EU Research Vol: 2015 Issue 1
THE FUTURE OF THE PLANET
Green Technologies The latest breakthroughs in environmental science
Reinventing ICT We explore the latest in future technology
European Space Agency Spotlight on Bio research Learning from the problems of Beagle 2 Food, Fuel, Energy, Health Follow EU Research on www.twitter.com/EU_RESEARCH
Editor’s No J ustifying the investments that go into European research can be a contentious issue. A return is not always something you can accurately plan in scientific study because some science – by nature – is about looking around a blind corner, shining a torch into the dark. You can only truly realise the potential of your study when you have studied. However, it is often the bravest, the most exploratory projects, which can reap the biggest rewards. Budgets should not always be the issue when the gains can have global impact.
As a seasoned editor and journalist, Richard Forsyth has been reporting on numerous aspects of European scientific research for over 10 years. He has written for many titles including ERCIM’s publication, CSP Today, Sustainable Development magazine, eStrategies magazine and remains a prevalent contributor to the UK business press. He also works in Public Relations for businesses to help them communicate their services effectively to industry and consumers.
There are many examples of how venturing into new scientific territory has seeded world changing innovation. By going into space, computers advanced in a way that would make them smaller and more affordable and that advance hasn’t stopped yet. GPS and satellite technology were possible because of the space programme. CERN invented the World Wide Web because there was a need for a different kind of shared filing system for scientists in different locations. The Large Hadron Collider has pioneered big data – a way of processing massive amounts of data that would be unthinkable in the past. Astounding innovation can often take shape as a tool designed to aid a scientific mission – we focus when we have a challenge and we invent along the way. This year, 2015, has exciting new innovation that will be brought about through European Research goals. Some of it will be a by-product of the research too. If we don’t risk exploring, investing into unravelling the unknown, we cannot expect to advance. Scientific research is the key to everything we need and as such we must always be prepared to support it. If you don’t explore, you don’t discover – it’s that simple. Hope you enjoy the issue.
Richard Forsyth Editor
Contents 21 Merit
4 Research News
EU Research’s Richard Davey takes a look at current events in the scientific news
10 AlterEgo The AlterEgo project aims to develop an innovative rehabilitation method exploiting virtual reality and robotics that will help people interact with their social networks, as Professor Benoît Bardy explains
14 Alcohol Lifecourse The project is analysing data from large population cohort studies, which will help researchers draw stronger links between alcohol consumption patterns and specific health impacts, as Principal Investigator Dr Annie Britton explains
Network on Robotics Dr Thierry Keller explains that while robots are already used to provide certain types of therapy, researchers in the European Network on Robotics for NeuroRehabilitation aim to improve them further Dr Hartmut Rütten explains
18 Epistasis in
Steroidogenic Genes In 2004 Dr Craig Atwood published a paper putting forward a theory of aging that explained how and why we age at the evolutionary, the physiological and the molecular levels. This theory has significant implications for human longevity and the prevention of age-related diseases, as he explains
The MERIT consortium aims to develop individualised cancer vaccines that target the shared antigens associated with a tumour, as well as tumour-specific mutations, as project representative Dr Sandra Heesch explains
24 PROTEOSTASIS Aberrations in intracellular proteolysis play a central role in pathologies such as cancers, immune diseases and neurodegenerative conditions. The project aims to coordinate and integrate the work of research teams from across Europe in this area, as Dr Rosa Barrio explains
26 HemoSpec The HemoSpec platform represents a new approach to diagnosing sepsis, a life-theatening condition that is a major health problem across the world. Evangelos GiamarellosBourboulis, Jürgen Popp and Ute Neugebauer tell us how the platform will help diagnosis
Resistance (AMR) AMR is a global threat for us all. If left to develop unchallenged it would impact on the world to a scale we only dare to imagine. EU researchers are to play a key role in minimising the potentially devastating effects whilst pioneering new treatments
32 COMBIOSERVE Working closely with indigenous communities to develop effective co-enquiry research methods – aiming to protect bio-cultural diversity, while improving their wellbeing in protected areas. Project Coordinator, Professor Christian R. Vogl, explains
35 Climate Impact Expert System
The Climate Impact Expert System will make information on the regional climate available to key decision-makers in both the public and private sectors, which could help inform strategic decisions, as Dr Thomas Nocke explains
38 EPLACE Clear data on energy consumption patterns is a central element in efforts to improve efficiency, helping identify areas where improvements can be made. Alicia Jiménez of the EPLACE project tells us about their work in testing and validating innovative ICT solutions
40 Effidrip The EFFIDRIP system supports the management and supervision of irrigation and fertigation. It provides farmers an easy, reliable and cost-effective way to manage their irrigation and fertigation systems, which will bring long-term benefits, as project coordinator Albert Torres explains
41 Disaster Bioethics Ethical dilemmas frequently arise in the aftermath of natural disasters, yet few resources are specifically available to help guide people on the ground in their decision-making. We spoke to Dr Dónal O’Mathúna
47 BIORICE The nutraceutical, functional food and cosmetic markets evolve rapidly, and companies are always looking for new ways to develop innovative products that also meet regulatory standards. Rice by-products could offer a new source of ingredients for these markets, as Dr Annalisa Tassoni explains
50 SiS Catalyst Children are excluded from many of the decisions that affect their daily lives. This, and the exponential growth in technology, has resulted in education systems that aren’t tailored to their needs. Tricia Jenkins tells us about their work to find, apply and refine ways of involving children in the decisions that will affect their future
52 SuPLight By using post-consumer, recycled material, the SuPLight project aims to produce lightweight components that will help improve the sustainability of the transport industry, as scientific coordinator Sverre Gulbrandsen-Dahl explains
54 Ener2i Energy efficiency and renewable energy sources are widely recognised as a research priority. The project aims to find innovative and sustainable solutions through collaboration between EU and Eastern European countries, as Manfred Spiesberger explains
56 Nemiac Energy efficiency is a key priority in the development of integrated circuits. Dr Christoph Hagleitner of the NEMIAC project tells us about their work to build a processor using a fundamentally new digital logic technology
58 Beagle 2 Probe It was with both relief and frustration that the Beagle 2 lander was recently found intact on the surface of Mars. It’s time we reassessed the balance of success and failure of this important milestone of achievements
63 P2Pvalue CBPP is being used across an everwider range of activities, including software development and open data sources. The emergence of the CBPP model raises questions which Mayo Fuster Morell and Samer Hassan of the P2Pvalue project aim to address
Dr Laurent Dussopt , coordinator of the project tells us about their work in demonstrating the feasibility of millimeter-wave (mmW) communications and how they can support continued mobile traffic growth
68 SyncFree Maintaining strong data consistency in a centralised cloud no longer meets the needs of modern online services, which handle huge numbers of concurrent updates. Dr Marc Shapiro tells us about their work in exploring new approaches to maintaining data consistency
70 Nemesys The NEMESYS project of the EU FP7 develops, on a day to day basis, novel security technologies for seamless service provisioning in the smart mobile ecosystem, as Professor Erol Gelenbe explains
We spoke to Professor Jane Hillston, coordinator of the project, about their work in developing an innovative formal design framework that provides a unique modelling language for collective adaptive systems
74 IMAILE Personal Learning Environments (PLE) represent a new trend in education. The IMAILE project is using the pre-commercial procurement process to stimulate innovation targeted at practical needs, as project coordinator Ellinor Wallin explains
76 Learn PAd The role of public administrators is evolving, with staff expected to deliver improved services while also adapting to rapid social, legal and regulatory change. The Learn PAd project is developing an e-learning platform that will support collaborative knowledge-sharing, as project coordinator Antonia Bertolino explains
EDITORIAL Managing Editor Richard Forsyth email@example.com Deputy Editor Patrick Truss firstname.lastname@example.org Deputy Editor Richard Davey email@example.com Science Writer Holly Cave www.hollycave.co.uk Acquisitions Editor Elizabeth Sparks firstname.lastname@example.org PRODUCTION Production Manager Jenny O’Neill email@example.com Production Assistant Tim Smith firstname.lastname@example.org Art Director Daniel Hall email@example.com Design Manager David Patten firstname.lastname@example.org Illustrator Martin Carr email@example.com PUBLISHING Managing Director Edward Taberner firstname.lastname@example.org Scientific Director Dr Peter Taberner email@example.com Office Manager Janis Beazley firstname.lastname@example.org Finance Manager Adrian Hawthorne email@example.com Account Manager Jane Tareen firstname.lastname@example.org
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EU Research’s Richard Davey takes a look at current events in the scientific news
© European Union, 2015
New Commissioner for Research and Innovation already facing criticism Since taking charge of the huge seven-year €80-billion Horizon 2020 (H2020) research programme, Carlos Moedas the new Commissioner for Research and Innovation wants scientists to change their mentality for H2020, breaking free of individual silos and including more social science. However he is already facing complaints that money is being stripped from the programme to finance other European initiatives, such as the proposed €16-billion European Fund for Strategic Investment (EFSI), a Europe-wide bid to stimulate the region’s economy. Last November, Portuguese engineer-turned-economist Carlos Moedas was plucked from managing his country’s budget-cutting austerity programme to take charge of the research portfolio at the European Commission in Brussels. During a visit to London, Carlos Moedas assured the Royal Society’s President, Sir Paul Nurse and other scientific leaders that the idea would spur research as well as innovation.. “We are doing more and not less,” Moedas said he told Nurse during a visit to London today. “I’m extremely glad to reassure Sir Paul that the idea of the Juncker Plan will be to increase the firepower of Horizon 2020.” Moedas, a 44-year-old Portuguese ex-banker, was referring to a proposal made last November by Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission. Over lunch today, Moedas dropped by the commission’s outpost to answer questions from reporters about Juncker’s plan, called the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI). The proposed fund would take €21 billion from various existing budgets and invest it in projects that can leverage 15 times more public and private investment, totaling €315 billion over the next 3 years. The plan was presented in January as draft legislation to the European Parliament, where it faces opposition from members who want to protect the budgets for research and infrastructure.
This month, the European Court of Auditors pointed to gaps in the legal basis of the plan and said it had not been sufficiently vetted. The scientific community has raised concerns as well. Science Europe, an association of major European research groups, issued a plea last week not to dip into Horizon 2020. The commission’s claim that EFSI projects could replace the science done under Horizon 2020 was “a severe error,” Science Europe argues. At today’s briefing, Moedas said the goal is to stimulate private investment in European innovation. Part of the Horizon 2020 program, he noted, already leverages private and public funding. “We should open a little bit our minds to this project,” he said. At the same time, he said, basic research remains “the root of it all.” The Commission wants the European Parliament and the European Council to approve the investment fund by June so that it can start to be deployed this summer. June is also the deadline for the other difficult issue in Mr Moedas’ inbox – the matter of scientific advice within the EC. Previous Commission President, Jose Manuel Barroso, had appointed Scottish biologist Prof Anne Glover as Brussels’ first ever chief scientific adviser, in 2012. But her role was controversially abolished when Mr Juncker became president in November. Mr Moedas said Prof Glover was “an excellent scientist who had done an excellent job”, but that the Commission was now looking to “improve” the machinery used to receive scientific feedback on policy. “Mr Juncker has asked me to look for a mechanism that will work in the setting of the European Commission,” Mr Moedas explained. “We already have a lot of scientific advice in-house. We have highlevel groups of experts, such as the Joint Research Centre. Now, we have to get independent scientific advice. There are different models out there. The UK is one, but there are others.”
Ukraine join EU Research community - but at cut-price discount
Ukraine has earned privileged access to competitive research funds from the European Union, bringing its science closer to the Western bloc Under a deal signed in Kiev on 20 March with the European Commission, Ukraine becomes an “associated country” to Horizon 2020, the European Union’s €80 billion, 7-year research program. That means researchers and businesses in Ukraine may apply for any Horizon 2020 grant. The commission has given Ukraine a very attractive deal: It receives a 95% rebate on its association fee and a 1-year deferment to pay the first year’s installment. The agreement is a testament to the European Union’s will to build closer economic and political ties with its former Soviet neighbor, a process that has sped up after the conflict in Eastern Ukraine erupted last year. Researchers in the Crimean Peninsula, annexed by Russia, are excluded from the agreement. “Ukraine will now have access to the full spectrum of activities funded under Horizon 2020, helping spur its economy,” said E.U. research commissioner Carlos Moedas in a statement. Ukraine-based researchers did receive about €24 million of E.U. research money under the previous program, between 2007 and 2013. But until now, Russia’s neighbor had the status of a “third country,” meaning that researchers there were excluded from parts of the program, including coveted grants from the European
Research Council (ERC). The upgrade puts Ukraine on par with 12 other non-E.U. countries including Iceland, Norway, and Turkey. Ukrainian applicants are encouraged to submit research proposals under this year’s calls, says a Horizon 2020 document issued last month, but formal grant agreements will be signed only when the Horizon 2020 agreement enters into force—that is, after the Ukrainian parliament ratifies it. The conflict in Ukraine has had a major impact on the country’s science. Entire universities have been relocated from war-torn Eastern Ukraine, along with an estimated 1500 scientists and 10,000 students; meanwhile, the country lost several important research assets when Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula in March 2014. The European Union strongly rejects the annexation, and the Horizon 2020 association rules reflect that. “Given that the EU does not recognise the illegal annexation … legal persons established in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea or the city of Sevastopol are not eligible to participate,” says the document. The European Union has tried to build bridges with Ukraine in other ways as well; last year, it offered a package of aid and loans worth more than €11 billion to boost recovery and reform.
