters. To achieve this, the project aims to access freely available historical database of weather patterns and 3D geographical maps and merge them within a flight data analysis software. The project also aims to identify and cluster parameters which would highlight engineering concerns (such as requirement for early maintenance). This offers valuable insight for improved safety and flight operations. When applied within an environment of airline operations, it provides an acquired benefit of hindsight which can be referred to, to optimise future flight trajectories (for example when hazardous weather patterns are known and expected), and improve maintenance schedules with the minimum impact on the fleet operations. Project WAGE adopts a multidisciplinary approach whereby research in AI is integrated into a setting of aircraft performance, gas turbine performance and airline operations. The project offers an innovative, step improvement over the current state of the art flight data analysis software. This may result in added value in improved aviation safety and airline economic advantages.
  • Coordinator: University of Malta
  • Partner: PTL Ltd.
  • Funding: €194,976
  • Abstract: Although we live in a digital age, paperwork and tedious manual interventions remain ubiquitous in business, having a knock-on effect on efficiency and cost. This is very true when dealing with quotations, invoices, receipts and purchase orders. Even though e-invoicing has been around for quite a while, most companies, especially the smaller ones still make use of either paper, email or pdf invoices, where the semantic information is lost, from the point of view of the machine, limiting further useful processing.  It is therefore desirable to have systems that extract the semantic information from these documents. In this respect, off-the-shelf commercial products are either characterised by limited functionality, increasing the incidence of human intervention, or require periodic higher order skills to re-train and maintain a working system.  ADACE3 plans to leverage state of the art artificial intelligence algorithms, namely joint vision-language models and never-ending learning techniques, to develop a system that requires less human intervention and potentially more attractive to the small company market, in terms of cost and ease of use.  The project, which is a joint effort between the University of Malta and PTL Ltd, a leading technology company, will develop a minimum viable product and advance the state-of-the-art in artificial intelligence.
  • Coordinator: University of Malta
  • Partner: Cementstone Manufacturing Co. Ltd.
  • Funding: €194,999
  • Abstract: In line with the latest recast of the European Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD 2018/844/EU) and its transposition into Maltese Law (LN47/2018), requesting the mandatory EPC when a property transfer is affected, this has brought with it the importation of new insulation products. These are typically internal or external cladding panels applied to the common building fabric, namely 230mm HCB (hollow concrete block) walls. External cladding normally raises land ownership issues and planning permission anomalies, while internally, it takes up much precious floor space, and yet not fully performing in accordance with the local building regulations. U-values are compromised when reducing panel thickness, to avert such problems. Noise reduction between neighbouring buildings was never considered an issue with solid globigerina limestone walls. However lately, since this was replaced by hollow concrete blocks, noise levels raise eyebrows (and voices), when they go beyond a one-off nuisance. The proposed Double C-Block is considered to be a novel idea of combining both thermal and acoustic properties en suite, condensed into a 200mm building block, yet without compromising the desired consistent structural compressive strength. The University of Malta has already been supporting this idea, spurring from a Masters Dissertation in 2014, into a few prototype blocks and wall, tested to destruction for their compressive strength, after conducting thermal and acoustic tests of a sample wall in hot box and acoustic chamber. Development of this block will now be taken to the next level in collaboration between the University of Malta and Cementstone Manufacturing Co. Ltd., a local established leading manufacturer of the standard HCB units, as part of Attard Bros. Group of Companies. Following promising results from laboratory tests, the building technology will be taken to the next level by building comparative test cells, simulating a full-scale habitable room; one built in standard 230mm HCB and another using the 200mm Double C-Block. The test cells will be monitored over a 12-month period, testing for seasonal thermal and acoustic performance. Data will eventually be used to validate established software modelling, for further refined simulations and testing, also exploring alternative insulation design mixes. Eventually this data will be used to develop the research into a full product launch on the market. The proposed R&D of the Double C-Block contributes to a significant jump in Technology Readiness Level (TRL), from level 3 to level 6. This represents testing from prototype level to in situ testing in context.
  • Coordinator: University of Malta
  • Partner: HumAIn Ltd.
  • Partner: Invent3D Ltd.
  • Funding: €188,949
  • Abstract: Cerebral palsy (CP) is a physical disability that affects movement and posture. It is the most common physical disability in children. A User-Centred Design (UCD) approach places users at the centre of the design process. Motivated by the child centred functional goals set during occupational therapy for children with CP, SMARTCLAP exploits UCD to develop a revolutionary smart product service system. Through a user-centred design approach, SMARTCLAP aims to increase the motivation of a child with CP during therapy sessions, in which guardians/parents can also be involved. This contributes towards developing a positive behaviour and improving the social interaction of the child. Therefore, SMARTCLAP contributes to improving the quality of life and adds value to the health sector. Due to its benefits, SMARTCLAP can be employed as a rehabilitation platform for users with other conditions, such as stroke. Furthermore, due to its multidisciplinary nature, this proposal cross-cuts with other specialisation areas, namely high-value added manufacturing and ICT.
  • Coordinator: University of Malta
  • Partner: Mater Dei Hospital
  • Funding: €194,996
  • Abstract: Several medical conditions require the accurate monitoring of a patient’s heart rate and respiratory rate. Contact-based devices such as photoplethysmograms, ECGs and nasal thermocouples are some of the obtrusive devices commonly used nowadays to measure these vital signs. However, these contact-based devices may be constraining and of discomfort to patients, whilst also increasing risks of contamination both for patients as well as healthcare workers. Non-contact imaging systems can solve these issues. However, existing contactless systems suffer from a range of limitations that significantly constrain their use in practical scenarios outside laboratory conditions. These include their susceptibility to changes in lighting (e.g. changes between day and night, natural and artificial lighting), uncontrolled patient pose (several systems require the user to face the imaging system), and patient movements. We are working on the development of novel approaches relying on the use of combined visual and thermal imaging and advanced computational techniques to overcome these limitations and provide reliable estimates of heart rate and breathing rate in real-world clinical settings. The proposed technology can replace conventional heart rate and breathing rate monitoring systems both for general patient monitoring in wards, but more importantly for critical hospital environments such as recovering patients in intensive therapy units (ITUs), anaesthetised patients during surgical interventions, ultra clean wards (e.g. for organ transplantation, treatment of patients leukaemia, and other diseases associated with extreme susceptibility to infection. The proposed project can thus have a strong impact on the healthcare sector, by providing safer and more convenient tools for vital sign monitoring, addressing s the EU challenge of improving the efficiency and sustainability of healthcare systems and also tackling the urgent international health concern highlighted by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in relation to the spread of antibiotic-resistant microbes. The team driving this project forward consists of academics with engineering, ICT and medical backgrounds from the University of Malta, and medical consultants and healthcare staff working at the intensive therapy unit (ITU) at Malta’s main hospital (Mater Dei Hospital).
