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Space Research Fund 2020 call is now closed

The Malta Council for Science and Technology would like to announce that it is now receiving applications for the Space Research Fund 2019.  Application deadline is 22nd May 2020 c.o.b. 

 

Due to the current restrictions related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, applicants are not required to stamp or sign a hard copy of the application form at this stage. Each submission must however include a completed one page Letter of Intent (use template provided below), physically signed by the respective legal representatives. All submissions are to be sent to the council in electronic format.

 

The Space Research Fund continues to provide financial support for research, development and innovation in the downstream Satellite Earth Observation (EO) sector, specifically projects that deal with the processing and exploitation of data collected through EO satellites. The call is open to all Maltese legal entities under three funding modalities (De Minmis ; GBER ; State Aid n/a). Applicants are to apply under only one funding modality, making use of the respective rules and application template.

 

Applicants applying under the De Minimis Funding modality:

Applicants applying under the GBER funding modality: 

Applicants with proposals that do not fall under State Aid (SA): 

ESA resources available to all applicants

   

ESA Training Course on Earth Observation – POSTPONED

 

******** Updated 02.03.2020 ********

 

Workshop postponed: In view of the recent developments related to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) and the direction from the respective health authorities, the European Space Agency and the Malta Council for Science and Technology have decided to postpone this training course to a later date, still to be defined.

 

The new training course dates, including a new registration period, shall be announced in due course on our website and a notification sent to all our newsletter registrants. If you have not already done so, you may wish to register for our space-newsletter at selecting ‘Space Directorate’ at the bottom of the list.

 

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  • Organizer: European Space Agency / Malta Council for Science and Technology / University of Malta
  • Location: ICT Informatics Lab, Level -1, Block B, Faculty of ICT, University of Malta, Msida Malta
  • Dates: 27th April to 30th April 2020
  • Cost: Free for accepted registrants – participants are to cover their own travel and accommodation costs

The European Space Agency (ESA), in cooperation with the Malta Council for Science and Technology (MCST) and the University of Malta, is organizing a Training Course on Earth Observation at the University of Malta between 27th – 30th April 2020.

 

The main aim of this course is to promote and disseminate Earth Observation (EO) technologies in various scientific and industrial fields providing theoretical information followed by practical software exercises on ESA and Copernicus datasets. The training relates to SAR for land classification, SAR and Optical remote sensing for marine and atmospheric applications. The practicals will demonstrate the use of the Sentinels Application Platform (SNAP) software, the ESA Atmospheric Toolbox and the Copernicus Research and User Support (RUS) Service. Additional details available in the tentative agenda linked below.

 

The Training Course is dedicated to researchers, students, PhD students and young professionals from Malta, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania and Slovakia that use EO technology within their research or work and would like to improve their knowledge of remote sensing. Applications from ESA member states may also be considered, but with a lower priority. The official language of the course is English and all participants are expected to have a good command of the language. The course capacity is limited and registration is required.

 

Registration

Interested participants are to register by completing the registration form available at the link below. Registration deadline is 15th March 2020. All registrations will be reviewed by MCST and ESA and confirmation of acceptance will be issued by early April 2020. For any queries do not hesitate to get in touch at space.mcst[at]gov.mt

In substantiating space-related awareness raising, the Malta Council for Science and Technology has sought to establish a Space Research Fund that provides financial support for research, development and innovation within the area of Satellite Earth Observation. This new funding programme, which is supported through the technical expertise of the European Space Agency through a formalised Implementation Arrangement, is indeed a modest start to capacity building within the sector.

 

The potential of Earth Observation (EO) data, including free and open datasets made available through Copernicus, the EU Earth Observation programme, can only be fully exploited by value-adding downstream services, which are tailor made to specific public and commercial needs. Such solutions, often encompassing research and development at the intersection of science and ICT, translate the unprocessed and raw data delivered from EO satellites and other in-situ sensors into information that is usable by the end user.

 

The Space Research Fund provides financial support for research, development and innovation in the downstream satellite EO sector, specifically projects that deal with the processing and exploitation of data collected through EO satellites. This is a concrete capacity building measure within the Maltese downstream Satellite EO sector within the prime objective of achieving a critical mass of knowledge within the sector. Grants are awarded on the basis of yearly competitive calls for 20-month projects.