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GE pumps $100m into Saudi Arabia technology research sector GE has announced $100m investment in new programmes that will further their localisation efforts, build innovation capacity, and create jobs in advanced manufacturing and software analytics in the region. The research and manufacturing programmes will aim at enhancing the energy efficiency and sustainability priorities of the country. In manufacturing, GE will expand its facilities in Saudi for the region with the production of GE’s HA gas turbines – the world’s largest and most efficient gas turbine – at GE Manufacturing Technology Center in Dammam. The oil and gas facility in Dammam will include the manufacturing of wellheads, ‘Christmas Trees’ and other pressure control technologies as well as well performance services repair capability for submersible pumps. GE is also planning a first of its kind regional LED manufacturing facility. In research and development, today’s announcement places the Saudi GE Innovation Centre in Dhahran Techno Valley at the heart of the company’s technology innovation ecosystem in the Kingdom. The programmes include a ‘Hot & Harsh’ Global Research & Development Programme, a Software & Analytics ‘Industrial Internet’ Lab, a GE ‘in Saudi for region’ hub for Energy Efficiency technology development as well as a Monitoring & Diagnostics
Center at GE Manufacturing Technology Center. Jeffrey Immelt, GE chairman and CEO said: “We are proud to work with our partners to co-create solutions that will find application both in Saudi Arabia and globally. We believe that future skill-sets demand strong capability in both software and hardware; and we are committed to delivering that to our Saudi workforce and our ecosystem of partners, such as Saudi Aramco and Saudi Electricity Company, as well as SMEs.” The Hot & Harsh Global Research Programme will study the effect of high temperature, dust, corrosion, erosion, duty cycle, and fuel harshness which have a critical impact on the reliability and efficiency of power plants. This research and development programme will design and prototype gas turbine and auxiliaries components for testing at a simulated ‘hot and harsh’ environment at GE Manufacturing Technology Center. This new investment adds to GE’s USD 1bn commitment over the past three years in the Kingdom, and aligns the company with the country’s Vision 2024 and Ninth Development Plan to diversify the economy, drive industrialization and manufacturing, and build the next-generation of human capital skill-sets in materials and data science.
Research and Science prove profitable for Australian Economy Study commissioned by chief scientist, Ian Chubb, found that Science and mathematics boost Australia’s economy by $145bn a year and also advanced physical sciences and maths employ 760,000 people. Professor Chubb, whose term was recently extended until the end of the year, told the National Press Club that the government had “got it wrong” when it cut about $380 million from science spending in its first budget. He said Australia should learn from the UK, which had “ring-fenced science and research from austerity cuts, in the belief that those investments were critical to their future”. A report co-commissioned by Professor Chubb, also released today, estimates that the earth sciences, maths, physics and chemistry directly contribute $145 billion to Australia’s economy. “I’m often asked to put a number on (the value of science) by the people who like having numbers to tell them what’s important,” he said. “(But the economy) is a means to an end, not an end in itself. The end has got to be something bigger than the subtotal of the things we think we can afford at any given time. The public might like to think about the future in something other than budgetary terms. We ought to aspire to leave credits as well as debits on the national balance sheet.” Professor Chubb conceded that it was unfair to “borrow from the future
Cooperation on Research between EU and China
Jianru Cao, First Secretary of the Mission of China to the EU, spoke at the recent conference on Chinese research initiatives and the EU. According to Jianru Cao, EU-China collaboration will continue to thrive in the coming years. He pointed to China’s recently published reform strategy which will address current institutional arrangements and economic policies that suppress innovation, as well as improving market competition order and enhancing judicial protection for intellectual property right. It will also see the national S&T programme becoming more open to foreign countries. On the ground, vibrant collaboration projects are ongoing between EU and Chinese researchers, particularly in areas like health, environment and transport. Mr Cao noted and the area of space is particularly important: ‘Space cooperation with EU is one of the pillars of China-EU cooperation. In Brussels, we even have a space office in the Chinese Mission to EU.’ ‘China is open to the outside and all national programmes will be open to foreign institutions,’ Mr Cao concluded.
to fund the lifestyles of today. But … it would be unfair of us to dawdle along on the sidelines while infectious diseases turn from outbreaks to pandemics, exhausting today’s therapies without breaking open new pathways to treatments in the future. “(And) isn’t it unfair that some students leave school with no grounding in science and technology, to confront a labour market that puts a premium on these things?” Yesterday he told the Press Club he was confident that the federal government would accept “most if not all” of the recommendations. He also backed South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill’s move to establish a royal commission into the nuclear industry. “It’s getting safer and safer all the time — more sustainable, more secure,” Professor Chubb said. “It’s hard for us to have a sensible discussion about future and secure energy supplies from Australia, without putting the options on the table for mature, sophisticated, civilised debate. “We ought to be grown up enough to be able to say … let’s talk about how we might come to some common purpose understanding.” The report did not take into account the impact of biology or life sciences, which will be examined in future studies. The report breaks down the value of science and maths by industry. Resource management, mining and general insurance industries are the big winners of discoveries and innovations in the science and mathematics fields.
Polar Bears headed to extinction
Polar bears face starvation as their frozen habitat shrinks because they will not adapt to land-based foods. As the sea ice around the Arctic declines, scientists had theorised that the great bears may adapt to forage and hunt on land. But in a report published in the journal Frontiers in Ecology, researchers from the US Geological Survey (USGS) said it was doubtful polar bears could find salvation in the caribou, goose eggs and berries of the north. Steven Amstrup, chief scientist at Polar Bears International, said the research supported his previous findings that “as the sea ice goes, so goes the polar bear”. “We generally expect to lose two-thirds of the world’s bears by mid-century and possibly the rest by the end of the century if we don’t mitigate the rise in greenhouse gases.”
Adapting to Climate change will lead to new environmental issues Attempts to deal with and adapt to climate change could deliver further environmental repercussions, according to a new study from the University of East Anglia. Research in Nature Climate Change reveals that adaptation measures have the potential to generate further pressures and threats for both local and global ecosystems. Lead researcher Dr Carlo Fezzi, from UEA’s School of Environmental Sciences, said: “Climate change is a just a little bit more complicated than we previously thought. We need to take into account not only the direct impact of climate change, but also how people will respond to such change - the impact of adaptation. “This is a whole new dimension to the climate change adaptation debate.” The research team looked at the interaction between agricultural land use and river water quality – both of which will be heavily impacted by climate change. They studied land use and river quality from more than half a million records covering the whole of the UK and dating back to the early 1970s. They used computer models to predict not only how climate change would lead to agricultural changes, but how these agricultural changes would impact water quality. “We found that a moderately warmer climate in the range of between 1oC and 3oC will be mainly beneficial for agriculture in Great Britain. Particularly in the eastern uplands and midlands, warmer temperatures will boots crop yield and allow for more livestock. But some localised losses can be expected - particularly in the east of England, where lower rainfall may increase the risk of drought”.
This intensification in agricultural practices in response to climate change, however, will also create new environmental pressures. For example changes in the agricultural sector will have a knock on effect for water quality – because they will cause increased amounts of nitrates and phosphates in streams and rivers. This will particularly impact the eastern uplands and midlands where temperature rises will allow significant increases in agricultural production. It will significantly increase the effort necessary to achieve water quality standards required by the EU. But the problem is not restricted to water quality. Adaptation may have an impact on water availability, wildlife, biodiversity, carbon policies, and the amount of recreation space. He concluded “we should make sure we adapt in an environmentally sustainable way. Climate change is a long-term process and science allows us to anticipate its impact on both the environment and society. This should encourage the development of forward-looking policies. Instead of waiting for ecosystems to be in danger and then trying to save them, we can anticipate a potential problem and do something about it before it becomes an actual threat. Prevention is better than cure.” ‘The environmental impact of climate change adaptation on land use and water quality’ by Dr Carlo Fezzi, Dr Amii Harwood, Prof Andrew Lovett and Prof Ian Bateman is published in the March edition of Nature Climate Change.
Cannabis legalisation movement gets higher while research is going down Marijuana research is stalling even as legalization gains momentum. Critics say a handful of government agencies hobble world leading research with red tape and intimidation Despite the growing momentum for pot legalization, marijuana remains one of the most difficult substances to study in the United States. Critics blame a labyrinthine federal approval process in which a handful of government agencies hobble gold-standard scientific research with red tape and intimidation and perpetuate a culture of fear and data illiteracy that delays reform. “These are agencies in place to reflect a policy that marijuana is a prohibited Schedule I substance,” said Paul Armentano, the deputy director for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), a pro-legalization advocacy group based in Washington, D.C. “They are in the business of funding and approving research to reinforce that policy.” The criminalization of cannabis dates back to 1971, when Richard Nixon’s administration called for a war on drugs. One year before, Congress had passed the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act, classifying marijuana as a Schedule I drug with no medical value and high abuse potential, right alongside Ecstasy and heroin. Today a trio of federal agencies — the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the Food and Drug Administration — regulate the federal
marijuana research process, determining which research gets a government stamp of approval, along with research-grade cannabis. Critics say the stingy multiagency approach bottlenecks marijuana research and invites poorer findings that opponents of reform then recycle into the public debate. The effect, they say, is quantity over quality. For example, there are more than 21,000 studies available at PubMed.gov, a research database, with the words “marijuana” or “cannabis.” Only 1,674 are studies that scientists would consider more fool proof than others. According to an Al Jazeera America analysis, little more than half of these were randomized controlled trials, and more than a fourth administered placebos. Fewer than a quarter used double-blind procedures to shield the studies from bias. The same search words turned up still fewer sources of research backed by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), with just more than 7,000 studies appearing in a government database from 1991 onward. Armentano called the research standards a Catch-22. Other reforms however may be coming quickly — from NIDA itself, with the agency set to decide whether to move its grow site beyond the University of Mississippi. With the contract with the school up this year, the agency issued a solicitation in 2014 that closed in November. NIDA said it plans to publish an award decision by the end of March.
restarts Hadron Collider after two years of repairs Scientists at Europe’s particle physics research centre Cern just outside Geneva restarted their “Big Bang” Large Hadron Collider (LHC) , embarking on a new bid to resolve some mysteries of the universe and look for “dark matter”. The machine had been shut for two years for a refit. Hopes for the second run lie in breaking out of what is known as the “Standard Model” of how the universe works at the level of elementary particles, and into “New Physics”. That includes searching for the dark matter that makes up about 96 per cent of the stuff of the universe but can only be detected by its influence on visible matter like galaxies and planets. The overhaul included new magnets, much higher energy beams and voltages and a complete check of all wiring around the underground 27km (17-mile) LHC tunnel and its four major detectors and multiple magnets. “It’s fantastic to see it going so well after two years and such a major overhaul,” Cern director general Rolf Heuer said on the research organization’s live blog for the restart. By June 2015 Cern will start smashing particles into each other in the LHC with nearly twice the energy compared with that first run from 2010-2013, and as before at close to the speed of light. The LHC comprises a 27-kilometre (17-mile) ring-shaped tunnel straddling the Franco-Swiss border, in which two beams of protons are sent in opposite directions. Powerful magnets bend the beams so that they collide at points around the track where four laboratories have batteries of sensors to monitor the smash ups. The sub-atomic rubble is then scrutinised for novel particles and the forces that hold them together. With its capacity to smash particles together at almost the speed of light and at a collision energy twice that of its first run, scientists hope that the revamped LHC will produce evidence of what has been dubbed “New Physics”. Among elements of this concept are the “dark matter” thought to make up some 96 per cent of the stuff of the universe while being totally invisible, and super-symmetry, or SUSY, under which all visible particles have unseen counterparts. “If I had to bet on what we will find, I would go for SUSY,” said Oliver Buchmueller, a scientist on one of the four machines around the ring that records each collision. “But we could also find something very, very unexpected,” he added. “This is what makes life on the energy frontier so exciting.” In 2012, the LHC discovered the Higgs Boson, the particle that confers mass, earning the Nobel prize for two of the scientists who, back in 1964, had theorised its existence. “The LHC will be running day and night. When we will get results we don’t know. What is important is that we will have collisions at energies we’ve never had before,” said Arnaud Marsollier, a Cern spokesman.