  • Coordinator: University of Malta
  • Partner: New Eneregy Ltd.
  • Funding: €194,939
  • Abstract: Operating integrated circuits at near-cryogenic temperatures is associated with major improvements, at considerably less cost than chip redesigns or technology scale-downs. Yet, present cooling methods are too large and consume too much power for practical adoption in small products. Using thermo-electric technology, novel assembly techniques and optimal control algorithms, ICECAP shall develop a compact module that can be integrated within a multitude of portable devices such as high speed cameras, low light microscopes, radio receivers as well as vaccine transport systems.
FUNDED PROJECTS 2019
  • Coordinator: University of Malta
  • Partner: Divers Code Ltd.
  • Funding: €194,915
  • Abstract:This project develops the first system in the world composed of a multi-drone system – BEA. Tourism in Malta contributes to approximately 25% of GDP and contributes to 28% of fulltime employment . Around 5% of inbound tourists have engaged in diving activities such as snorkelling, scuba diving and freediving. However, such activities have an element of risk. To mitigate this risk, BEA proposes a system of drones, one operating in the air, one on the water surface and one underwater to support and monitor the safety of divers. While the hovering UAV will create a geo-fence around the diver, therefore offering protection against boat incursions. The self-propelled Buoy acts as a resting platform while hosting critical support and first aid kit. It will also host a docking mechanism and batteries to allow the UAV and ROV to recharge. It also acts as the communication link between the hovering drone and the underwater ROV. Finally, the ROV is able to follow the diver emulating the “buddy philosophy”, while providing reassurance to the diver. The multi-drone system works in synergy, with the sub-systems being in communication with each other, and have the ability to relay a message to the diver. The applicants believe that BEA mitigates the risks involved in diving by introducing technology assistance, providing reassurance and situation awareness to the diver. This will contribute towards maintaining the safety track record of the local industry while offering a novelty which enhances the diving experience. Ultimately, this benefits the diver, industry and touristic product. .
  • Coordinator: University of Malta
  • Partner: Omnigene Medical Technologies Ltd.
  • Funding: €194,950
  • Abstract: We discovered that niflumic acid (NFA, Niflam®) is a novel opener of the human K+ channels Kv1.1 whose dysfunction is implicated in movement disorders, epilepsy and SUDEP. NFA treatment ameliorated the motor performance and longevity of animals expressing defective Kv1.1 channels and inhibited epileptic discharges and cortical spreading depolarization (CSD), a detrimental event increasing SUDEP risk (see preliminary results provided in the Commercialization Voucher Programme; additional data could be provided on request). The project objectives are to provide additional evidence on the ability of NFA at: 1) reducing mortality in an animal model of SUDEP by inhibiting spreading depolarization (SD) in both the cortex and brainstem; 2) reducing epileptic discharges in vitro and in vivo by using an animal model of temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE). Furthermore, several rare neurological diseases are caused by dysfunctional channels incorporating Kv1.1 subunits, including episodic ataxia type 1 (EA1), a movement disorder with epilepsy as the most relevant comorbidity. According to most recent estimations there are presently >50 million people worldwide suffering from epilepsy, with approximately 30% of patients (~15 million) not rendered seizure free by available medication. Furthermore, sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP) is the leading cause of mortality in people with pharmaco-resistant epilepsy, second only to stroke in the number of life years lost. Neurosurgical treatment of epilepsy for these patients is often precluded by unacceptable risk to neighboring or overlapping brain structural networks associated with intelligence, language, emotions, movement and other essential brain functions. The high costs of pharmaceutical R&D is ~11 billion EUR for each new drug and >95% of the drug candidate fail during clinical trials. As a repurposed drug, NFA bypasses a significant proportion of early expenditure reducing it ~87% and time needed to bring a drug to market (from 20 to 10 years) shortening the transition of bench work to treatment at bedside (see doi:10.7150/ijbs.24612). We expect that a significant number of patients could benefit from NFA treatment. It is therefore evident that the successful development of the technology could have a wide-ranging and significant socio-economic impact both locally and abroad in terms of lower mortality and higher quality of life. .
  • Coordinator: University of Malta
  • Partner: 1888 Ltd.
  • Funding: €194,910
  • Abstract: EyeCon aims to use a particular eye movement recording technique known as electrooculography (EOG), whereby the electrical activity of the human eyes is captured using electrodes attached to the face in close proximity of the eyes, to develop a practical human-computer interface (HCI) system. This project aims to address practical issues related to the usage of EOG-based systems, particularly to fuse head pose information and develop head movement compensation algorithms, to allow the user to interact with an eye movement-based assistive application naturally and without restrictions. .
  • Coordinator: Altern Ltd.
