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: 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.