A new approach to social deficits Mental disorders, including schizophrenia, autism and social phobias, are all marked by difficulties in human interaction, having dramatic consequences for patients, contributing to poorer quality of life, depression and social exclusion. The AlterEgo project aims to develop an innovative rehabilitation method exploiting virtual reality and robotics that will help people interact with their social networks, as Professor Benoît Bardy explains Technology has always
been used in medicine to study, diagnose and treat the body. However, the idea of using technology to treat deficits in social interaction is relatively new. Historically the starting point to treat social pathologies, including schizophrenia, autism and social phobias, has been discussions and interviews with psychiatrists. The AlterEgo project is developing a new rehabilitation method. “We want to help people interact with their friends, partners and social networks in a more easy and permanent way,” explains Professor Benoît Bardy, the project’s coordinator. Researchers are developing avatars and humanoid robots to improve social interactions in patients; Professor Bardy says the different pathologies share some features. “Autism, schizophrenia and social phobias are different pathologies with different terms, but they all share the same principle, that people have difficulty interacting with others,” he outlines. The root cause of these social deficits can be difficult to identify and it remains a subject of intense debate in the scientific community. The underlying reasons
behind individuals with schizophrenia becoming socially isolated may be different. “For example, schizophrenia patients who have paranoid ideation find it difficult to trust others, or think that people are ‘out to get them’. As a result, they avoid interacting with others. Similarly, cognitive deficits, such as difficulty in remembering a conversation
Schizophrenia, autism and social phobias are different pathologies, but they all share a common
disability: interacting with others. The manifestations are gradual and can be traced in the way patients move. Virtual reality situations can be created in which patients interact with avatars whose morphology and behaviour are individually adapted with someone from just a few minutes before, are a major factor contributing to interpersonal interaction deficits,” say Dr D. Capdevielle and Professor S. Raffard, from the Psychiatric Department of the Montpellier academic Hospital, one partner of the project. These kinds of issues can result in people suffering from social deficits and isolating themselves even more, which
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further exacerbates the symptoms. “We know the deficits result in less interaction, and reduced interaction in turn speeds up the deficits. If you take schizophrenia for instance, deficits in social interaction are associated with deficits in memory. And the less you use your memory the more isolated you are, and the more isolated you are the less you use your memory, for
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remembering conversations with others or good times you spent with friends for example,” continues Dr Capdevielle. Another key aspect underlying social isolation among schizophrenia patients are abnormal or ‘bizarre’ motor behaviours, such as posturing, or aimless, excessive motor activity. These postural and motor characteristics often lead to a lack of rapport and to a reduce feeling of
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connectedness between the patients and their social environment. “We are trying to find ways to address this – but the emotional aspects, the cognitive aspects, the motor aspects and the social aspects are very closely intertwined,” continues Prof Raffard.
Theory of similarity Researchers in the AlterEgo project aim to help address these deficits by developing an interactive cognitive architecture that enhances socio-motor interactions. “This work is rooted in the ‘theory of similarity’, that we all prefer to interact with people who we perceive to be like ourselves”; Dr Marin, scientific manager of the project, says there is strong evidence from neuroscience and cognitive science research to support this theory. “The further we go, the more evidence we uncover that there is a strong neurological basis for social preferences. So we took this idea, that was out there in the field from the humanities and the life sciences, and we agreed; ‘this is very interesting and strong ground on which we can develop technology to rehabilitate people who suffer from these pathologies,’” he says. These similarities could be on the morphological, kinematic, or behavioural level; the project is focusing primarily on kinematics. “The main marker we are looking at is the way people move. We
The Cylindric body scanner (CyBOS) used in AlterEgo to create a perfect human avatar (image by DFKI).
predict that people tend to move differently depending on who they are interacting with,” outlines Dr Marin. A motion sensor system is required in the cognitive architecture to record that movement, which is key to encouraging greater interaction. The project is creating avatars of people which patients can control, enabling them to interact with people that are like them, thereby improving their social interactions. “Just imagine you’re facing a screen, and you recognise somebody on the screen who is like you. This version of you is moving around, following you, leading you, helping you perform specific tasks,” outlines Professor Bardy. One of the tasks that has been selected by the project is basically a mirror game, which has already been documented in cognitive science and neuroscience literature. “Let’s say you’re facing someone. You move your hand left and right – and you have someone in front of you doing exactly the same,” says Professor Bardy. “In some conditions you follow – so the person opposite leads the task. In other conditions you lead the task and the person follows you. Finally, you sometimes share the leadership - like if you were shaking your hands.” This mirror game has been converted into a virtual reality scenario in the AlterEgo project. Researchers from the
The mirror game with a humanoid robot used in AlterEgo to enhance socio-motor competences (image by EPFL).
German centre DFKI in Kaiserslautern, a partner in the AlterEgo consortium, use 4D-body and face scanning, exploiting low-cost motion capture systems such as video cameras, to develop an avatar for both patients and controls. “Then we project this new avatar onto a large screen. The interactive cognitive architecture can be thought of as a large equation, a dynamical model, which receives - as inputs - data from the patient’s movements, but also data from its own movements, and drives the online relationship between the movements of the avatar and the patient,” explains Professor Bardy. Researchers from the Universities of Bristol and Exeter, the two UK institutions in the consortium, manipulate the different parameters of the dynamical model, aiming to produce - as outputs - movements of the avatar that are either similar or different from the patient’s movement. “You’re in a situation where you see yourself on the screen, but you’re doing something that you have not done before, and you’re following it. So it’s a kind of improvisation,” continues Professor Bardy. “That’s a way to manipulate the similarity between the individual and the avatar, not only in terms of morphology, but also in terms of the way the avatar moves.” There are currently constraints on how the task is performed, in terms of both
time and movement. People are sometimes instructed to look at the avatar’s hand, or in the eyes for instance; however, Professor Bardy says that in the final evaluation the task is going to be much more natural and free, resembling a natural interaction between a patient and the doctor. “They’re going to be free to look or not to look and we’re going to treat these variables not as constraints of the experiment, but as measures, as indicators of how they change over time,” he outlines. Eye contact in particular is a very important indicator of the pathology; Professor Bardy believes the amount of eye contact will increase over the course of the game, while he also expects that the duration of the game will increase. “We predict that the duration of the game will increase as we go through the rehabilitation stage, because of the fun and the natural interactions that we have created,” he continues. “These constraints that we have imposed on the experiment will be removed in the final part of the project, and we’re going to use these different indicators of performance as markers of rehabilitation.”
Artificial agents The cognitive architecture itself is designed to be implemented in different artificial agents, so the task can be
performed in different settings and by different people. One direction currently being explored is humanoid robotics, thanks to the iCub robot developed by EPFL, a consortium partner. “ICub is very interesting,” continues Dr Marin, “because it is a multiple degrees-of-freedom and whole-body coordination system which can be fuelled by the cognitive architecture the same way our avatars are, but with a richer spectrum of similarity manipulations.” The consortium is also keen to explore the possibility of developing an avatarbased system that can be used at home. “You could be at home facing your TV with your system. This mirror game could be implemented using existing technologies, or even in a home entertainment system,” says Professor Bardy. This approach could potentially offer a more individualised way of treating social pathologies, which Professor Bardy says is a real priority for Doctors. “The project ends with the final evaluation. But where we would like to go a little bit further is to develop a piece of software which is sufficiently advanced so that it can be given in beta-test form to the patients we’re testing, so they can continue their rehabilitation with a home system. This may constitute the basis for a follow-up of the AlterEgo project.”
The mirror game can be played by a patient or a doctor (here an actor) and his avatar (image by EuroMov).
AlterEgo The AlterEgo European project aims to produce a new robotic-based clinical method able to enhance the social interaction of patients suffering from schizophrenia, autism or social phobias. This pluri-disciplinary consortium gathers experts and clinicians studying psychiatric disorders, as well as researchers coming from the fields of movement sciences, mathematics of complex systems, informatics and robotics. The first challenge of this project is to create an avatar and a robot alter ego of a patient in order to enhance the social interaction of this patient. Based on recent work in social robotics and neurosciences, the main hypothesis guiding AlterEgo states that if a patient faces an artificial agent similar to themselves, this will increase their engagement in a social interaction. This similarity means the patterns of bodily actions of the artificial agent should resemble, both in space and time, those displayed by the patient. The avatar, or robot, will have to move to match the way the patient moves, and this convergence will encourage the patient to close the ‘social’ gap with the artificial agent required for the exchange. To this end, a capturing and modeling module is being developed, in order to map the relevant and salient features of the patient’s behaviour onto the animated artificial agent. More technically, this entails three innovations that are needed to achieve the ‘perception’ module of the avatar: i) new 3D body scanner technologies, including shape, appearance (colour, texture) and animation, ii) new combination of new filtering and fusion algorithms for body modeling from coarse depth data and iii) new combination of motion tracking systems. Complementing this perception module, the artificial agent also includes a decision component, which enables the device to establish, from the patient’s behaviour, a pro-social vs. avoidance/deficient profile. This enables the agent to mimic this profile, which facilitates the social interaction. A robot and avatar controller is being created to transform the perception of human agent movements into the artificial agent’s social reaction. Finally this initial stage produces reliable mathematical models that allow real-time adaptation of the robot’s/avatar’s behaviour in order to maintain an efficient interaction. In addition to the design and implementation of similarity and its variation in time, AlterEgo now compares the impact of virtual reality (avatar) versus real presence (robot) of the artificial therapeutic agent. The humanoid robot iCub is being used. The patient moves from interacting with the iCub’s avatar or human’s avatar (doctor or confederate) to interacting with the iCub robot or with a human (doctor or confederate). After having created the conditions for an efficiently coordinated interaction, mainly based on the robot’s and avatar’s effort to converge toward the patient, the second challenge of the project is to set the stage for a rehabilitation scheme. This requires smoothly changing the avatar’s behavior to increase the difference with the patient, which forces the patient to share more and more of the workload to sustain a cooperative performance. In doing so, AlterEgo scientists assume that robust change will be promoted in the patient’s social skills repertoire. In this project modeling, engineering and experiments go hand-in- hand in an iterative manner, where modeling and engineering assist the experimental design, and the experimental results will be used to validate and modify and/or refine the models and the artificial agent devices accordingly. Consequently, all five partners are necessarily fully engaged in the project.
At a glance Full Project Title Enhancing socio-motor interactions using information technology (AlterEgo) Project Objectives To create new human - artificial agent interactions through the concept of similarity in order to enhance social competence in patients suffering from social deficits. Project Funding Total €3,66 M / EU funding €2,92 M Project Partners Montpellier 1 University (UM1), France • Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland • University of Bristol (UOB), UK • University of Exeter (UNEXE), UK • Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Künstliche Intelligenz (DFKI), Germany • Montpellier Academic Hospital (CHRU), France http://www.euromov.eu/alterego/consortium/
Contact Details Project Coordinator Benoît G. Bardy T: +33 434 432 631 E: email@example.com W: http://www.euromov.eu/alterego/homepage
Professor Benoît Bardy (left) Professor Ludovic Marin (right)
Benoît Bardy is Professor of Movement Sciences at Montpellier-1 University and a senior member of the Institut Universitaire de France. His research addresses problems of coordination and control of human movements, exploiting virtual and augmented realities, modelling, and simulation techniques. He is the founder and director of EuroMov, a new European research and innovation centre located in Montpellier, France. Ludovic Marin is Associate Professor of Movement Sciences at Montpellier-1 University. His research concerns social interactions in any kind of movements (posture, gestures, locomotion). His focus is on determining the sources of social motor coordination in healthy individuals and its impairments in patients suffering from social disorders (social phobia, autistic and schizophrenic patients).
Charting the health effects of alcohol Much remains to be learned about the health effects of alcohol consumption across the life course. The Alcohol Lifecourse project is analysing data from large population cohort studies, which will help researchers draw stronger links between alcohol consumption patterns and specific health impacts, as Principal Investigator Dr Annie Britton explains The current evidence
base on the relationship between alcohol consumption and health does not reflect the complex nature of drinking patterns and their evolution over the life-span. This is an issue that researchers from the Alcohol Lifecourse project, based at University College London, aim to address by building a more detailed picture of the cumulative effects of alcohol consumption on health. The group has funding from the European Research Council, The British Medical Research Council and Alcohol Research UK. “We are investigating the chronic health burden that builds up in the body over time,” explains Dr Annie Britton, the project’s Principal Investigator. “Our research will help us to understand whether the effects of alcohol accumulate over decades of drinking, or whether there are particularly sensitive periods. Different consumption trajectories will
affect different health outcomes. So if we’re talking about cancer risk, or heart disease risk, that’s different to acute effects, such as poisoning and injuries, which are the result of more recent consumption.”
course, from adolescence right through to very old age. The researchers are mapping alcohol trajectories, both average weekly volume and frequency, onto different health outcomes. “The studies we’re looking at are linked to central cancer and
The projects we’re running look at the health effects of alcohol consumption throughout life, and whether the effects accumulate over decades of drinking, or whether there are particularly sensitive periods Cohort studies Researchers in the group are using data from several population cohort studies to investigate these issues, including cohorts of British people born in 1946, 1958 and 1970. Each dataset has repeat measures of alcohol consumption, with combined data on over 100,000 individuals across the life
mortality registries and some studies have electronic linkages to hospital admission data,” outlines Dr Britton. “We also have data on blood pressure, body mass index, self-reported health and various biomarkers which could plausibly be on the causal pathways to some of the outcomes we’re interested in.”
The long-term nature of these kinds of studies means people drop out over time and population studies tend not to include extremely heavy drinkers. However, Dr Britton says the project’s attention is focused primarily on average drinkers. “Other researchers have focussed on clinical settings where people are treated for severe alcohol problems. We want to map out what’s happening in the typical drinker who is apparently functioning well in society,” she explains. The people that make up these cohorts grew up in very different social and economic climates, with varying dietary patterns, attitudes to alcohol, and exposure to behavioural factors like smoking. Dr Britton and her colleagues are also considering these issues in their
detrimental impact on health, both in terms of immediate risk and the likelihood of long-term harm. “It is thought that binge drinking leads to a heightened risk of coronary heart disease,” she says. Patterns of consumption change throughout life, which is another important consideration. “Average consumption shows a peak around adolescence, which sustains into early adult life, then it tails away and plateaus to older age, when it declines,” says Dr Britton. “But in terms of frequency, we found that quite a high proportion of older people – in one of the cohort studies it was about 50 percent of men – were drinking every day in older age. Often quite small amounts, but there’s a possibility it’s becoming a bit of a dependency.”