  • Partner: SeanCo Ltd., MEDE
  • Funding: €194,972
  • Abstract: SHAPELAMP focuses on a process that allows customers to design their own lighting units through the use of an online platform and custom algorithms that link the 3D geometry directly to the manufacturing process using CAD/CAM technology and the development of an innovative 3D printer that can intrinsically build the luminaire, LED circuitry and integrate the LED chips within the same process. The project aims to make design a seamless part of the purchase, with parameter changes that people are already used to. The process will allow the customers to design and purchase their own unique LED lighting units from anywhere on the globe. Presently a customer requiring a lighting unit has two distinguishable options: • to purchase an existing lighting unit from a physical or online shop (choosing from the available range of products) • to design and build a custom product together with a designer or specialist in an iterative design process that is highly time-consuming and excessively expensive as well as restricted to the available fabrication technologies and processes. This project aims to bring together advanced fabrication technologies using 3D printing technology, an innovative design algorithm and LED technologies to give the possibility to any individual (irrespective of locations, age, IT literacy) to design and fabricate their unique lighting units through an online platform that communicates directly to autonomous rapid fabrication machines. Through the project, a machine will be designed and developed that can process g-code created directly from a custom software, convert it into usable code, without human intervention, and autonomously 3D print the custom luminaire using multiple sources of 3D printing material (thermoplastic material for the luminaire structure, conductive material for LED circuitry) as well as integrate the custom LED chips within the luminaire as it is being manufactured. As part of the project, the Shapelamp team shall strive to develop the online platform beyond just the technical and financial capabilities, and into a holistic educational tool that can be used by students of different ages in developing their skills and knowhow within the area of design and fabrication. .
  • Coordinator: University of Malta
  • Partner: Mater Dei
  • Funding: €194,926
  • Abstract: IMPRINT aims to develop a bead-based multiplex assay for early detection metastatic disease. This project will utilise innovative molecular profiling technologies to define distinct populations of CTCs in blood from breast, colorectal and lung cancer. Circulating tumour cells (CTCs) isolation depends on cell size or positive selection using specific antibodies. Enumeration of CTCs in patient blood provide evidence of metastatic disease, but high throughput methodologies to study signalling and gene expression in patient derived CTCs are hindered due to the purity and low number of cells. Cancers cost with the European Union reaches 124 billion euros each year. While lung cancer is responsible for the highest overall burden, breast cancer had the highest healthcare costs. Identification of early metastatic disease, in particular the ones that are still not radiologically visible, can reduce the treatment cost as well as morbidity. Due to the ability to identify low number of circulating cells, liquid biopsy techniques are the ideal tool to achieve this aim. .
  • Coordinator: University of Malta
  • Partner: Incredible Web Ltd.
  • Funding: €192,141
  • Abstract:Colorectal cancer (CRC) is an EU-wide challenge due to changes in our diet and lifestyle, therefore screening more accurately for it is of great importance. In Malta there are around 300 new cases of CRC per year, with 200 surgical resections and 100 mortalities per year. Generally, a patient being tested for cancer with standard diagnostics will be tested for genetic changes but not the protein modifications. The aim of this project is to create a colorectal cancer specific diagnostic test to assist clinicians and pathologists assess the presence and stage of CRC as a result of protein modifications. Our solution is a complementary tool to standard diagnostics using colon biopsies so as to provide further useful information to help avoid false negative or positive results and make tumour grading more quantitative and objective, without the need for special skills. CRC patients would benefit from earlier diagnosis, which generally translates to better treatment outcome, thus reducing the costs associated with chemotherapy, hospitalisation time, and reduce the mental burden on patient and family members, such as stress, depression, anxiety, etc. The research is performed by the Centre for Molecular Medicine and Biobanking at the University of Malta in collaboration with Incredible Web Ltd and surgeons at Mater Dei Hospital.
  • Coordinator: University of Malta
  • Partner: Ghajn Rasul Ltd.
  • Funding: €194,895
  • Abstract: Cancers have a significant impact on the aging population, on life expectancy and on quality of life in general. In fact, cancer cost the EU €143 billion in 2012, where malignant blood disorders (e.g. leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma) accounted for €12 billion, for which €6.3 billion were healthcare costs and €2 billion lost productivity (Ascend Consultancy, CVP Fusion Economic Impact Assessment & Risk Profile, Burns et al. 2016,). There is therefore scope for the identification of new drugs to provide treatment for such diseases. We already identified, through rigorous tests involving morphological stains, fluorescent antibody-tagging of differentiation markers, viability and differentiation assays as well as transcriptome analysis, an extract from endemic olive oil containing polyphenols that revert leukaemia cells to the original state. This type of cancer results in rapid production of abnormal white blood cells within the blood and bone marrow. The process of reversion of leukaemia cells to the healthy state is the basis of a treatment known as differentiation therapy. It is based on the application of a chemical agent that compensates for the leukaemia cells inability to continue along the maturation pathway. AGENT NOVOBIO will focus on isolating, identifying and characterising the bioactive component within this extract (‘B16’). This is essential information that will be required by investors from the oncology and biopharma sectors in order to invest in licensing of this research (Ascend Consultancy, CVP Fusion Market Research & Product Development). Details of the current status of the partners’ knowledge concerning the therapeutic properties of the extract are described in Appendix 5
  • Coordinator: University of Malta
  • Partner: Blu5 Labs Ltd.
  • Funding: €195,000
  • Abstract: Space is underexploited. An emerging industry called NewSpace seeks to fill the void by re-purposing commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) technology for use in a generation of lower-cost spacecraft. However, COTS components require validation for use in the space environment and this is still a costly affair. Conventionally, such devices must undergo qualification testing that includes thermal vacuum, vibration endurance as well as radiation testing at a handful of specialist facilities around the world. However, lab-testing of COTS devices to ECSS space standards is expensive and yet, it still cannot faithfully replace the gold-standard of in-orbit validation, because it cannot fully replicate the combined conditions found in the space environment. Devices must gain actual flight heritage before they can be considered for higher value missions. The University of Malta and Blu5 Labs Ltd are collaborating to develop a practical, low cost solution to allow end users and electronics manufacturers to test electronic devices, systems and materials directly in space. This will take the form of a miniaturized SpaceLab capsule – a PicoSatellite platform that can be launched by customers to carry-out several types of tests on components in space. This will leverage small spacecraft development that is currently taking place at the University of Malta. The development will include the development of a prototypical test payload including all the electronics to evaluate an electronic “device under test” (DUT).