 

Presentations associated with the previous call
Documents associated with the previous call

WaterColours

University of Malta / November 2019 to July 2021

 

Mediterranean Sea interpolated surface chlorophyll concentration from multi satellite and Sentinel-3 OLCI observations.

Remotely sensed data are increasingly becoming an essential resource in applications to improve the quality of life and safety of citizens, for risk assessment, environmental monitoring, surveillance, scientific discovery as well as economic exploitation. The launch of the Ocean and Land Colour Instrument (OLCI) on board the European Space Agency (ESA) Sentinel-3A and 3B satellite platforms in February 2016 and April 2018 respectively, are opening a new era in coastal water remote sensing. The OLCI is dedicated specifically to oceanography and provides continuous long-term data flows to monitor environmental parameters with high accuracy and resolution, and to understand and mitigate the effects of climate change.

 

WaterColours is a new project of the Physical Oceanography Research Group (PO-Res.Grp) at the Department of Geosciences of the University of Malta. This was recently approved for funding by the Malta Council for Science & Technology, for and on behalf of the Foundation for Science and Technology, through the Space Research Fund that provides financial support for research, development, and innovation in the downstream Satellite Earth Observation (EO) sector. The project is intended to exploit satellite multispectral imagery for the estimation of ocean colour parameters in the Maltese coastal areas with an unprecedented detail within harbours, embayments and the nearshore open sea areas.

 

During the first phase of the project, satellite-based climatologies and statistical trends for surface Chlorophyll-a concentrations and Total Suspended Matter (TSM) will be computed at a high resolution. Apart from the baseline variability of the biogeochemical properties, these results will provide very important markers of eutrophication as well as suspended sediment loading or starvation areas. In the second phase, ocean colour products will be operationally computed at a high spatial resolution by taking advantage of data from Sentinel-3. These full-resolution datasets will be integrated to other data layers to add to the already existing services offered by the PO-Res Grp. The generated Chlorophyll-a and TSM concentration maps will be embedded in an interactive downstream service that will relate the sea surface biogeochemical properties to water quality, and provide essential indices for the Water Framework Directive (WFD) and the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD). In-situ data will be measured for the calibration and validation of results.

 

All results will be made publicly available through an online portal that will embed Machine Learning and image processing techniques. These will automatically detect and highlight specific phenomenologies such as harmful blooms or areas with a high TSM content, and provide automated alerts of such events to the Environment Resources Authority (ERA).

 

WaterColours will provide an important opportunity and will help apply the current state-of-the-art methods to the Maltese coastal waters to create unprecedented slow time critical (STC) parameters datasets. Apart from further utilising and exploiting the COPERNICUS marine platform to produce tailor made services at the coastal scale, this initiative will strengthen the local capacity in the exploitation of satellite data, and paves the way for a stronger presence of Malta in the European space sector.

 

The success of the project will only be possible through collaboration between a core team from the University of Malta and a group of experts from the Italian National Research Council, Institute of Marine Sciences (CNR-ISMAR). The project is led by Dr Adam Gauci together with Prof. Aldo Drago from the PO-Res Grp. Dr Daniele Ciani and Federico Falcini from CNR-ISMAR are also part of this team. WaterColours will permit us to paint satellite derived ocean colour fields around the Maltese Islands with a finer paintbrush!

EO4HBCS 

University of Malta / November 2019 to July 2021

The research project entitled ‘Earth Observation for Historic Building Conservation and Sustainability’ (EO4HBCS) is being coordinated entirely by the University of Malta, specifically by the Department of Conservation and Built Heritage Department of the Faculty for the Built Environment and by the Institute of Earth Systems. It  aims at studying the behaviour of traditional unmodified roofs (built of limestone slabs on arches or beams, and with a lime-based “deffun” coating), traditional modified roofs (with insulation, membranes, etc), and modern roofs, as a first in Malta, promoting this as as a possible test-bed for the many types of similar structures elsewhere in the wider Mediterranean Basin.

 

The research will be using a combination of Earth Observation data with unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) aerial reconnaissance and in situ measurements of chosen historical buildings which fit the various chosen categories as mentioned above. These will be primarily located in the Valletta and Cottonera areas of Malta. Monitoring the temperature and related (moisture) parameters of these roofs will help understand the effects of modern “adaptations” on general building behaviour, primarily in the upper storey, and occupant well-being. It aims at utilising various remote sensing techniques as an important part of the study. Imagery data obtained from sensors mounted on low-cost UAV platforms will be fused with high resolution multispectral satellite imagery.