At a glance Full Project Title Alcohol Consumption across the Life-course: Determinants and Health Consequences (Alcohol Life-course) Project Objectives Research on the health consequences of alcohol needs to address the effects of changes in drinking behaviour over the life-course. The current evidence base lacks the consideration of the complexity of lifetime consumption patterns, the major predictors of change in drinking and the subsequent health risks. Project Funding Project funded by the European Research Council (2013-2016), UK Medical Research Council (2015-2017) and Alcohol Research UK (2015-2017). Project Team • Dr Annie Britton Principal Investigator • Dr Steven Bell Research Associate • Nadine Seward Research Associate • Craig Knott Doctoral Candidate • Melanie Lacey Doctoral Candidate • Ashley West Administrative Support
research. “We will take different socioeconomic positions in the cohorts into account. We’ll look to see whether there are trends over time. We also have data on national alcohol consumption trends which we can use to compare what’s happening in the background,” she says. The aim is to disentangle the health effects of alcohol consumption from other factors, such as exercise levels and diet. This could hold important insights into why alcohol seems to have a greater health impact on people at the lower end of the income scale. “This is sometimes referred to as the alcohol paradox. On average, people in lower socio-economic positions tend to have higher rates of alcohol-related problems, such as liver disease, despite drinking similar amounts to people in higher socioeconomic positions,” outlines Dr Britton.
Consumption patterns This is a complex area, and researchers continue to investigate the underlying issues behind these inequalities. One important consideration is whether people binge drink, which Dr Britton says has a
The data from this research will enable scientists to draw stronger links between alcohol consumption patterns and specific health effects, which could be used to underpin health advice in the future. Dr Britton draws a parallel here with earlier research into the links between smoking behaviour and lung disease. “It has been shown that if you smoke until you are about 30 and then stop, the risk of developing lung disease falls dramatically. We really don’t know this kind of information for alcohol consumption. So if you drink a lot in your youth, then become a moderate drinker, does your risk of getting alcohol-related diseases fall to the same level as if you had never drunk?” she says. The evidence base needs to be extended if scientists are to answer this kind of question and investigate the links between alcohol consumption and health in more detail. “If we are able to look at trajectories of drinking, and how they map onto the development of disease, then we can disentangle the causal pathways between alcohol and harm,” continues Dr Britton.
Contact Details Project Coordinator, Dr Annie Britton PhD Senior Lecturer in Epidemiology Departmental Graduate Tutor, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health University College London, 1-19 Torrington Place London WC1E 6BT T: +44 (0)20 7679 5626 E: firstname.lastname@example.org W: www.ucl.ac.uk/alcohol-lifecourse
Dr Annie Britton PhD
Dr Annie Britton PhD is a Senior Lecturer in Epidemiology at University College London (UCL) and has worked in alcohol epidemiology for 18 years. She has worked on several alcoholrelated projects, including research on heavy drinking in Eastern Europe and cardiovascular risk, estimates of alcohol-attributable mortality in England, and a meta-analysis of alcohol and risk of stroke.
The incidence of stroke and other neurological conditions is set to increase over the coming years as the demographics of the European population change. While robots are already used to provide certain types of therapy, researchers in the European Network on Robotics for NeuroRehabilitation aim to improve them further, as Dr Thierry Keller explains
Intelligent robotics for neurological conditions The aging nature
of the European population is likely to have a significant impact on healthcare services. With demand for effective rehabilitation therapies set to increase, the work of the European Network on Robotics for NeuroRehabilitation takes on real importance. “The aim in this project is to coordinate and stimulate European research in rehabilitation therapy. We also aim to link this neurorehabilitation research with computational modelling, motor learning and neuroimaging,” outlines Dr Thierry Keller, the Action’s Chair. Robots are already used to provide certain types of therapy, now Dr Keller and his colleagues are working to develop new, robot-assisted therapies that are tailored to the needs of individual patients. “There are systems available that train people in for example locomotion, in grasping and reaching. These systems are primarily used to provide therapy to patients who have been quite severely affected by stroke,” he says.
Intelligent robotics Evidence suggests that the key factor in determining whether a robot-assisted therapy is effective or not is the frequency with which it is applied. Therapies which help patients repeat certain actions have already proved effective; now researchers are aiming to develop robots that are able to learn from experience and adapt their approach accordingly. “The working hypothesis for the future development of robotics is that when the robot is more intelligent, it can also guide the therapy in the right direction for each individual patient. So it can not only repeat actions, but also adapt to what the patient is doing, and then correct itself in the support levels it provides in a broad range, from assistance to resistance,” explains Dr Keller. This is a key element of the Action’s agenda, which includes both fundamental and applied research. “The Action brings together researchers from several different disciplines. We have members from neuroscience and specialists in motor control, as well as medical therapists and engineers,” says Dr Keller.
The majority of robots work either with fixed moment patterns or follow predemonstrated pattern in a so-called teach and repeat mode, where the therapist demonstrates the movement, that is subsequently recorded and repeated. Now the Action aims to improve robotics technologies further; Dr Keller and his colleagues at Tecnalia have developed an arm robot, which conveys instructions to patients. “A screen gives patients the instruction on the type of movements they should do through a visual, hi-definition pack. We call this the exercise gaming approach, where the patient has to put
Personalised treatment A key question in research is the degree to which therapy can be personalised through the application of robot-assisted therapies. This depends to a degree on accurate assessment of the patients’ responses at an early stage; Dr Keller says this is an important element in the exercise gaming approach. “There are assessment games in the beginning and at the end of the exercise. We can compare how the patient does during these exercises; for example their range of motion, or the force that they can apply, and then we can also quantify their progress from one day to the next,” he outlines.
The working hypothesis for the future development of robotics is that when the robot is more intelligent, therapy can be guided in the right direction for each individual patient together a puzzle, or follow a specific trajectory,” he explains. The robot interacts with the patient during both these tasks, and can be connected with therapists over a network. “The therapists can then remotely observe the performance of the patient, but also analyse the available information and then modify the level of difficulty of the exercise accordingly and put together a tailored rehabilitation programme,” continues Dr Keller.
Image taken at the Military Rehabilitation Center Aardenburg in the Netherlands.
Therapists play a central role in assessing patients, yet robots can also provide key information. “We aim to find out which types of assessments the clinicians will need to provide and which robots can provide. Which of those assessments will robots be able to provide in future? And what will robots need in order to make these assessments?” asks Dr Keller. The backdrop of this research is the aging nature of European society and its likely impact on healthcare services. The incidence of neurological diseases is predicted to increase over the coming years, which will place a heavy burden on healthcare services; robotic therapies take on real importance in this context. “Many private hospitals now apply rehabilitation robotics by having one therapist that then supervises four patients at the time. They have several robots, and can then basically go from station to station,” says Dr Keller. This approach combines the professional expertise of the therapist with the repeatability of the robot. “The therapist can give the human input – which is of course always extremely important – but they don’t have to do the strenuous manual therapy work,” points out Dr Keller. “For
example, previously two therapists at a time may have been needed to move the legs of a patient on both sides of the treadmill. Now one therapist can treat two, three or more patients at a time.” Researchers are also exploring the possibility of providing robotic therapies into homes. Many patients are currently treated as out-patients, travelling to hospital several times a week; providing therapy in the home could bring significant benefits. “This could help save costs. When you bring robots into the home, or closer to patients, then you reduce transport costs. This not only benefits patients, but also family members who may otherwise need to provide transport,” points out Dr Keller. However, there are certain rules on how a therapy can be applied, so the project is also active on the policy side, aiming to increase the availability of effective, standardised clinical practice across Europe. “Many countries do not take the fact that several patients can be treated by one therapist at a time into account when it comes to reimbursement systems. Reimbursement is done by the amount of hours for which the therapist provides treatment,” explains Dr Keller.
The Amadeo robotic device supports active, assistive and passive training for hand rehabilitation.
Beneficial effects Evidence so far suggests that robotic technology has beneficial effects for patients in both upper and lower extremities, yet studies have not been conclusive and work is ongoing to analyse the impact. Stroke cases vary widely in severity and impact, depending on where and how it happened, so researchers are being encouraged to study smaller groups. “The recommendation is to really dig into these aspects, to look at what should really be provided to patients in terms of frequency and dose,” outlines Dr Keller. There is enormous scope for further improvement of robotic therapies, and it could potentially be applied to other patient groups; Dr Keller and his colleagues at Tecnalia have just started an ambitious project that combines simultaneous imaging and rehabilitation. “We are now in the final planning stage – and we have already got approval – to use implants in the same way as they are sometimes used in people suffering from epileptic seizures and are clinically observed with cortical recordings,” says Dr Keller.
At a glance Full Project Title European Network on Robotics for NeuroRehabilitation Project Objectives The main objective of the action is to enable the development of innovative, efficient, and patient-tailored robotassisted therapies for neuromotor recovery, incorporating the latest findings from clinical neurorehabilitation, rehabilitation robotics, computational neuro-science and motor neuroscience. Project Funding On the basis of national estimates, the economic dimension of the activities to be carried out under the Action has been estimated at €48 Million for the total duration of the Action. Project Partners The following COST countries have actively participated in the preparation of the Action or otherwise indicated their interest: BE, CH, DE, ES, FR, IL, IT, NL, RS, SE, SI, UK. Contact Details Director Area Rehabilitation Head of Rehabilitation, Dr Thierry Keller TECNALIA Research & Innovation Paseo Mikeletegi, 1-3 - Parque Tecnológico E-20009 Donostia - San Sebastian T: (+34) 667 119 652 E: email@example.com W: http://www.rehabilitationrobotics.eu W: www.tecnalia.com
Dr Thierry Keller
Thierry Keller received his Dipl. Ing. degree in electrical engineering (M.Sc.E.E.) and his Doctorate (Dr sc. Techn.) from the ETH Zurich, Switzerland in 1995 and 2001, respectively. Currently, Dr Keller is the head of the Rehabilitation Department in Tecnalia Research & Innovation, the largest private research center in Spain. Main activities of the Rehabilitation Department are in rehabilitation and prevention, on innovation and development of novel enabling technologies for rehabilitation robotics, tele-rehabilitation, technologies for physical and cognitive prevention, and neuroprostheses.
In 2004 Dr Craig Atwood published a paper putting forward an all-encompassing theory of aging that explained how and why we age at the evolutionary, the physiological and the molecular levels. This theory has significant implications for human longevity and the prevention of age-related diseases, as Dr Atwood explains
A new perspective on aging The process of
aging has commonly been thought of as the progressive loss of function over time. However, in a 2004 paper Dr Craig Atwood, Research Director at the Wisconsin Alzheimer Institute, proposed a new definition of aging. “We defined aging as being the effect of cumulative changes over time, with the idea being that if you don’t change, then you don’t age,” he says. This definition is at the root of Dr Atwood’s 2004 paper, which he co-wrote with Dr Richard Bowen of Case Western Reserve University, which put forward an all-encompassing theory of aging that explains how and why we age at the evolutionary, physiological and molecular levels. “We feel that it explains all those caveats that other theories of aging can’t explain,” he continues. “The theory covers not only the loss of function at the end of life and other components of aging, but also covers growth, development and our adult life as well.”
Aging process One of the advantages of this approach is that Dr Atwood and his colleagues have been able to look at changes over the whole lifespan, not just in the last ten or twenty years of life. After conception we change from a single-cell zygote to a multi-billion cell organism, through a series of cellular processes. “The major changes that we go through during life are to do with cell division, cell differentiation – in order to form tissues – and also cell apoptosis or other forms of cell death, which allow for the sculpting of tissues and the removal of cells that are no longer functional,” explains Dr Atwood. This occurs very rapidly during growth and development, and these cellular processes continue during our reproductive life in order to maintain our tissues; however, Dr Atwood says changes can be observed when we get into the last decade or two of life. “We see elevations in cell cycling, increased levels of cell death, and perhaps an inability to differentiate appropriately,” he outlines.
According to the theory proposed by Dr Atwood and Dr Bowen, aging can be though of as change in the body over time, therefore whatever is controlling cell proliferation, cell differentiation and cell death must also be regulating longevity. These processes are primarily regulated by reproductive hormones. “These hormones drive our growth and development early in life in order to become reproductive adults later in life,” says Dr Atwood. Researchers have however found that these very same hormones drive the demise of our tissues when they become
known as endoploidy, where chromosomes replicate within the same membrane, but don’t form two daughter cells. The cells don’t undergo cytokinesis, so instead of having 23 pairs of chromosomes, researchers were finding that there were many more chromosomes,” outlines Dr Atwood. Other indicators of attempted cell cycling included upregulation of cell cycle markers, while signal transduction pathways involved in mitogenesis were also upregulated. “There was an upregulation in tau phosphoryllation,” says Dr Atwood.
Sex steroids and inhibins are produced by the ovaries or
the testes during our reproductive life. They are able to counteract the mitogenic properties of these hormones and keep tissues in balance, in terms of the production of new cells and their differentiation into an appropriate phenotype for function dysregulated later in life, an example of what scientists call antagonistic pleiotropism, where the same gene controls for more than one trait, at least one of which is beneficial for health while others are detrimental. “Hormonal changes drive aberrant cell cycle signalling. They drive cells to attempt to divide, and they don’t do it successfully, because there are no sex steroids around, which are very differentiative in nature,” explains Dr Atwood.