  • Coordinator: University of Malta
  • Partner: Mater Dei
  • Funding: €194,796
  • Abstract: In spite of currently available treatment protocols, non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) carries an estimated 5-year survival rate of only 15%. The LCeNT project centres around the use of a novel proposed therapy which targets specific NSCLC pathways which are known to promote carcinogenesis. This innovative management involves a tripartite treatment regimen which converges onto a common anti-oncogenic endpoint, thus potentially providing greater efficacy at safer drug concentrations and reduced adverse-effects. The therapy consists of one small molecule compound, together with two specific gene- expression modifiers. Our primary aim is to develop and evaluate a functional therapeutic framework which may provide a basis for enhanced NSCLC therapy, and which in the long term will achieve a better prognosis with improved survival rate. This work is being jointly carried out with Mater Dei Hospital, and with collaboration with the Centre de Recherche en Cancérologie de Marseille, CNRS.
  • Coordinator: University of Malta
  • Partner: Abertax Quality Ltd.
  • Funding: €192,787
  • Abstract: For heavy-duty application e.g. in the automotive and medical industry, only a few 3D printers can be used to produce products made from high performance polymers such as polyetheretherketone (PEEK) including PEEK with carbon fibres to increase its mechanical strength and wear resistance. Currently, they exist as either powder or filament based 3D printer. The powder based 3D printers, such as selective laser sintering (SLS) or selective laser melting (SLM), are quite expensive due to the use of laser technology. The filament based fused deposition modeling (FDM) 3D printers are relatively affordable and the most used 3D printer, which shifts its market, not only for big corporations but also for private consumers. However, filament FDM 3D printers show some disadvantages such as high thermal loading of the material due to its twice extrusion/melting, very limited material selection including from high performance polymers group, relatively high material/filament price, rough surface finish and thus possible requirement for post treatment, etc. The MALTI3D project’s main aim is to develop an innovative fused deposition modeling (FDM) 3D printer that can solve those common problems and beyond. The commercialisation assessment results showed that (1) the proposed 3D printer does have a clear application in the market due to the proposed innovative features which currently do not exist, (2) the market size is large and the sales required for break-even are reasonable, and thus, there is potential for a business case, and (3) the product line proposed, both as an entire 3D printer and a separate 3D printing head including its key components, has been found to be economically viable. The MALTI3D project is led by the University of Malta and will be carried by the following consortium members: Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering, Department of Metallurgy and Materials Engineering (both from Faculty of Engineering), Department of Podiatry (Faculty of Health Science) and Abertax Quality Limited as the project partner from industry.
  • Coordinator: University of Malta
  • Partner: EMPAV Engineering Ltd.
  • Funding: €194,934
  • Abstract: Malta is striving to reach its 2020 Energy goals of 10% renewable energy. The EU also requires all new buildings to be near zero-energy [1,2]. The energy goal will be achieved primarily by installing PV systems (c.180MWp by 2020) on rooftops. The near zero-energy building directive is harder for buildings which are not able to generate a significant amount of their own energy. Photovoltaic installations in Malta started many years ago but really took off 7-8 years ago. As one would expect, the Industry adopted what was happening overseas (mainly Northern Europe) to the local rooftop. Various energy saving solutions reducing energy consumption exist nowadays – roof insulation, shading, double-glazed windows, wall insulation, etc… By far, roof insulation is the most effective. What we are proposing is a photovoltaic system, that rather than being adopted from overseas, is designed specifically for our buildings. A solution which will not only provide the same benefit at a similar cost to current systems, but will be easier to install and provide energy saving benefits. Such a solution would be perfectly suited not only to Maltese homes but also anywhere with similar construction such as the southern Mediterranean, Middle-East and North Africa.
  • Coordinator: University of Malta
  • Partner: StarGate Studios Malta Ltd.
  • Funding: €194,696
  • Abstract:The state-of-the-art in augmented-reality (AR), virtual-reality (VR) and cinematic recording is the Lytro Immerge 2.0, using a rig of ninety-five (95) cameras to capture all the light interacting with the scene (a.k.a. light field). This technology allows digital refocusing after capture and facilitates 3D modelling and the realistic integration of computer-generated content. The major hurdle is that rental starts at $125,000 per production, making it too expensive for most productions. Alternatives include Google’s rotating rig of cameras, which is only suitable to capture static scenes. The VoLARE project involves the design and development of a low-cost video light field capturing prototype. The main objectives of this project are: ● Reduce the cost of the video light field capturing system by reducing the number of cameras and their specifications. ● Reduce the throughput generated by the camera rig from ~1Tbps to 30Gbps. This will allow us to use relatively inexpensive technology to store raw video in real-time while also allowing the storage of longer videos. ● Restore a video light field with quality similar to that obtained using a dense camera rig using spatial, angular and temporal restoration techniques. Our partners in this project are Stargate Studios Malta, a video production and visual effects company that will use the developed video light field capturing system in a production. The developed algorithms will be integrated within a software package that will be provided to Stargate Studio Malta to allow 3D manipulation and to integrate visual effects. The demonstrator video will be assessed by the Industrial Advisory Board members (experts in video production, gaming and AR/VR productions) in a Cinema Theatre.
FUNDED PROJECTS 2018
  • Coordinator: MCAST
  • Partner: 4 Sight Technologies Ltd., Marsovin Ltd.
  • Funding: €195,000
  • Abstract: In the Mediterranean region, major food chain industries, starting from food manufacturing companies and going down to farmers are facing serious numerous threats, such as water shortages due to lack of rainfall, changing patterns of the traditional weather seasons, with longer summers days and extra heat stress, increases in crop diseases and skills’ loss due to labour force reduction in the agricultural sector. Crop Intelligent Tools (CIXT) is proposing to launch new components working with AI techniques and is specifically designed for particular crops. The components will make use of multiple technologies working in synchronisation, to capture and analyse the data pertaining to the specific crop in real time, and ultimately assist the farmers in their daily duties and decision making. The crop data will be gathered from Satellite Images, Internet of Things Sensors, Weather Stations, Drones and Unmanned Ground Vehicles. By having these combined technologies used together, farmers will be able to detect any problems in their crops at an early stage, make smarter production decisions, increase crop yields, produce healthier food and make farming more efficient. Moreover, the proposed system aims to achieve a return on the cost of investment for the farmer, by providing more accurate and reliable consistent data, semi automate specific tasks, and reduce the current operational costs coming from the price of water irrigation, fertilisation, pesticides and labour expenses.
  • Coordinator: University Malta
  • Partner: Orthopaedic Centre Malta Ltd.