 

The studies will be based, in part, on studies carried out to date on modern “cool roofs” and “green roofs”. It will also include an innovative part in that thermal and other EO data will be used for the first time to quantify an effect which has for centuries been felt and appreciated by the occupants of such buildings, and to be able to present these data to decision-makers, conservation architects and users of such buildings. It is also hoped that lessons learnt from this project will be transmitted to neighbouring Mediterranean countries, where traditional materials, building technology and climate regimes are similar.

AEROTOX

MCAST / January 2020 to August 2022

Throughout the whole year, south European countries experience dust-laden winds blowing from the Sahara desert, called ‘Sirocco” which cause “seasonal haze episodes” which sometimes even result in mud rain. There are various words which describe this natural activity, including Harmattan used in West Africa Region for the dust created from November till March or Ghibli as used by North Africans tribes which is normally caused in Summer season. The phenomenon affects society in different ways notably

  1. Transport and Communications – Affects visibility at airports and shipping lanes and radio communications
  2. Health – The dust in the air produces dry skin and cracked lips. It also presents more serious problems for asthmatics – and can lead to silicosis, a lung disease caused due to a high content of quartz in the dust.
  3. Generation of Electricity from PV Panels – The lack of visibility reduces the efficiency of PV panels hence the need for extra generation from the power stations.

  The aim of this research project is to use the Satellite Sentinel 5p datasets daily to predict the Saharan desert movement over the south Mediterranean region in advance at a very high resolution of 7x3km as opposed to 10x10km which are available today. The prediction model core algorithms will make use of the UV aerosol Index from sentinel 5p, and the prediction results are to be available for free online at a cloud Grid Geographical Information system, which will be created on purpose for this research study.   Having such a system in place would be beneficial for the Malta Health Directorate, and the people at large, as the former would be able to inform the public ahead, who also would be able to check on a daily basis the Sahara Desert aerosols prediction for the days to come, and therefore precautions could be taken if necessary.

PIXAM

MCAST and MESDC / September 2018 to May 2020

 

An example illustrating key steps in identifying patterns in satellite imagery (MCAST 2018)

Pixels and More (PIXAM) is a research project coordinated by the Malta College of Arts, Science and Technology (MCAST) in collaboration with the Ministry for the Environment, Sustainable Development and Climate Change (MESDC) which will make use of datasets supplied by Copernicus Sentinel 2  satellites. The project, led by Mr Steve Zerafa (MCAST), exploits the fact that Sentinel satellites provide full coverage of the Maltese islands every few days in 13  multispectral bands. The research seeks to develop deep learning algorithms that enhance the resolution and consistency of the satellite datasets. The algorithms to be developed shall help depict pixels patterns and aid in better understanding the dynamics of the local habitat, including mapping of selected crop patterns and soil moisture across agricultural fields and valleys.

SAT-FIRE

University of Malta / September 2018 to May 2020

 

Techniques such as data fusion and super resolution can allow oceanographers to improve the accuracy of marine current models in coastal areas. (University of Malta, 2018)

The University of Malta, interfaculty project entitled “SATellite data Fusion and Imaging Resolution Enhancement for coastal areas” (SAT-FIRE) is led by Dr Ing. Gianluca Valentino together with Dr Ing. Reuben Farrugia (both from the Department of Communications and Computer Engineering, Faculty of Information and Communications Technology) and Dr Anthony Galea (from the Physical Oceanography Research Group, Department of Geosciences, Faculty of Science). This interdisciplinary project lies at the intersection of satellite image processing, remote sensing, data fusion and hydrodynamical modelling. Two postgraduate students and a post-doctoral researcher will be engaged by the University of Malta through this project, to work on the data fusion and resolution enhancement, and the development of the registration algorithm, and to work on the improvement of hydrodynamical models for marine current prediction. The main objective of this project is to improve the spatial resolution challenges of current Earth Observation Satellite systems by fusing complementary data from different spectral images from Copernicus’ Sentinel-2 and Sentinel-3 data to improve both spatial and temporal resolution and quality of the satellite images. This will allow for more accurate predictions of marine currents, aiding divers, search and rescue operations and coastal monitoring.