Alzheimer’s disease This discovery lies at the root of the theory developed by Dr Atwood and Dr Bowen, which also has implications for our understanding of neurodegenerative disease. Researchers have found that, in patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, terminally differentiated postmeitotic neurons in the hippocampal and neo-cortical regions of the brain display all the markers of cell-cycle re-entry. “The markers are numerous. There’s chromosomal replication, otherwise
This is a cardinal feature of Alzheimer’s, along with deposits of the beta-amyloid protein (Aβ) in the brain, which forms plaques that are associated with the disease. It is thought that amyloid precursor proteins play an important role in the development of the disease. “Presenilin 1 and presenilin 2 drive early onset Alzheimer’s disease. However, these genes are also involved in regulating the cell cycle, they’re developmental genes,” outlines Dr Atwood. Researchers have also found that neurons in the brains of people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease attempt to divide, posing the question of what factors drive these neurons back into the cell cycle; Dr Atwood says this is an important area of research. “If we could understand what the factors were, then maybe we could intervene to halt the disease process,” he explains. “We found that some of the hormones of the hypothalmic-pituitary-gonadal (HPG) axis, this reproductive hormone axis, were actually driving neurons to re-enter the cell cycle.”
At a glance Full Project Title Epistasis in Steroidogenic Genes in the Prediction of Alzheimer’s Disease Project Objectives Dementia is a major health problem; however, the diagnosis of dementia is often complicated by confounding factors in the patient history or cognitive test scores of the individual. Identification of gene-gene interactions that predict with a 90% certainty the diagnosis of dementia would greatly compliment current diagnostic procedures. Project Funding National Institute of Health (NIH) Contact Details Project Coordinator, Dr Craig Atwood Middleton Memorial Veterans Hosp, Madison, WI United States T: +1 608 256 1901 E: firstname.lastname@example.org W: h ttp://grantome.com/grant/NIH/I21BX001623-02 W: h ttp://www.madison.va.gov/
Dr Craig Atwood
Dr Atwood is an Associate Professor in the UW Division of Geriatrics and a Research Scientist at Madison VA GRECC. He is Research Director of the Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Institute (WAI) and the Wisconsin Comprehensive Memory Program (WCMP). He has published several seminal papers concerning the pathobiology of aging and Alzheimer’s Disease.
The hormonal changes that drive this process occur during menopause, when there is an abrupt decline in sex steroid levels, and during andropause for men. These sex steroids and another hormone called inhibin are needed to keep the HPG axis in balance; without them a chain of events is set in motion. “When the ovaries run out of follicles and they can no longer produce the sex steroids and inhibins there’s no negative feedback of these hormones on the hypothalamus and pituitary. They react by upregulating Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GNRH), luteinizing hormone (LH) and folliclestimulating hormone (FSH), so you get this very dysregulated hormonal milieu,” explains Dr Atwood. “This would be ok if it wasn’t for the fact that there are receptors on all the cells of the body for these hormones. So although these hormones have been identified in reproductive tissues, and are normally considered to have reproductive functions, they in fact have functions in all cells of the body.”
Mitogenic hormones This has significant implications, as if the hormones are not in balance then the nature of the signals being sent to cells are going to depend on the hormone levels. LH, FSH and GNRH are all very mitogenic hormones – they drive cells to attempt to divide – which helps keep tissues in balance during our reproductive life. “Sex steroids and inhibins are produced by the ovaries or the testes during our reproductive life. They are able to counteract the mitogenic properties of these hormones and keep tissues in balance, in terms of the production of new cells and their differentiation into an appropriate phenotype for function. After a while they die and are replaced,” says Dr Atwood. After menopause (andropause in men) there are very high serum concentrations of LH, FSH and GNRH,
because the sex steroids and inhibins are no longer available from the gonads. “You’ve lost that sort of differentiative signalling from the sex steroids. So all of a sudden the tissues of the body are attempting to divide,” continues Dr Atwood. This hormonal dysregulation, or endocrine dyscrasia, could be driving age-related diseases in other tissues as well. There is evidence that the same cellcycle changes occur in cardiomyocytes as we age, which could be linked to heart disease; indeed, Dr Atwood believes endocrine dyscrasia affects all tissues of the body. “We believe that endocrine dyscrasia is responsible for sarcopenia – muscle loss – as well as cancer, stroke, all the diseases of aging in fact,” he says. Evidence from animal studies suggests that endocrine dyscrasia leads to changes in the blood-brain barrier, which could be a precursor to stroke and other vascular abnormalities, while it could also epigenetically alter cells and cause other changes. “It’s likely that hormonal changes suppress the immune system, so you lose the immune surveillance that you normally have, in order to remove the tens of thousands of aberrant cells that we produce in our bodies every day, explains Dr Atwood. “When these hormones suppress our immune system, then cancer is more likely to take hold.” The long-term goal of Dr Atwood and his colleagues is to maintain the HPG axis in balance, which would have a significant impact on these diseases. The incidence of aging diseases is a major issue for health authorities across the world, one that is set to grow even more urgent as the population ages, underlining the importance of Dr Atwood’s research. “If we can keep this HPG axis in balance then we’re not going to develop those diseases of aging as early as we do currently, and we should be able to extend longevity,” he says.
With the majority of metastatic cancers currently incurable, innovative new treatment concepts are needed to improve outcomes. The Mutanome Engineered RNA Immuno-Therapy (MERIT) consortium aims to develop individualised cancer vaccines that target the shared antigens associated with a tumour, as well as tumour-specific mutations, as project representative Dr Sandra Heesch explains
A personalised approach to cancer treatment The majority of
metastatic cancers remain incurable, with current methods of treatment often failing to target the heterogeneous nature of each individual patient’s tumour. Personalised approaches targeting each individual patient’s tumour will bring significant improvements, believes Dr Sandra Heesch, a representative of the MERIT project coordinator BioNTech AG. “The aim of the MERIT project is to validate and clinically translate the idea of individualised immunotherapy into cancer treatment,” she says. The project is focusing specifically on breast cancer, which is one of the most common cancers among women. The oestrogen and progesterone receptors, as well as human epidermal growth factor receptor 2, offer pharmacologically targetable structures. However, tumours in some breast cancer patients lack expression of these targets. “In patients with triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC), treatment is therefore rather ineffective and limited to standard radio-chemotherapy,” explains Dr Heesch.
Personalised approach There is therefore a significant medical need for a more tailored approach to treatment of TNBC, which the project aims to provide by developing individualised cancer vaccines which target the individual patient’s tumour antigen signature. Tumours in individual cancer patients express unique tumourspecific antigens and carry exclusive patterns of mutations, which are not considered in conventional drug development. “For optimal tailoring of a vaccine to each individual patient’s tumour, the MERIT immunotherapy project utilizes two complementary concepts, the WAREHOUSE and the MUTANOME approach. Both concepts are RNA-based immunotherapy approaches. With the WAREHOUSE approach, shared tumour-associated antigens are targeted. The respective vaccines are premanufactured and shelved in a warehouse. The second concept is based on the identification of unique tumour-
specific mutations by next-generation sequencing (NGS) and on-demand RNA manufacturing. The aim is to target neoantigens derived from mutated-epitopes in individual patients,” outlines Dr Heesch. “This second approach is our MUTANOME approach, where we use the latest technology available for whole genome discovery of cancer-specific mutations.” These two approaches will be used to develop vaccines that specifically target each patient’s specific tumour signature, namely shared tumour antigens and unique tumour-specific mutations. Researchers have identified antigens specific to TNBC, a step which is an essential prerequisite for the WAREHOUSE approach. “We performed pre-clinical research to identify targets that are highly specific for TNBC tumours, and are able to induce an antigen-specific immune response,” says Dr Heesch. After the selection of TNBCspecific antigens, RNAs encoding the
selected antigens were manufactured and shelved in the RNA warehouse. “Every tumour is different. Therefore, initially we will analyse each patient tumour for the expression of the warehouse antigens. Each patient will then receive a tailored selection of RNAs from the pre-equipped RNA warehouse that fits to the confirmed antigenexpression pattern of the individual tumour,” explains Dr Heesch.
MUTANOME vaccine In addition to targeting shared tumourassociated antigens, the MERIT project focusses on individual mutations that can be targeted by immunotherapy. The MUTANOME concept developed by BioNTech AG combines key technologies in a controlled process that covers all steps, from identification and confirmation of mutations in individual clinical tumour specimens through to the supply of individually tailored recombinant vaccines. This again is built on a detailed characterisation of each
individual patient’s tumour. Researchers isolate DNA and RNA, and then use nextgeneration sequencing techniques to gain further information about the specific immunogenic mutations in each tumour. “We perform next-generation sequencing, use bioinformatics
mutations. “This platform technology was developed by BioNTech AG. We used the platform technology to manufacture the warehouse RNAs, and we will also use it for on-demand manufacture of mutanome RNAs during the clinical study,” she continues.
We perform next-generation
sequencing, use bioinformatic algorithms to identify immunogenic mutations, then select the most suitable mutations to design the vaccine. And in the final step we manufacture the vaccine algorithms to identify immunogenic mutations, then select the most suitable mutations to design the vaccine. And in the final step we manufacture the vaccine,” outlines Dr Heesch. These RNAs have to be designed and produced within a short timeframe; Dr Heesch and her colleagues are using a platform technology which allows them to change the RNA sequence with relative ease, thereby targeting specific
The efficacy of this novel immunotherapy approach will be assessed in a therapeutic phase I/II trial in patients with TNBC. “One of the aims of our trial is to show the feasibility and the safety of this novel, next– generation-sequencing-guided stratified therapeutic approach. It’s an important goal to show that this approach is feasible,” continues Dr Heesch. “Even more importantly, we expect that the
patients will respond to this novel immunotherapy approach and that this individualised concept will show great potential for the treatment of other types of cancer.” The signs so far are positive in these terms, with pre-clinical results proving the anti-tumoural effects of the MERIT approach. Once the effectiveness of this approach has been proved, Dr Heesch believes it could potentially be used on other types of cancer. “Every type of cancer could be treated in this way, as long as they carry mutations, which almost all of them do,” she says. “The current landscape of cancer treatment lacks individualised targeted approaches suitable for potentially all cancer patients, but we believe we can change this with our immunotherapy concept.” For now, the focus is on the development of the overall MERIT approach and its application in the clinical trial, which is expected to start in 2015. “We have submitted the clinical trial application in four different
European countries, and we expect to demonstrate the safety and feasibility of our approach,” says Dr Heesch. “In parallel to the clinical trial, we have established an accompanying biomarker programme and are working on technology developments. For example, we’re working to improve the algorithms used to identify mutations.” This work could eventually lead to further clinical improvements. One important area of research is trying to further reduce the time and costs required to manufacture the personalised RNAbased vaccines. “We are constantly developing the MUTANOME process by improving functionality according to individual patient needs. We will be putting a lot of effort into trying to do it in an even shorter timeframe and at lower costs,” says Dr Heesch. This is very important to the feasibility of using this approach in routine treatment. “We would like to offer treatment as soon as possible for patients with serious medical needs.” stresses Dr Heesch.
At a glance Full Project Title Mutanome Engineered RNA ImmunoTherapy (MERIT) Project Objectives The MERIT project aims to clinically translate and industrially validate a pioneering RNA-based immunotherapy approach to target the individual tumour antigen signature and create a biomarkerguided personalized treatment for patients with triple-negative breast cancer. The major objective of the project is to assess in a phase I/II trial, the clinical safety, feasibility and biological efficacy of a completely novel NGS-guided, individuallyengineered and on-demand manufactured RNA vaccine approach to treat cancer. Project Partners MERIT Consortium comprises five partners from Germany, France, Belgium, Sweden and Switzerland. Project Funding This study is supported by a grant from the European Commission’s Seventh Framework Programme answering the Innovation 2 call: HEALTH.2013.0-1. (Grant agreement no: 601939). Contact Details BioNTech AG An der Goldgrube 12 55131 Mainz; Germany T: +49 6131 – 9084-0 E: Info@biontech.de W: www.biontech.de W: http://merit-consortium.eu/ Prof. Sahin photo: Georg Banek
Dr Sandra Heesch (left), Professor Ugur Sahin (right)
Professor Ugur Sahin, MERIT Coordinator, is the co-founder and CEO of BioNTech AG. He is an entrepreneurial researcher and inventor who has made essential contributions to more than 60 independent patents in various life science and biotechnology fields, including pioneering innovations that provide the basis for the foundation of BioNTech AG.
Two-pillared strategy of vaccine generation. TNBC tumour samples will be analysed for expression of a pre-defined set of tumour-specific shared antigens and the individual map of tumour-associated mutations will be generated for each patient. Patients will be vaccinated with a fully personalized vaccine consisting of pre-synthesized RNAs from the warehouse and on-demand de novo synthesized mutanome RNAs.
Dr Sandra Heesch, MERIT Project Manager, has more than 9 years of experience in academic translational cancer research and industrial pharmaceutical development. As Head of Project Management she is responsible for the management and translation of innovative concepts into clinical testing.
Protein homeostasis project brings researchers together Intracellular proteolysis is critical to maintaining cellular homeostasis, and aberrations in this process play a central role in pathologies such as cancers, immune diseases and neurodegenerative conditions. The PROTEOSTASIS project aims to coordinate and integrate the work of research teams from across Europe in this area, as project chair Dr Rosa Barrio explains The process of intracellular proteolysis is an area of great interest to scientists, with its role in the control of almost all biological processes attracting a huge amount of research attention. The PROTEOSTASIS project, a COST-funded initiative bringing together academic, clinical and industrial partners, will coordinate and integrate the work of research teams from across Europe in this area. “The PROTEOSTASIS project is about research into protein modification by ubiquitin-like proteins and its role in intracellular proteolysis, such as proteasomal degradation and autophagy. It focuses on protein homeostasis within the cell,” explains Dr Rosa Barrio, the project’s scientific coordinator. Protein homeostasis can be thought of as the delicate balance between the production and degradation of proteins. “Ubiquitin, and a family of proteins that are related to it – the ubiquitin-likes – regulate protein homeostasis. We are also looking at a protein degradation process called autophagy,” continues Dr Barrio. “That also depends on proteins that share some characteristics with ubiquitin.”