  • Funding: €194,992
  • Abstract: A major issue in the development of commercial prosthetic hands is the trade-off between simplicity, dexterity and usability. If the major focus is on simplicity of the overall mechanical/control system (targeting lower cost and higher reliability), this is likely to result in lower dexterity of the mechanical system, as well as lower usability due to poor control of the prosthesis. If the major focus is on system dexterity (targeting increased capability of the hand), this is likely to result in higher complexity (i.e. lower simplicity), as well as reduced usability due to the difficulties encountered by the user in controlling the complex device. If the major focus is on system usability (targeting ease of use by the amputee), this will likely imply a less dexterous device (i.e. reduced dexterity) and a more complex control system (reduced simplicity). The global prosthetic hand market has to date failed to achieve balance between these three attributes within a single device, and the available products can be starkly listed within three distinct categories: aesthetic prostheses (simplicity); open/close functional devices (usability); or complex, expensive and heavy multi-finger prosthetic hands (dexterity). The primary research objective of this work is to carry out a systematic exercise to for the first time seek a practical solution that optimizes this classical trade-off within a single device, by extracting an acceptable and optimum dexterity out of the simplest possible architecture while maintaining high usability of the device. This work builds on previous work carried out at the University of Malta, which has already focussed on (1) preliminary studies of the general trade-off described above; (2) development of artificial dexterous hands that include only the essential features of the human hand; and (3) relating surface electromyography signals on the forearm to finger movement. This work seeks to exploit and extend these results through extensive experimental, analytical, simulation, and design work, to develop a prototype prosthetic hand that is dexterous, relatively simple, light, and convenient to use by the amputee.
  • Coordinator: Laser Development and Engineering Malta Ltd.
  • Partner: University Malta
  • Funding: €194,519
  • Abstract: In 10-15 years additive manufacturing promises to disrupt the whole manufacturing and distribution eco-system with 3D printers destined to become ‘mini-factories’. Before this can come true, 3D printers have to see some major developments. Currently, one of the few barriers in front of its wider adoption in the manufacturing industry are the unsatisfactory mechanical properties. Significantly increasing the strength of printed objects would therefore be a major market driver contributing highly to the growth of the sector. Laser Engineering & Development Limited is an engineering company specialised in the development of laser equipment for industrial applications. We have been working on the LASeeeR concept that has the potential to bring a fundamental change to the currently used Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) 3D printers. The concept uses state of the art laser technology in an innovative way to preheats the top layer of a print during printing, thus significantly enhancing the bond between layers that leads to superior mechanical properties of the final printed object. This can significantly extend the field of application of 3D printed objects. Accordingly, LASeeeR has a good commercialisation potential, since it offers a clear value to the users of 3D printers. Our target users come from the industrial sector where they use 3D printers for product design, development, prototyping and also for producing finished goods. The market is already substantial and is growing. It is estimated that more than 2 million 3D printer units will be shipped in 2018 by the end of the year. In the frame of this FUSION project, we aim at bringing the concept to the Technology Readiness Level 7 from the currently estimated 4 by developing a functional prototype that can be integrated into a regular FFF 3D printer. The development is planned to be realised through the collaboration with the University of Malta
  • Coordinator: University Malta
  • Partner: QuAero Ltd.
  • Funding: €183,850
  • Abstract: During ground operations of large commercial aircraft, pilots steer an aircraft by rotating its nose wheel with the tiller, and control its speed using the thrust levers and brake pedals. The thrust levers and brakes can also be used to aid steering – particularly in sharp turns – by applying differential braking/thrust. This method of taxiing requires the pilot to use multiple controls and can result in high workload, particularly at complex airports. In addition, the tiller is only used for taxiing and the left and right tillers are neither mechanically nor electronically linked. ACSAGO proposes an alternative taxiing technology which uses active sidesticks. Many aircraft – including Airbus aircraft – are already equipped with sidesticks; however, these are passive sidesticks which do not provide any feedback to the crew. In contrast, active sidesticks provide tactile (haptic) and visual feedback in response to pilot and autopilot commands. Active sidesticks are already used by business jet manufacturers such as Gulfstream; however, their use is limited to in-flight operations. Active sidestick characteristics can be modified in real-time, thus enabling the same inceptor to be used both on the ground and in the air. An active sidestick can bring several benefits to ground operations. For instance, it can be configured to control aircraft heading, thus rendering the tiller redundant. It can also be configured to control speed, thus enabling taxi manoeuvers to be completed just by using the sidestick. Furthermore, as mentioned above, an active sidestick provides feedback to the crew. The left and right sidesticks can also be electronically linked such that they track each other; thus, both pilots can feel and see their sidesticks moving. ACSAGO focuses on the application of active sidesticks for conventional taxiing i.e. through the use of the aircraft’s engines. However, since active sidesticks are configurable, they can also be applied to (future) electric taxiing operations, whereby pilots would use an active sidestick to control electric motors installed in the aircraft’s landing gear. This would remove the need for a dedicated control inceptor in the flight deck for electric taxiing. ACSAGO will develop control algorithms for the use of an active sidestick in ground operations. These will include algorithms to control aircraft speed and heading and to provide haptic feedback to assist the crew to keep the aircraft on the taxiway centreline and prevent them from exceeding certain speed limits or steering angles (which could damage the aircraft’s landing gear). Following development, the control algorithms will be evaluated by pilots in a flight simulator in order to determine their suitability to taxi operations and assess their impact on workload, performance and aircraft handling qualities (when compared with taxi operations using conventional controls). It is expected that the proposed technology will improve situation awareness, performance and safety during taxiing.
  • Coordinator: University Malta
  • Partner: Action Frame Ltd.
  • Funding: €194,831
  • Abstract: Rowing is a water sport which requires athletes to perform hundreds of oar pulls and rotations within minutes which often result in palm blisters, calluses, etc. as well as wrist/forearm injury. These problems result in significant discomfort to the athletes and may potentially even lead to long-term injuries or serious infections, particularly if rower is diabetic. A novel technology is being proposed to incorporate within the oars features which permit better and more effective grip which should result in better stress distribution hence maximising rowing performance in a safe pain-free manner.
