Cooperation with the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) of the People’s Republic of China
In the Agreement on Scientific and Technological Cooperation signed between Malta and the People’s Republic of China in 2002, the Malta Council for Science and Technology (MCST) and the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) of the People’s Republic of China were nominated as the implementing agencies for cooperation within research sectors.
MCST and MOST, collaborating under the framework of the Joint Commission on Science and Technology, foreseen under the mentioned bilateral Agreement, developed a concept for a bilateral and collaborative programme for research.
MCST and MOST aim to:
Strengthen the scientific collaboration between the two countries and to increase R&D activities;
Facilitate the transfer of technology;
Maintain a comprehensive, steady, and long-term cooperation through the support of researchers’ mobility, and the networking of industries, universities and research institutions to generate mutually beneficial win-win research.
MCST and MOST launch annual Calls for funding to support bilateral R&I projects between Maltese and Chinese researchers. Each Call focuses on different thematic areas depending on the level of interest for collaboration between the two parties and ensuring alignment with Malta’s current needs and identified RIS3 priorities.
The 2019 Call had focused on providing support to the marine / maritime and transport sectors. Owing to the level of interest received in the 2019 Call, the 2020 Call again supported the sectors of marine / maritime and transport. The 2020 Call also saw the addition of the Digital Technologies sector.
For the 2021 Call, the Digital Technologies sector was retained, while two new sectors were introduced: Health Innovations and Green Transitions.
The SINO-MALTA Fund Application follows a two-stage submission process. At pre-proposal stage, applicants are given the opportunity to find Chinese partners to collaborate and work on a common research idea. The full-proposal stage will then allow further elaboration on the state of the art, methodology, implementation, and foreseen outcomes.
Surface Engineering for Additive Manufactured parts used in marine transportation (SEAM)
SEAM is a two-year research project funded by the Malta Council for Science and Technology (MCST) and the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST), China, as per grant agreement number SINO-MALTA-2019-02. The project has a budget of €350,000 and the two collaborating entities are the University of Malta (UM) and Southeast University (SEU), China. Through this project, researchers and academics at UM shall develop an international scientific collaboration with their Chinese counterparts. In addition, a number of researchers will be employed and will also be given the opportunity to conduct postgraduate (both MSc and PhD) studies.
The principal aim of SEAM is to determine the suitability of additive manufactured parts used in the marine transport industry. This aim will be achieved through the following specific objectives:
1. Optimising technologies for surface finish and internal residual stress of metallic parts manufactured by additive manufacture, followed by shot peening.
2. Designing, developing and applying anti-corrosion and anti-fouling surface engineering technologies on the 3D printed parts with the aim of improving the surface properties by inducing a homogenous microstructure, reducing porosity, increasing corrosion resistance and providing anti-fouling characteristics.
3. Building a prototype part, such as a ship propeller blade, used for marine transportation and testing it in a simulated marine environment
High-Precision Detection Technologies for Water
Quality in Aquaculture.
There is an urgent demand to innovate the monitoring technology of water quality, driven by the rapid development of recirculation aquaculture systems (RAS). Maltese AquaBioTech Group, an independent aquaculture, fisheries, biotechnology and environmental testing/research, engineering, company is continuing to advance its global vision. The Group which also specializes in consulting, development, and training will be kick-starting 2021 by embarking on a new collaborative research project AquaDetector. AquaBioTech will be partnering with high profile collaborators: the China Agricultural University, and a large aquaculture producer, Mingbo Aquatic Co. Ltd. The research will promote greater productivity and sustainability of the aquaculture industry through the development of high-precision detection technologies for monitoring water quality.
The two-year Science and Technology Cooperation Sino-Malta Fund project falls under the thematic priority Maritime and Aquaculture. It aims to develop new and precise detection technologies and an advanced correlation model to visualise water quality, classify fish stress behaviours, and analyse environmental factors to ensure better fish welfare, better productivity, better quality fish, and help make better decisions for land base recirculating aquaculture.
Marine Geophysical Mapping Techniques for Offshore Freshened Groundwater Resources
MGMTOFGR is a two-year research project funded by the Malta Council for (MCST) and the Ministry for Science and Technology (MOST), China. The project is led by the University of Malta and the Ocean University of China. This project focuses on Offshore freshened groundwater (OFG) which is groundwater that is fresher than sweater and is stored below the seafloor. OFG exploitation is considered a key strategy to address issues of global water scarcity in coastal megacities in the near future. However, sustainable exploitation is still not feasible in view of the limited understanding of the distribution and characteristics of OFG. Consequently, the main goal of this project is to improve the mapping and characterisation of offshore freshened groundwater resources, thus providing high resolution information on freshened groundwater reservoirs, their characteristics and distribution.
The project’s specific objectives are as follows:
To develop an approach that can best constrain the distribution, thickness and salinity of OFG resources from geophysical data (seismic reflection and electromagnetic data)
To develop an instrument design that can improve geophysical data acquisition for OFG exploration.
Reducing AirCraft Taxiing emissions through energy recoVery and storage
Aviation delivers social and economic benefits across the world. However, this comes at an environmental cost. Aircraft currently perform taxiing operations using their main thrust engines at 7% setting, consuming over 200kg of fuel for 20 minutes of taxiing. Yet, upon landing, an A320 contains over 100MJ of energy, which is dissipated into braking. This project aims to design key components for a kinetic energy recovery and storage system for a landing aircraft. Capturing and storing a portion of this energy will allow the aircraft to perform engine-less taxiing into and out of the airport gates, saving fuel costs and improving air quality on the ground.
This project is led by the Institute of Aerospace Technologies at the University of Malta and by the Key Laboratory of More Electric Aircraft Technology Province at the University of Nottingham Ningbo China.