UCH-L1, can lead to certain forms of hereditary Parkinson’s disease; this underlines the wider importance of research into intracellular proteolysis. “If the balance between the production and degradation of proteins is broken it can cause neurological diseases or cancer, among other diseases,” says Dr Barrio. There is no general rule about the perfect balance between the production, function and degradation of proteins, however. Proteins are one of the main components of cells and are involved in virtually all biological processes. Yet each specific protein is different, and it therefore is difficult to draw general conclusions about their structure and function. “We have not
yet identified a general rule about the balance between production, function and degradation in specific proteins, which is why we are studying those processes. In general a synthesized protein will have a characteristic half-life. Normally, when this half-life is too short or too long, it creates problems for the cells,” outlines Dr Barrio. The project brings together researchers from more than 200 laboratories belonging to different companies, universities and research centres, aiming to build a deeper understanding of intracellular proteolysis. “There are many different aspects of research within the PROTEOSTASIS project network,” says Dr Barrio.
Intracellular proteolysis The project encompasses both fundamental research into key aspects of intracellular proteolysis and also more translational work, aiming to develop new clinical products. This ultimately is built on a detailed understanding of the intracellular proteolysis process, which is critical for cell homeostasis and in preventing pathologies such as cancers, immune diseases and neurological disorders. “Some neurodegenerative disorders are thought to be caused by an accumulation of proteins that should in fact be degraded. That can cause problems,” explains Dr Barrio. For example, mutations in proteins that handle ubiquitin, such as Parkin or
PROTEIN HOMEOSTASIS is an essential property to maintain the natural equilibrium within the cell. It involves the synthesis, modification and degradation of the proteins. Proper cellular and organismal functions depend on protein homeostasis, such as neuronal, immune, development, signaling and proper response to stress. When this balance is broken diseases like cancer, inflammation or neurodegeneration appear. The different steps in proteins homeostasis are target for therapeutical intervention.
Researchers in the project are looking at the homeostasis of their specific proteins-of-interest, and at how this is modified in certain conditions such as during development, or in a particular pathology. Based at the Functional Genomics Unit of CIC bioGUNE in the Spanish city of Derio, near Bilbao, Dr Barrio’s lab is pursuing two main lines of research. “We work on a ubiquitin-like protein called SUMO (Small Ubiquitin-like Modifier). It’s a ubiquitin-like protein, and we have been studying how it affects the development of organisms. In my laboratory, we use Drosophila melanogaster, the fruit fly, as a model system, but we also work with human cells. We are interested in how SUMOylation affects some proteins within the cell, and some particular transcription factors that are very important for human development,” she says. Dr Barrio and her colleagues are working in particular on a family of proteins called SALL. “There are links between mutations in the transcription factors that we study in the lab, the SALL proteins, and some hereditary syndromes,” she explains.
At a glance Full Project Title BMBS COST Action BM1307. European network to integrate research on intracellular proteolysis pathways in health and disease (PROTEOSTASIS) Project Objectives • INTEGRATION - To defragment the field and increase communication • TRANSLATIONAL - To facilitate the transfer from basic to translational science. • TECHNOLOGY - To foster technology and knowledge in protein homeostasis. • TRAINING - To create and consolidate training efforts in the field. Project Funding €156,000.00 for the 1st period.
Mammalian cell showing the Small Ubiquitin Modifier, SUMO, forming nuclear bodies which are supposed to be centers for protein modification. (Green: SUMO / Blue: DNA / Red: actin cytoskeleton) Credit: James D. Sutherland, CIC bioGUNE people together in our network and we try to generate synergies between the different groups.”
Research interests Researchers within PROTEOSTASIS will hold regular international meetings to discuss their research interests throughout
SUMO is a ubiquitin-like protein, and we have been
studying how it affects the development of organisms. In the lab we use Drosophila melanogaster, the fruit fly, as a model system, but we also work with human cells The other side of Dr Barrio’s research is the development of technology and tools for the isolation and study of ubiquitinlike proteins, which points to the wider benefits of this kind of broad-based research collaboration. Even though researchers in PROTEOSTASIS may be working in different fields, they can still benefit from technical advances made in other areas of the project. “That’s the advantage of being part of a network like PROTEOSTASIS – even if you work in a different project to another group, you will have better access to frontline techniques coming from a different field,” points out Dr Barrio. While Dr Barrio works in the isolation or identification of proteins modified by ubiquitin or ubiquitin-likes, she can also be in contact with scientific colleagues working with plants for instance. “This is unrelated to my field, but they might be interested in the approaches I use in the lab,” she continues. “Sharing information is very beneficial, very important. We try to bring
the term of the project, which will facilitate communication and knowledge sharing. There is a webpage (www.cost-proteostasis. eu), where important topics of interest and research advances are publicised. “The project is divided in six themes. Laboratories belonging to either of these themes share common scientific interests,” explains Dr Barrio. Fundamental research is integral to PROTEOSTASIS, but Dr Barrio says this can be combined with more translational work, which will form a central part of the future research agenda. “The idea is not that the groups change their focus, but that they find synergies and points of common ground with groups that might have a different orientation,” she says. “For instance, we are structuring the network in smaller groups-of-interest that focus on a particular translational problem. But somebody who is looking into a particular disease might need some basic information on how a protein works, or how the modification of it might affect another protein.”
Project Partners Participant Countries (27): AT, BE, CH, CZ, DE, DK, EE, ES, FI, FR, GR, HR, HU, IE, IL, IS, IT, NL, NO, PL, PT, RO, RS, SE, SI, TR, UK Contact Details Project Coordinator, Dr Rosa Barrio CIC bioGUNE, Bizkaia Tecnology Park, 48160 Derio, Spain T: +34 94 4061316 E: email@example.com W: www.cost-proteostasis.eu This publication is supported by COST. COST - European Cooperation in Science and Technology is an intergovernmental framework aimed at facilitating the collaboration and networking of scientists and researchers at European level. COST is supported by the EU Framework Programme Horizon 2020. More information about COST is available at www.cost.eu. Neither the COST Office nor any person acting on its behalf is responsible for the use which might be made of the information contained in this publication. The COST Office is not responsible for the external websites referred to in this publication.
Dr Rosa Barrio (Left) Dr Olivier Coux (Centre) Dr Manuel S. Rodriguez (Right)
Dr Rosa Barrio is Chair of PROTEOSTASIS, and researcher at CIC bioGUNE, Spain, since 2004. She is interested in the role of the ubiquitin-like SUMO in the processes of steroidogenesis, neurogenesis and ciliogenesis during development. More information: http://personal.cicbiogune.es/rbarrio
Dr Olivier Coux is Vice-Chair of PROTEOSTASIS, and researcher at the CNRS, France. He is interested on the role of the ubiquitin-proteasome system on cell cycle control. More information: http://www.crbm.cnrs.fr/index.php/en/olivier-coux-uk
Dr Manuel S. Rodriguez is the initiator of the project, and researcher at Inbiomed, Spain, since 2012. He develops specific technology to identify modified proteins that can be used as biomarkers and potential drug targets. More information: http://www. inbiomed.org/Index.php/en/lineas_de_investigacion/cancer/ laboratorio_ubicuitilacion_biologia_molecular_cancer
The HemoSpec platform represents a new approach to diagnosing sepsis, a life-theatening condition that is a major health problem across the world. Evangelos GiamarellosBourboulis, Jürgen Popp and Ute Neugebauer tell us how the platform will enable early, fast and reliable diagnosis of the disease and other infectious conditions
© IPHT Jena/S. Döring
A new platform for sepsis diagnosis An
response to an infection can lead the body into a serious condition known as sepsis, which is a major health problem across the world, estimated to affect millions of people a year. Until now clinicians have typically had to rely on their own acumen and experience in diagnosing sepsis, but now the HemoSpec project is developing an innovative technological platform that will enable early, fast and reliable diagnosis of the disease. “The platform is being developed for sepsis cases. It will need only small amounts of the patient’s blood,” says project coordinator Professor Jürgen Popp, Director of the Leibniz Institute of Photonic Technology in Jena, Germany. The platform will combine three key enabling technologies to develop a detailed picture of each individual patient. “We use Raman spectroscopy to learn what type of cells we are looking at. We can use it to characterise the leukocytes,” explains Popp. “At the same time we also use multiplex fluorescence biomarker sensing to get information on proteins. Then there is the holographic approach, where we get more information about the cells and how many there are. So we do cell counting, and we get information about the size, shape and morphology of the cells.”
HemoSpec device This represents a new approach to diagnosing sepsis, and also potentially other diseases. The main blood and laboratory tests currently available to evaluate and assess patients are highly time consuming, so clinicians rely on identifying symptoms when diagnosing sepsis. “We diagnose a patient with sepsis if they have a high fever, if they have tachycardia – which means an
very early information about the functions of cells. And of course this will be invaluable for diagnosis,” explains Giamarellos-Bourboulis. “The device will integrate information on white blood cells and their sub-groups with data on biomarkers, and also with the clinical data.” This information can help clinicians stratify patients accurately, so they can identify which need more intensive care
The concept of the HemoSpec device is that it can provide very early information about the functions of cells. And of course this will be invaluable for diagnosis increased heart rate. Other symptoms are dyspnea – which means shortness of breath – and an elevated white blood cell count,” outlines Evangelos Giamarellos-Bourboulis, an Associate Professor of Internal Medicine and the leader of the project’s clinical assessment workpackage. The HemoSpec device will provide a much more reliable and systematic method of diagnosing sepsis, providing relevant information to clinicians. “The concept of the HemoSpec device is that it can provide
and which don’t, and then tailor treatment to individual needs. No biomarker has yet been identified that can give clinicians all the information they require to diagnose sepsis accurately; the HemoSpec platform combines several sources of data to generate a more comprehensive picture. “We know that Raman spectroscopy, holographic blood count and biomarker sensing provide important information, but this has never previously been put together in one device. That’s the idea behind HemoSpec,” says Popp.
The three models will be located next to each other, interconnected by a microfluidic device, which Popp says is a core component of the HemoSpec platform. “The technologies are not being integrated in such a way that everything would be in one device. We only need to inject a small amount of blood into the microfluidic device and then the three modules are addressed separately,” he explains. “This information will then be combined together and analysed using a bioinformatic tool.” The HemoSpec platform will make this information available to clinicians via one common user interface, with common data storage and analysis software. The information needs to be presented in a clear and accessible way, so researchers are working closely with clinicians to ensure the platform meets their needs. “The software developers will provide a software platform, and then the physicians will be able to say which bits of information they need and which they don’t. Then it will go back to the software developers, and they can work to improve it further,” says Dr Ute Neugebauer, a Principal Investigator within the project. A pre-clinical trial is being run with about 80 patients, from which information will be gathered and a data structure made available, giving software developers a solid basis for the development of a prototype, which will be rigorously tested and assessed. “At the end of the project there will be a prospective clinical trial in Athens, involving a total of 250 patients,” says Giamarellos-Bourboulis.
Wider potential These patients will include not only individuals suffering from sepsis, but also patients with injuries, pneumonia, urinary tract infections and other conditions, underlining the wider potential of the device. Giamarellos-
Bourboulis says the HemoSpec device could be used both in hospitals and everyday clinical practice to rapidly diagnose the true nature of a patient’s condition, which may not be immediately clear from their physical symptoms. “For instance, the device could be used to diagnose a patient who comes in to a clinical setting with fever and signs of common cold. The device can be used to identify whether this patient is just suffering from a common cold, or has pneumonia that has not fully manifested,” he outlines. The HemoSpec device will also help clinicians identify those patients who require quite an aggressive course of treatment. “We have to follow a very aggressive path of medical decisions in order to save the lives of patients at a high risk of death. Life-saving decisions should be taken within the first hour of a patient suffering a severe infection being admitted,” explains GiamarellosBourboulis. The focus at the moment however is on sepsis, improving the platform further and demonstrating its efficacy. This could in future be achieved through a randomised clinical approach, where the HemoSpec platform is tested against conventional methods of diagnosing sepsis. “We expect that a randomised trial will show that the HemoSpec diagnoses individual patients correctly,” says Giamarellos-Bourboulis. This will help clinicians identify the right course of treatment for each individual patient, who will then be able to leave hospital earlier, leading to significant cost savings. This is very much a long-term objective though, and currently researchers are continuing to work to miniaturize and optimize the device, as well as to integrate the individual parts. “The next stage will be to put everything together in one device and achieve this highly integrated system. This will be the next task,” says Popp.