  • Coordinator: University Malta
  • Partner: Mater Dei
  • Funding: €194,981
  • Abstract: Individuals with diabetes are at risk of developing foot ulceration, which can in turn lead to more serious foot complications. We are developing a wearable in-shoe dense temperature monitoring system in the form of a sock, to be used during daily activities to monitor abnormal foot temperature patterns indicative of ulcer development, thus facilitating early identification of foot complications and allowing for timely intervention.The system being developed is intended to serve as an innovative screening tool to be used by people living with diabetes during their daily activities. Through continuous real-time monitoring and advanced analysis of foot temperature patterns, the system will detect arising problematic foot conditions such as foot ulcerations and circulatory deterioration at an early stage and will provide real-time alerts and suggestions for remedial actions to the user. It will also assist clinicians to significantly improve assessment, prevention and enhance customised treatment plans for high-risk patients.
  • Coordinator: University Malta
  • Partner: Medavia Ltd.
  • Funding: €193,017
  • Abstract: This project develops a kinetic energy recovery system for a landing aircraft. Upon landing, a typical A320 aircraft contains approximately 100 MJ of kinetic energy which are dissipated in braking force in around 30 s. Following braking, the aircraft engines are throttled to 7% for taxiing to the gate. For an estimated taxi time of 20 minutes, preliminary calculations show that an A320 consumes approximately 228 kg in fuel during this period. Once at the gate, the main engines are switched off. However, an auxiliary power unit (APU) is switched on to power the ground support systems during embarkation, therefore consuming further fuel and producing emissions at ground level. The ability to recover and store a portion of the energy of a landing aircraft may allow the aircraft to taxi in and out of the airport gates, without further fuel consumption, or provide ground support without the use of an Auxiliary Power Unit (APU). This produces fuel savings, reduces the number running hours consumed by key aircraft components such as the APU and the maintenance costs associated with it, and the emissions on the ground. KERSair is a collaboration between the Institute of Aerospace Technologies within the University of Malta and Medavia Ltd. The project is led by Dr Robert Camilleri
  • Coordinator: University Malta
  • Partner: QuAero Ltd.
  • Funding: €194,886
  • Abstract: Automation on board transport category aircraft today has evolved to the point where the pilot’s role is becoming increasingly supervisory and managerial in nature. However, its complexity has led to the risk of pilots becoming less aware of how the automation is behaving, posing a risk to continued safety of flight. In addition, automation may become disengaged in abnormal and emergency situations and this may result in an undesirable significant increase in crew workload. This project proposes a novel concept of automation, where Artificial Intelligence (AI) trained to fly the aircraft is introduced to be able to monitor and control the automation systems whilst also communicating with the human pilots, keeping them in the loop and in the decision path. In this way, an additional human-machine interface path is introduced in parallel with the current pilot-aircraft human-machine interface (HMI). SmartAP will build on and use the technologies of the Touch-Flight and Touch-Flight 2/ePM projects, which allow aircraft systems to be controlled via a single touch-sensitive tablet and voice commands. The project will develop a complementary novel core architecture hosting the SmartAP functions that is intended to facilitate the certifiable use of AI for critical functions in the cockpit. It will also develop functionality for piloting aids in two important areas of crew support, namely in mitigating the risk and consequences of loss of control, and in workload reduction during departure/arrival. In this way, SmartAP aims to contribute towards increased safety of air transport. The project will develop the relevant technologies, culminating in the construction of a prototype that will be tested on a flight simulator with pilots in the loop as a means to evaluate the said technologies and to demonstrate their potential effectiveness on the flight deck.
  • Coordinator: University Malta
  • Partner: Ascent Software Ltd.
  • Funding: €184,729.00
  • Abstract:Several countries around the world use CCTV systems as forensic evidence to combat crime. These cameras cover large fields of view, where low-resolution facial images are typically captured, making the identification of the subject of interest very difficult. Moreover, distortions caused by video compression, motion blur, and poor lighting conditions can further reduce quality and thus reducing their effectiveness. Some commercial products have recently included super-resolution techniques that fuse consecutive video frames to restore higher quality images. Nevertheless, these methods are in most cases insufficient, especially when dealing with dynamic non-rigid objects such as faces. The problem addressed by this project is to improve the quality of facial images captured by CCTV cameras using models optimized to restore compressed low-resolution facial images typically found in CCTV footages. The primary investigator has developed an algorithm able to restore low-quality facial images using artificial intelligence (AI) techniques. Extensive experiments using more than 8,000 images conducted in a relevant environment show significant gains in terms of both quality and recognition (between 20-30% improvements over state-of-the-art). However, this method is limited to restore only the facial region, uses a sub-optimal process to select the dominant feature-vectors and is unable to restore the nonlinear artefacts caused by compression. The aim of the proposed product is to enhance this method using more advanced AI techniques, with the following advantages:

    – The method will learn the filters that minimize distortion from the training data without the need to identify the dominant feature-vectors.

    – Users will only have to select the face to restore which reduces the manual labour.

    – It will be able to restore the whole head, including the hair region important for person identification.

    – It will be able to restore extensively compressed images, which is usually the case for CCTV using models that are robust to nonlinearities.

    – The developed method will provide reproducible results.

    – Reduce the computational complexity of the algorithm.

    – It restores facial images with higher quality than existing forensic tools.

    The developed algorithm will be tested on real-world CCTV videos and compared against existing video forensic tools used by forensic experts in their labs. Apart from video forensics, the proposed technology can be adopted and used in other sectors such as the video analytics and iris recognition, where we have already attained positive preliminary results.

  • Coordinator: University Malta
  • Partner: WKD Ltd.