The project will address the defined challenge by developing:
Lightweight electro-mechanical solutions encompassing high power density motor/generators – one as a high power density, fault tolerant machine, directly coupled to the aircraft wheels, and one as a high speed machine coupled to a flywheel.
A power dense flywheel for energy storage, which would preferably be integrated and magnetically coupled with the high speed motor/generator.
Power dense electronics, enabling the effective transfer of power between motors and aircraft grid.
An Automatic Marine Fish Hatchery with Innovated Water Recirculation Technologies
Aquaculture, needs to further expand to meet the growing diet demand for marine fish. The conventional labour-based hatcheries often have compromised water quality and limited self-cleaning capacity, resulting in a low seeding rate. In both Mediterranean and Chinese regions, commercial marine production is challenged by the need to achieve a reliable supply of hatchery-produced fry instead of depending heavily upon wild-caught fry. To achieve a reliable supply of marine fry, this project will adopt innovative recirculating technology and automation technology in marine hatchery design to achieve optimum rearing conditions. Investigation will be carried out to assess the potential of ultrasound to improve hatchery water quality.
AquaBioTech Limited (ABT) and the Fishery Machinery and Instrument Research Institute (FMIRI) are the leads of the two-year project, Hatchery Match. The project’s objectives are:
Design and construct the pilot marine fish hatchery, using innovative recirculating and automation technologies, and achieve a survival rate of over 60% on Turbot (over 60% of eggs will develop into fry.)
Develop automatic and novel feeding, cleaning and ultrasound treatment systems, and image analyser.
Develop standard hatchery practices (covering operation, production and design) for the model hatchery.
Application of precision medicine in Haemophilia Network: A joint original exploration research between Malta and China
Haemophilia is a rare, severe, congenital bleeding disorder characterised by repeated bleeding into muscles and joints. Considering the rarity of haemophilia, scientific advancement in this field can only be reached through international collaborations. The aim of this project is to improve the health care of patients with haemophilia, through a research collaboration between Malta and China.
This project will consist of several stages of research looking at different aspects of haemophilia care, namely:
assessment of joint and bone health,
the rate and management of perioperative thrombotic complications in haemophilia patients requiring orthopaedic and/or other major surgery;
genomic profiling of haemophilia patients and correlation with phenotype (e.g. bleeding symptoms, complications, inhibitor production);
laboratory evaluation of the platelet and coagulation profile of haemophilia patients, through platelet function tests and global coagulation assays, and evaluation of the appropriateness of reduced anticoagulant treatment doses, through in vitro spiking (this stage will be conducted in Malta only);
research on the possible use of gene therapy in the management of haemophilia, using knock-out mouse models and haematopoietic stem cells (this stage will be conducted in Chin
Dual Fuel Engine technology and dynamic Behaviour Improvement for Marine
The use of diesel and natural gas Dual Fuel (DF) engines for propulsion of commercial ships can lead to a significant reduction in emissions of pollutant gases such as CO2, NOx, SOx and PM. Furthermore, improving the technology related to gas and dual fuelling reduces the dependency on diesel and allows flexibility, in order to make best use of what fuel is available at harbours (reducing delays) and the best price available (reducing cost). However, for marine applications the use of dual fuel engines is restricted due to their inferior dynamic behaviour (compared to diesel engines). Hence this research is aimed at the development of control schemes to improve the dynamic response when operated on dual fuels.
The major challenge of DF engine design is to improve the poor dynamic behaviour constrained by the narrow operation envelope (knocking and misfiring). To address this challenge, a SINO-MALTA cooperation group has been formed, consisting of University of Malta (Malta), Gozo Channel (Malta), Harbin Engineering University (China) and Henan Diesel Engine (China). The principal investigator from University of Malta is Prof Ing Mario Farrugia, assisted by Dr Kenneth Scerri and Mr Anthony Theodore Saliba and Ing Etienne Agius from Gozo Channel. Prof Ding Yu is the principal investigator on the Chinese side.
Firstly, the DF engine operating envelope is investigated through a simulation model and a reduced chemical reaction mechanism. Then, a quasi-dimensional combustion model coupled with a 1D gas-exchange model is developed for comparatively investigating two air-fuel ratio control technologies – flow bypass and multi-point injection. Subsequently, a coupling control system for air-fuel ratio and engine speed is designed by employing an adaptive fuzzy algorithm, whilst the control strategy is optimized by using intelligent optimization.
The derived results from this project can provide guidelines of DF engine management for improving their dynamic behaviour as well as reducing their environmental footprint.
AutonoMous Bio-mimetic Underwater vehicLe for digitAl cage moNiToring
Traditional cage aquaculture requires marine biologists to periodically assess the water quality and estimate fish biomass to ensure optimal conditions for the specific marine ecosystem being cultured. This periodical assessment poses considerable risks due to accessibility and safety, while also incurring high costs to perform in-situ measurements and fish biomass estimations.
This two-year project, funded by the Science and Technology Cooperation Sino-Malta Fund, aims to propose an alternative unmanned solution via the development of a hybrid drive biomimetic underwater robotic cage-monitoring system. This robotic system will incorporate state-of-the-art digital technologies to provide reliable underwater 3D positioning and localisation, Spatio-temporal warnings for water quality, fish biomass estimations and benthic identification systems. Additionally, computer vision modelling will be used to support the digitalisation of environmental monitoring in Malta, specifically survey and mapping of benthic habitats. This technology has the potential of reducing the cost of breeding, improve the efficiency of breeding, and realise a safe and sustainable approach for the comprehensive monitoring of deep-sea cages and marine environment.