At a glance Full Project Title Advanced spectroscopic hemogram for personalized care against life-threatening infections using an integrated chip-assisted bio-photonic system (HEMOSPEC) Project Objectives HEMOSPEC is a 4-year project that aims to develop an innovative technological platform for early, fast and reliable medical diagnosis of infectious diseases using minimal amounts of patient’s blood. The project combines in one device automated microfluidic sample handling with integrated holographic blood count, simultaneous multiplex fluorescence biomarker sensing and detailed Raman spectroscopic leukocyte characterisation. Project Funding Total costs of the project: €5,069,233. Total funding of the project: €3,777,000. Project Partners • Please see http://www.hemospec.eu/ index.php/consortium Contact Details Principal Investigator, Dr Ute Neugebauer Leibniz Institute of Photonic Technology Albert-Einstein-Strasse 9 07745 Jena GERMANY T: +49 3641 206 327 E: firstname.lastname@example.org W: www.ipht-jena.de 
Ute Neugebauer studied chemistry at the University of Jena, Germany, and at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA. After her Ph.D. she joined the Biomedical Diagnostics Institute, Dublin, Ireland for post-doctoral research. Since March 2011 she is a junior research group leader at the Center for Sepsis Control and Care, Jena University Hospital, and at the Leibniz Institute of Photonic Technology Jena. Her research is concerned with spectroscopic methods and tools to elucidate biomedical problems and the characterization of physiological interactions with a special focus on the diagnostics of infectious diseases and sepsis.
Antimicrobial Resistance: The Urgent Need For Solutions Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) is a global threat for us all. If left to develop unchallenged it would impact on the world to a scale we only dare to imagine. EU researchers are to play a key role in minimising the potentially devastating effects of an AMR era, whilst pioneering new treatments. By Richard Forsyth
Growing resistance to antibiotics is one of the biggest challenges to public health today. We need to find new ways to prevent people from dying from infections that have been treatable for decades, until resistance rendered our drugs ineffective
t might be startling for many to comprehend that some healthcare pundits are already referring to the current era as the post antibiotic age – it seems like an unlikely and alarmist statement. Yet, anyone going to a doctor in Europe recently may have noticed that their coughs and throat infections are less likely to be remedied by a prescription of antibiotics, in contrast to previous visits. There is very good reason for this. Healthcare workers are now aware that, put simply, antibiotics aren’t working well anymore and there aren’t any new ones. There have been only two new classes of antibiotics put on the market during the past 30 years. In the UK alone, 35 million antibiotics are prescribed each year and 70% of bacteria are resistant to them. Indeed – one of the problems is the very fact that we have relied on them too readily – to the point where their abundant use on a wide scale has given some of the most notorious ‘bugs’ the chance to adapt and become resistant to them. Overuse and the development of AMR for all of us is a very serious threat. The worst case scenarios for future projections of AMR are sobering. Currently, around 25,000 people die in Europe from infections
resistant to antibiotics annually. Statistically – with the population of Europe scaled in at around 743 million this may not scare many of impending doom scenarios. However, the latest EU-wide data on antibiotic resistance in humans, published by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control indicated that resistance in certain bacteria has nearly doubled in just three years. This escalation shows that if the problem of antibiotic resistance is left unchecked and unchallenged there is a terrifying potential we will be to dragged back to the dark ages in terms of healthcare choices. The human cost of having no ‘magic bullet’ of antibiotics to prescribe is staggering to comprehend. If research and initiatives to thwart antibiotic resistance suddenly ceased and we let nature take its course it’s estimated 10 million people a year, around the world, would die by 2050. To get a sense of perspective on that number – that’s almost two million more than currently lose their lives to cancer every year. This figure was calculated from a conservative forecast published in the first part of a report called the Review on Antimicrobial Resistance, commissioned by the UK’s Prime Minister David Cameron, released in December 2014.
Swearing-in of Carlos Moedas, Member of the European Commission in charge of Research, Science and Innovation © European Union, 2015
As well as the devastating loss in human life there would also be a substantial impact to the world’s economy. Whilst for Europe the bill for healthcare expenses and productivity losses is over €1.5 billion, the forecast for the world economy if this threat is not confronted is nothing short of catastrophic. The Review states that ‘between now and 2050 the world can expect to lose between 60 and 100 trillion USD worth of economic output if antimicrobial drug resistance is not tackled. This is equivalent to the loss of around one year’s total global output over the period – and will create significant and widespread human suffering’. What’s more – we currently routinely accept that we can undergo surgery relatively safe from infection with antibiotics. Procedures such as organ transplants, joint replacements, premature baby care, and caesarean sections rely on antibiotics as a necessary precaution. If antibiotics fail, common place medical procedures will become far riskier and potentially life threatening, with the added problem that people who are deemed too high a risk to take surgery will not be able to recover or remain in work – further impacting the economy.
We have already seen the rise of the superbug through MRSA which has surfaced heavily around hospitals where cuts, wounds and potential for infection are more prevalent. Bacteria including Klebsiella pneumonia, Escherichia coli (E.Coli) and Staphylococcus are all showing signs of developing resistance. When taking in the global impact when assessing the types of bacteria that are becoming resistant to antibiotics we can see potential for large scale human suffering in the developing world as AMR affects HIV, Malaria and Tuberculosis (TB) treatments. In summary there is a lot at stake if we do not act. AMR is not a problem to look at in isolation, it is a global issue and as such needs a global perspective and alliance to address it. Within this context, Europe can play a key role in the on-going fight against AMR.
Hope And Determination Despite the chilling overview of our current predicament, there is hope. It is hope founded on investment, rigorous research, innovation and dissemination of information to healthcare agents and the public.
Deaths attributable to AMR every year by 2050
The current EU Commissioner for Science and Innovation, Carlos Moedas, has the challenge of antibiotic resistance firmly on his radar and set as a priority for European researchers. “Growing resistance to antibiotics is one of the biggest challenges to public health today. We need to find new ways to prevent people from dying from infections that have been treatable for decades, until resistance rendered our drugs
ineffective,” said Moedas. “We need to bring new classes of antibiotics to market and we need to take preventative measures to stop antibiotics being over-prescribed and over-used.” In light of this, the European Commission launched a €1 million inducement prize to address the issue of the unnecessary use of antibiotics, in February of this year. This ‘Horizon Prize for Better Use of Antibiotics’ will be awarded
for an affordable, rapid test allowing health care providers to distinguish between upper respiratory tract infections that require antibiotics and those that can be treated safely without them. The rules of the contest mean all applicants have complete freedom to come up with the most promising and effective solution, whether that is from an established scientist in the field or an innovative newcomer. The EU is committed to progress in the fight against AMR. Research projects have been numerous. Whilst some have the aim of developing antibiotics, vaccines and alternative treatments for drug-resistant microbial infections, others have set out to see if there are better methods to use antibiotics. There are also studies of antibiotic resistance within the food chain and investigations into using novel nano technology for the delivery of antimicrobial drugs. Looking into demographics, young children are the highest users of antibiotics in the European Union and there are high rates of transmission of antibiotic-resistant pathogens among young children that attend day-care in Europe. One European project called APEC, which stands for Antibiotic Resistance and Prescribing in European Children is active in advising healthcare practitioners to be prudent in prescriptions rather than over rely on them, as too many children are receiving broad-spectrum antibiotics for viral infections. In a very different and innovative approach to the AMR problem, researchers in the SONO project have developed a way of using sound waves to apply antibacterial coatings on hospital robes and sheets. This technology could impact significantly on the frequency of hospital acquired infections.
A New Antibiotic Since 1999, the EU has invested nearly €800 million in transnational collaborative projects on antimicrobial resistance, driving the efforts to finding solutions. “Resistance is certainly something to be concerned about and the EU is joining forces with the pharmaceutical industry, within the Innovative Medicines Initiative, to boost research and to
speed up the delivery of much-needed antibiotics to patients,” comments Moedas. The EU funding has already succeeded in fuelling possible solutions for new antibiotics. It has enabled the research undertaken for the NABATIVI project, which has investigated a new antibiotic which could be used against the dangerous infection, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a bacterium that has been discovered in hospitals, infecting cystic fibrosis patients, people with weakened immune systems – including cancer patients – and patients in intensive care. The new antibiotic is currently in the clinical trials phase. It was initially developed by Polyphor AG, a European SME but the next step required the intervention of a major pharmaceutical company, Roche. The partnership with Roche is an important connection. “Up to now the big players were not really interested in investment in new antibiotics. This is the first time for many years that a big pharma company has invested in the antibiotic area,” stated project coordinator Alessandra Bragonzi. The NABATIVI project, which has now ended, could provide the model for antibiotic development in the future where in the first instance research and development is carried out by universities and SMEs and then the baton is passed on to major, larger investors when potential candidates are primed for the exhaustive, expensive task of testing and gaining regulatory approvals. There is no doubt we are on the right track when looking at the multitude of projects that are focusing on the AMR problem. The collaboration between scientists, healthcare professionals and the healthcare industry is vital in this research pursuit, with the potential to save millions of lives and benefit the global economy in the process. With special thanks to EU Commissioner for Science and Innovation, Carlos Moedas and Communications Assistant, Laura Hemmati.
Healthcare workers are now aware that, put simply, antibiotics aren’t working well anymore and there aren’t any new ones. There have been only two new classes of antibiotics put on the market during the past 30 years
Working with Indigenous Communities for a Sustainable Future COMBIOSERVE is one of five FP7 projects where academics work closely with indigenous communities to develop effective co-enquiry research methods – aiming to protect bio-cultural diversity, while improving their wellbeing in protected areas. Project Coordinator, Professor Christian R. Vogl, explains the concepts that are shaping the project’s initiatives in selected sites in Brazil, Bolivia and Mexico
Indigenous territories make
up 22 percent of the world’s land surface and hold 80 percent of the world’s biodiversity. The importance of managing these territories for conservation is widely accepted and there has been rapid development in the last decade of new governance models where indigenous communities play a role in the comanagement of land. However – in many cases these new models involve processes that transform local systems or divide and redistribute natural resources. Alongside approaches such as ecotourism and Payments for Environmental Services (PES) these models are often not aligned well to the needs of local communities and the long term aims of conservationists. Without a truly consultative approach and understanding of local practices, customs, rules, languages, culture and the relationship communities have with their environment, changes managed by external parties can cause tensions which disrupt the overriding aims. For community conservation initiatives to be truly workable, the indigenous community’s participation and direct involvement in the process has to be central when developing research and resource management methodologies collaboratively. For this reason, a pivotal COMBIOSERVE project goal is to analyse the factors that will make a difference to the success of a communityled project.
Community Based Research on Conservation COMBIOSERVE brings scientists from research institutions and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) from Europe and Latin America together with indigenous community members in all project field sites* (see list of sites below). This is to drive collaboration and to utilise both the extensive environmental knowledge that the local people possess and the expertise of biologists, anthropologists, ethnobiologists, economists, political scientists, environmental scientists and more. Suitable biological and social research methods of data collection are devised by the community
In order to conserve natural resources, you also have to monitor them. You have to know what’s there, where it is and see how it develops. So, one key aspect of our project is collaborating with local people to make them key actors in research members with a steer from the scientists involved. The project emphasises that the processes developed are community-owned. Thus, a key difference in approach in the COMBIOSERVE project is that it does not follow the traditional model of scientific research, where an external team of academics implement research methods in a ‘subject’ community. Rather the community members, along with the Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and their representatives, decide which research to carry out, how to implement research methods, then analyse the results and write them up. Intercultural communication and mediation is vital, as decision making
A member of indigenous community at the COMBIOSERVE International Conference 2014. Photo credit: Christian R. Vogl
processes in indigenous communities can be different to scientific ones. The endeavour is a long term learning experience as much as anything else, which reaps its own benefits. As indigenous communities depend on their local resources, they are best placed to monitor, manage and ultimately sustain and conserve these resources. They play a central role in the research agreed, in a way that takes into account their needs as a community. “The community conserved areas or CCAs, are key in delivering ecosystem services like e.g. clean water, reduced CO2 emissions, protecting endangered species of plants and animals,” explains Professor Vogl.
Monitoring and classifying fauna, flora and wildlife is an important task within the research effort to keep aware of the ecosystem and any developments within it. “In order to conserve natural resources, you also have to monitor them. You have to know what’s there, where it is and see how it develops. So, one key aspect of our project is collaborating with local people to make them key actors in research”.
Aspirations are Key Integrating the goals of scientists and local communities makes working together more compelling and more feasible for everyone involved in the long term. “The economic aspirations of indigenous peoples can be balanced with the goal of preserving bio-cultural diversity in many ways. Firstly, it is important to understand what the economic aspirations of indigenous peoples are,” says Professor Vogl. “Many
Photo: Local community members using traditional and modern techniques to measure and weigh a caiman for conservation management. Photo credit: G茅raud de Ville
The Five Related FP7 Projects CiVi.net http://www.civinet.eu/espanol The CiVi.net project aims to analyse, transfer and disseminate successful and sustainable community based solutions with regard to ecosystem service management in Latin America. Countries involved: Costa Rica, Brazil, Germany, Switzerland, Netherlands, Austria. Cobra http://projectcobra.org/ Behind Project COBRA lies a very simple idea. This idea suggests that human development policies and projects need to serve primarily the people they intend to strengthen. Project COBRA aims to showcase indigenous solutions for the management of natural resources that could in turn inspire development policies and projects. Countries involved: Guyana, Brazil, Surinam, United Kingdom, Italy, Netherlands. EcoAdapt https://sites.google.com/site/ecoadaptproject/ EcoAdapt is an action-research initiative working with three Latin American provinces to influence water management processes that contribute to local development and reduce vulnerability of human populations to climate change through capacity building, knowledge sharing, conflict prevention and mitigation, and promoting joint work with local and national stakeholders. Countries involved: Costa Rica, Ecuador, Bolivia, Argentina, Chile, Austria, United Kingdom, France, Spain.
*COMBIOSERVE Research Sites and Indigenous Communities Brazil
Patax贸 of the Jaqueira Reserve and Monte Pascoal National Park, southern Bahia.
Tsimane communities in the Pil贸n Lajas National Park.