  • Funding: €194,374.00
  • Abstract: A user-centred design (UCD) approach places product users at the centre of the design process. Motivated by the alarming increase in motorcycle fatalities in Malta, this project is inspired by a UCD to develop safer motorcycles. Besides the caution, which must be taken by the rider whilst driving, the rider’s position has a large impact on the way the motorcycle behaves. If the rider tries to adapt an unnatural position, the chances of making an error in the driving manoeuvres will increase, due to higher levels of muscle fatigue and tension. Thus, if the rider is more comfortable and concentrated while riding, the risk of accidents is reduced. Moreover, if through a UCD approach, the consumer-product attachment is enhanced, the rider is likely to take better care of the motorcycle and hence be more cautious when driving. Within this context, an unprecedented Product Service System (PSS) is proposed which supports motorcycle customisation. RIDE+SAFE will provide a service to motorcycle manufacturers through their national and regional dealerships, who will invest in this technology to capture market data on customer preferences, enhance brand loyalty and increase footfall in their dealerships. This will enable motorcycle manufacturers to better understand their target market, whilst ensuring safe and reliable parameters to be used in the design of new models. Furthermore, RIDE+SAFE can be exploited as a service provided to motorcycle schools such that riders can receive customised training on best driving practices.
  • Coordinator: University Malta
  • Partner: Mater Dei
  • Funding: €194,960.00
  • Abstract:When a substantial part of the bone is missing, the healing process requires a filler in the form of a support structure called a scaffold. Traditionally, scaffolds can be either permanent or biodegradable. Permanent scaffolds either remain within the bone, leading to bone weakening, or are removed following a revision surgery. The problems with biodegradable scaffolds are: (1) They are either too weak and therefore lack load bearing capabilities (bio-polymers); (2) They are too brittle and therefore cannot sustain shock loading (bio-ceramics) and (3) metal scaffolds which either degrade too fast (magnesium alloys), not giving the bone enough time to regenerate and carry the body weight, or degrade at a slow rate (iron-based) leading to the same problems encountered by permanent implants. The objective of BioSA is to solve these problems by creating a scaffold which has controllable biodegradability and is patient specific in terms of size, shape and load bearing capability. This will be achieved through the development of a specific alloy and the use of an innovative manufacturing route. The project also involves mechanical, corrosion, cytotoxicity and small animal (rat) testing and the compilation of a surgical-procedure manual. All this will lead to a technical ready high value added product which can be licensed out to a global biomedical company; the final stage of the project. The consortium consists of a number of Departments from the University of Malta and the orthopaedics department from the national hospital Mater Dei. The consortium benefits from a synergistic combination of expertise including those in: materials engineering, corrosion science, additive manufacturing, microbiology, toxicology, animal testing and orthopaedic surgery. An IP check has shown that the product is novel. The other four commercial vouchers have indicated that (1) there is a large market; (2) at a profit margin, typically used in the biomedical sector, the BioSA scaffold will be competitive with existing implants; (3) risks are very moderate and financially manageable; and (4) the product will have a large impact on the economy. The BioSA implant is expected to benefit from a combination of desired features including: controlled rate of degradation, patient specificity and high load bearing capacity. It is therefore expected to win a fair share of the market particularly if promotion and marketing is led by a global biomedical company that already has its network and is influential in the sector.
  • Coordinator: University Malta
  • Partner: SilverCraft Products Ltd.
  • Funding: €194,968.00
  • Abstract: Street lighting and electricity poles are generally made from steel, yet steel poles are subject to corrosion, require extra insulation and stronger ground foundations. Recent advances in composite materials triggered interest in the manufacturing of Glass Fibre Reinforced Composite Poles (GFRCP), but are currently limited in length and strength due to the fabrication procedure adopted. ARM-D-COP aims to design, develop and commission a novel fabrication process for GFRCP ultimately leading to poles that are: (1) longer than current market availability, (2) withstand larger loads, (3) insulators, (4) corrosion and wear resistant and (5) lighter thereby requiring less rigid foundations. This project focuses on the development, testing and commissioning of a prototype machine that will be used to optimize and test the new design concepts and revolutionary manufacturing methods. A modular design approach will be adopted paving the way towards the manufacture and production of long tapered GFRCP. The successful commissioning and completion of the project will lead to filing of process patents for GFRCP surpassing the current available length; infiltrate the local market as the predominant supplier of GFRCP composite poles; market and sell the manufacturing machine and technology to international customers.
  • Coordinator: Carlo Gavazzi
  • Partner: University of Malta
  • Funding: €194,987.00
  • Abstract: Single phase induction motors are widely used in domestic applications such as heat pumps. Problematic during the switch on of these motors is the large inrush current that can reach levels of 8times the nominal motor current. This high current can disturb the electric voltage supply. This disturbance of the electric power supply causes voltage dips or flickering to neighbouring customers. To reduce this effect soft starting devices have been developed. Their circuit is mostly based on thyristor semiconductors in combination with a starting capacitor. The size of the starting capacitor depends on the required starting torque. To limit the physical size of starting capacitors, electrolytic capacitors are commonly used. Practical experience has shown that these capacitors are the weakest link in the design and are susceptible to fail. Failure can result in small explosions, damaging surrounding installations and causing risk of fire. A summary of user benefits can be found in Appendix 6.A novel single phase induction motor soft starting technique was recently researched at the R&D department at Carlo Gavazzi Ltd. Malta that results in superior motor starting without any use of a starting capacitor. This technique uses more advanced power electronic semiconductor devices and sophisticated, but easy to implement control algorithm. Theoretical research and practical tests with prototypes showed promising results with single phase induction motor. The results indicate that this technique could also be used in more single phase induction motor applications that presently use thyristor/ start capacitor based soft starters. Due to the more advanced semiconductors, the estimated cost of commercial products might be more than the cost of existing thyristor based soft starters. Therefore optimisation of the product cost is required. A product with superior performance and competitive cost would provide a great business opportunity for the production of such devices in Malta, increasing local revenue and employment. Further to the positive outcome of the IP check, Carlo Gavazzi moved forward with the application of a European patent (Application no. 17195903.4) which is currently under review and we expect that patent will be issued within this calendar year. The Market research and Cost Analysis results confirmed the opportunity that can be tapped in the market and that the envisaged cost allows a sustainable margin. Finally the economic impact and risk assessment were valuable to outline the risks that need to be mitigated and assist the project team to focus upon key economic objectives.
FUNDED PROJECTS 2017 
  • Coordinator: University of Malta
  • Partner: Hands On Systems Ltd.
  • Funding: €194,403.60
  • Abstract: Air traffic is estimated to grow at a rate of 5% p.a. This will increase traffic density within airports and as a result the ACARE2050 strategic agenda directs a research focus towards ground operations and, specifically, aims for a reduction in aircraft emissions on the ground. Significant research effort is currently being directed towards engineless aircraft taxiing, with the best two technology routes being either the use of an electrical motor installed on the aircraft wheels or the use of automated tugs to assist during taxiing. Both of these options have their merits, including additional (or lack of) weight on-board the aircraft and the dependency (or otherwise) of the aircraft on airport infrastructure.Irrespective of the engineless taxiing method used, there is currently a gap in research for increased safety and efficiency during ground operations. This project aims to address this gap by proposing a system which will increase Situation Awareness (SA) on the ground while also optimising taxi operations. SA will be improved by having multiple sensors (such as visible and infrared cameras) installed on the aircraft and tow trucks to detect obstacles and taxiway markings (including the centreline and edge markings) to improve safety of operation. Once this information is processed using novel sensor fusion algorithms, it can be displayed to the pilots and/or the tow truck driver in order to assist them during taxiing, particularly in low visibility/illumination conditions (e.g. in fog or at night) and in unfamiliar or complex airports. It can also be used as a key technology enabler for future automatic taxi. This project also aims to address traffic management and optimise engineless taxi operations for the case where a fleet of automated (self-driving) tow trucks is used to tow aircraft all the way to and from the gate and the runway. Novel algorithms will be developed to allocate tow trucks to departing or landing aircraft and to determine the best route to be followed by each aircraft-tug pair in order to minimise energy costs and sequence aircraft to prevent conflicts. Such a system will need to be dynamic in order to also cope with unexpected events (e.g. departure delays). A user interface will also be developed to facilitate Air Traffic Control. This project will be carried out by the University of Malta and HandsOn Systems Ltd., with contributions of Malta Air Traffic Services Ltd. (MATS) as subcontractors, and the support of Latécoère .
  • Coordinator: University of Malta
  • Partner: Halmann International Ltd.
  • Funding: €194,665.38
  • Abstract: RESTONE A technology for recycling building waste, has been developed at the University of Malta (UoM), which can be used to create recycled building products, with engineered physical and mechanical properties. Waste undergoes a proprietary process to be converted it to high quality value-added products, such as building blocks, and wall cladding, etc. The use of recycled stone and concrete is not well established when it involves the production of recycled materials. Waste collection habits which makes recycling in this industry possible are rarely in place. Trends in the industry are moving from a place of abundance to a place of monitoring and minimizing waste. The cost of landfill dumping is increasing, the EU has set targets of recycling 70% of such waste by 2020 and the market is more receptive to the use of recycled building materials. This project proposal aims to ‘productise’ the research carried out to date. The global cladding market is “projected to rise 5.1% per year to 5.7 billion square meters, valued at $89 billion”. In addition, the market for green building materials is anticipated to grow at a rate of 12.5% between 2013 and 2019.The University of Malta has submitted a patent application in early 2015 and is waiting for its final approval.
  • PARTNERSHIP This project will be carried out in collaboration with a Malta base company with international contacts, namely Halmann International limited. This company has an extensive product development and marketing track record.
  • R&D, KNOWLEDGE TRANSFER On a national level, this project would provide a value added use for construction/demolition waste, which currently has none. It will also allow Malta to meet EU targets for waste management and can create new green jobs.
  • PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT We have now gathered enough data to be in a position to start prototyping specific building products made from the recycled limestone material. Initially the focus will be on cladding panels (a high value added product) to refine the production process to be able to achieve sensible production levels. To our knowledge the process that we are using has never been put into production and this is further supported by the fact that the University has a patent pending on the process and the material developed with a good chance of being funded. The objectives are:
  • To create panel (1×1.2 m) with the existing mix. This panel must have adequate resistance to wind loads, impact resistance and abrasion resistance as per British Standards and other European design recommendations.
  • Analyse constituents of mix for cost effectiveness and mechanical properties to improve performance and cost effectiveness of cladding
  • Refine production process for cladding and scale up for industrial volumes
  • Product Line Expansion for niche application cladding (eg fungicides etc)
  • License technology to our Industrial Partner
  • Coordinator: University of Malta
  • Partner: Farm Fresh Ltd.
  • Funding: €194,543.08
  • Abstract: Every year the European dairy industry processes approximately 152 million tonnes of raw milk, for consumption or for the production of food, feed and pharmaceutical products. The raw milk delivered by the EU-25’s 1.6 million diary farmers, processed by the dairy industry, plays a vital role in rural areas, and the dairy industry represents approximately 15% of the turonover of the food and drinks industry in Europe employing about 13% of the total worksforce. Typical tests currently in use for the analysis of milk products rely on lengthy procedures that can last from 24 to 36 hours for bacterial analysis, and 7 to 8 days for fungal analysis. Alternative methods such as rapid genomic subtyping may be faster but are very costly for SMEs not running their own Research and Development department, while the efficacy of methods such as infrared spectroscopy can be limited if the presence of water is above specific threhsolds. In this project we are proposing the development and application of an imaging system that provides a non-contact and non-destructive approach for the early detection of microbial contaminants that are responsible for food spoilage, with a focus on slow-growing fungi in dairy products. The main hardware component of the system consists of a hyperspectral camera which can be used to acquire image sequences at different spectral bands. These images can be considered as a fingerprint that characterises the composition of the object being analysed. Through the automated processing and analysis of the hyperspectral data, this system would help identify the contaminated products and also assist in finding the environments in the processing facilities leading to post process contamination. The system being developed can significantly reduce time and effort for food sample inspection, and this would have a strong economic impact on the production processes of manufacturers of dairy products. In light of recent foodborne illness outbreaks, the early detection of contaminated products in the processing chain would allow for immediate action to prevent contaminated batches from moving further down the production and distribution line and reaching the end customer, leading to a significant social as well as economic impact especially in regions at greater risk.
  • 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 – http://www.opengroup.org/cloud/cloud/cloud_sme/benefits.htm) 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: 1888 Ltd.
  • 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: May 14, 2021