Maya & Mestizo communities in the Yucatan peninsula and Chinantec communities in Oaxaca.
COMBIOSERVE http://www.combioserve.org/ COMBIOSERVE is a consortium of 10 institutions working together to assess the effectiveness of community-based management strategies for biocultural diversity. Using a multi-disciplinary and participatory research strategy, the consortium seeks to identify the conditions and principles for successful community-based conservation initiatives in selected locations in Brazil, Bolivia and Mexico. Countries involved: Austria, United Kingdom, Brazil, Bolivia, Spain, Netherlands, Bolivia, Mexico. COMET-LA http://www.comet-la.eu/index.php/es/ The aim of the project is to identify sustainable community-based governance for the management of natural resources that could be used in different social-ecological systems in the context of climate change and increasing competition for resources. Countries involved: Mexico, Colombia, Argentina, Spain, Norway, United Kingdom, Portugal.
COMBIOSERVE International Conference 2014: Young video makers discuss the usage of participative video technique.
At a glance Full Project Title Assessing The Effectiveness of CommunityBased Management Strategies for Biocultural Diversity Conservation (COMBIOSERVE) Project Objectives To identify the conditions and principles of successful community-based conservation in selected locations in Latin America based upon a collaborative research process between civil society organisations (CSOs), research organisations and local people in Indigenous Peoples’ and Community Conserved Territories and Areas (ICCAs). Project Funding COMBIOSERVE is funded by a 3 year grant from the European Commission Seventh Framework Programme under the theme Community-based management of environmental challenges and in the funding scheme Research for the benefit of specific groups - Civil Society Organisations. Grant Agreement Nr. 282899 Project Partners Please see website for full details of partners and key collaborators. Contact Details Project Coordinator, Christian R. Vogl Working Group Knowledge Systems and Innovation, Division of Organic Farming at the Department of Sustainable Agricultural Systems, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna (BOKU) Gregor-Mendel-Strasse 33 A-1180 Vienna, Austria E: email@example.com W: www.combioserve.org W: www.nas.boku.ac.at/agwi.html
Christian Reinhard Vogl
Christian Reinhard Vogl is university professor and co-head of the Department of Sustainable Agricultural Systems at BOKU. His research and teaching focus on traditional ecological knowledge, ethnobiology and organic farming.
indigenous peoples all over the world are beginning to claim that their aspirations are not classic capitalist economic growth but rather well-being, or buen vivir. They claim that to attain well-being, they need to conserve their bio-cultural diversity more than they need a cash income. Nevertheless, even within the concept of buen vivir, communities can make the necessary income they need by, for example, selling produce, crafts, forest products and other local resources at fair prices.”
Local Focus, Global Implications The project, together with the associated initiatives CiVi.net, COMET-LA, EcoAdapt, and COBRA, presented their results at the 7th Annual Ecosystem Services Partnership Conference, held in Costa Rica on 12 September 2014. Compelling evidence was presented that local communities and civil society organisations have a key role in supporting the delivery of international agreements such as the Aichi Biodiversity Targets of the Convention on Biological Diversity, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change. The combined findings of the five EC funded projects demonstrated that solutions delivered at a local level result in sustainable actions that protect the environment and wider ecosystem services. An example of the kind of work being undertaken by the community focused projects can be seen in simple aims such as making the sustainable commercialisation of orchids more viable, which improves the quality of family life and animal health, which in turn has implications for soil and water quality management. By respecting and incorporating the diversity of practices, customs, lifestyles and world views to be found across the globe, whilst being aware of the environmental
context in specific areas, policy actions can be adapted locally for an effective delivery that has measurable benefits. “Our approach of assessing the effectiveness of community-based management strategies has a great deal of potential for replication elsewhere, particularly given our emphasis on devising replicable methodological approaches for implementing a co-enquiry approach,” Vogl states. A more recent opportunity to pool knowledge came in the guise of the COMBIOSERVE Conference entitled Community Conservation in Latin America: Innovations in Research and Practice, which was held in November 2014, in the Mexican town of Xico. A gathering of 160 participants – of which 55 were members of indigenous and rural communities – came together to exchange their knowledge in a shared space. Continuing in the true collaborative nature of the project, participants from all over Latin America shared cutting-edge research on community based management practices. The outcomes of the conference will have a significant impact on community conservation work in Latin America. It’s clear that COMBIOSERVE has far reaching implications. The project is striving to understand the effectiveness of community-led conservation initiatives and to identify the factors that contribute to their success or failure. Those involved in the project will be well placed to inform policy around community based resource management and to develop community owned research protocols. “I would say that for many parts of the world it’s the only way to build a sustainable future,” asserts Vogl. “This means not only ecological sustainability but also social, economic and cultural sustainability, based on the needs of local people.”
Community researchers presenting their results on mapping their territory and resources in Brazil. Pho credit: Christian R. Vogl
Image courtesy Jesse Allen, NASA Earth Observatory; data provided by the USGS EROS Data Center Satellite Systems Branch. ©NASA (Left: Satellite image of the Elbe River on 4th August 2000.) (Below: Satellite image of the Elbe River on 20th August 2002.)
A closer look at climate change Changes in the global climate could affect several key areas of industry, including energy, agriculture and forestry. The Climate Impact Expert System will make information on the regional climate available to key decision-makers in both the public and private sectors, which could help inform strategic decisions, as Dr Thomas Nocke explains Clear information about
the climate and its likely evolution could be crucial to the future of several areas of industry. However, while a large amount of data about the climate is available from a range of sources, it is not currently in a format that is easily accessible for decisionmakers, an issue being addressed by the Climate Impact Expert System project. “We are collecting information about climate change impacts, with high
regional resolution. This work has been ongoing for ten years. Now we’re reaching a status where we can look towards making a portal out of it,” says Dr Thomas Nocke, the project’s scientific coordinator. The project is bringing together information about climate change in the web portal, and is presenting it to key sectors. “We are dealing with climate visualisation, setting out the extent of climate change visually,” continues Dr
Nocke. “Climate change is already happening, as current mitigation efforts are insufficient. So the degree to which we will need to adapt, and how impacts can be mitigated, are big questions.”
Industrial impact This issue holds real importance to the sustainability and future competitiveness of certain areas of industry, including energy, agriculture and even insurance.
www.climateimpactsonline.com Changes in river levels may make buildings and companies in some areas more vulnerable to flooding for example, and Dr Nocke says the insurance industry is preparing accordingly. “Some companies are investing in research into what climate change might lead to in future,” he outlines. Climate change might also open up new opportunities in other areas of industry, such as energy. “Some countries are interested in water power – is climate change increasing or reducing the potential to generate energy from water? Will they have more evaporation or transpiration, or less or the same amount of precipitation? What might happen in these circumstances?” asks Dr Nocke. “These are only examples of course, and a country’s vulnerability to climate change varies according to their geographical position and a range of other factors.”
The portal presents information on a range of key climate issues, including temperature, crop yields and the risk of forest fires, overcoming the current timelag between the publication of raw data and its conversion into an accessible form. The aim is to couple actual and future climate scenarios with information about its likely impact on industry. “The current idea is to present an integrated view of the German climate to ministries and public officials, as well as information on different cities and regions of Germany,” says Dr Nocke. The information is presented in a map form, with users able to click on the map to get data relevant to their own region. “The user can then zoom in and find out what is going on across different climate variables. What is likely to happen under unmitigated climate change, and what are the scenarios for different sectoral impacts?” explains Dr Nocke.
These insights can then be used to inform strategic decisions in both the public and private sectors. The project plans to provide detailed analysis of where certain events might occur, such as rural flooding, or to identify areas at risk of higher levels of pollution. “This might be relevant to where a bridge is built, or where an investment should be made,” continues Dr Nocke. It is important to present this information in an accessible way, so researchers are currently testing the portal. “Possibly some information needs to be cut out, and other information might need to be presented in a different way,” says Dr Nocke. “We have our own model that calculates climate simulations, it runs very fast. But it’s triggered by information from global climate models currently we are integrating dynamic regional models, and we are planning to integrate further data as well.”
Station Grid The detail of the projections depends to a degree on the quality of the data that has been gathered. The project is basing its projections for Germany on data from more than 1,200 weather stations; if the station grid provides high resolution data then the portal can provide more regionally differentiated information. “For instance, if two cities are close together and there is a station in both, then we can differentiate quite well
Germany of about 1.0°-2.5° over the next 40-50 years and up to 4.0° until 2100.,” he outlines. Alongside regional data, the portal also provides information related to specific questions. “For instance there will be some questions about wind energy potential. We can’t say exactly what the wind energy potential in 30 years will be at a certain position, but we can say that it might be approximately 1 per cent higher, or there might be more severe storms,” says Dr Nocke.
We are collecting information about climate impact, with high regional resolution. This work has been ongoing for ten years. Now we’re reaching a status where we can look
towards making a portal out of it
between the climate properties in these two regions – even the urban effects,” says Dr Nocke. The majority of the climate projections detailed on the portal are over the longerterm. The non-linear nature of the climate means there is a degree of uncertainty in these kinds of projections, yet Dr Nocke says they still have value. “There’s a big bandwidth in long-term projections, and we can identify the minimum impact. So we know, at the minimum, that if we carry on business as usual, we will have a warming in
Most advanced nations are aware of this type of issue, and have developed mitigation strategies in line with expected climate change. However, there is less information about some regions, so the project is looking to extend the reach of the portal and find new partners. “The portal as it stands can be seen as the first open prototype for Germany, and many topics are quite well-studied. We will need to do some further simulations and collect more data to bring it to other regions,” outlines Dr Nocke.
At a glance Full Project Title Generating climate relevant information for multiple impacted sectors and present them in an online tool (Climate Impact Expert Systems) Project Objectives • Identify, analyze and present imapcts of climate change worldwide in highresolution for multiple sectors • Provide studies / consulting to estimate the challenges for public and private sector induced by a changing climate • Increase awareness and provide educational material Project Partners • WetterOnline has developed the visualization and the web portal logic. • ClimateKIC financed the final web portal development. Contact Details Project Coordinator, Thomas Nocke Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) Telegrafenberg A51 D - 14473 Potsdam T: +49 (0)331 288 2626 E: firstname.lastname@example.org W: http://www.climate-kic.org/projects/ climate-impact-expert-system/
Dr Thomas Nocke
Thomas Nocke studied computer science at the University of Rostock, Germany, and obtained his PhD in 2007 on data visualisation for climate research. Starting in 2006, he investigates visual climate data analysis and climate knowledge communication at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Germany. Since 2012, he is leading the development of the ClimateImpactsOnline.com web portal and the related outreach activities.
EPLACE: a platform for improving energy efficiency in public buildings Clear data on energy consumption patterns is a central element in efforts to improve efficiency, helping identify areas where improvements can be made. Alicia Jiménez of the EPLACE project tells us about their work in testing and validating innovative ICT solutions, work which she believes could have a significant impact on energy efficiency in public buildings Public buildings are an important focus of efforts to improve energy efficiency, with researchers looking for ways to both reduce consumption and change behaviour. These issues are central to the EPLACE project, an initiative which brings together researchers from across Europe. “The aim of the project is to provide a platform to public entities and building managers about energy efficiency. We aim to help building managers reduce energy consumption through ICT changes using the EPLACE platform, and also through the behaviour of the users of these buildings,” says Alicia Jiménez, the project’s coordinator. The project is running pilot studies in several different types of building, giving researchers a broad perspective on energy consumption. “We are working with council administrative offices, a library, a cultural centre, and others,” continues Jiménez, from Wellness Telecom, a Spanish company which specializes in telecommunication networks and IT engineering. “The age of these
buildings varies, as we are doing the pilots in different countries.” The project is using data about energy consumption in these buildings in previous years to inform their approach. Researchers performed an ‘energy audit’ on the buildings, which Jiménez believes is a strong foundation for the project’s wider objectives. “The actions required to save energy in all the pilot buildings are different, because the circumstances themselves are different. But we can demonstrate that it is possible to improve energy efficiency in all kinds of buildings,” she stresses. This is particularly important in public buildings, where people might feel less responsible for minimising energy consumption that they do when they are paying for it themselves. “40 percent of global energy consumption is consumed by, or in, buildings. And workers and visitors don’t pay the bills in public buildings,” says Jiménez. “People who don’t pay the bills tend to pay less attention to energy consumption, as they think somebody else will pay.”
Advisory tools Solutions and tools that provide building users with more data on energy consumption are an important element in efforts to address these kinds of perceptions. The project is working to combine and integrate existing tools, developing innovative ICT solutions for energy metering, controlling energy sources and heightening user awareness. “One of the tools we are working with is the Interactive Energy Savings Account (iESA), which allows building managers to manually enter gas, water and electricity invoices,” outlines Jiménez. Users can receive alerts and reports about energy usage, helping them identify ways in which it could be reduced; Jiménez and her colleagues are also working to integrate several advisory tools. “We have two monitoring tools. One is the WeSave – which is a tool used to monitor and control electricity use in buildings. It is a hardware component that is installed in the electricity panel of the building,” she explains.
The WeSave tool allows users to monitor differences in consumption, for example how much is used by people performing different jobs within a building, data which can be relevant in improving energy efficiency. It has a communications-based, open architecture, so information can be easily centralised; this information is made available to users in their own language. “The tool helps users to identify the underlying causes behind high levels of consumption,” explains Jiménez. If a fault occurs, users can respond quickly, thereby improving energy efficiency, while Jiménez says that the WeSave tool also has wider potential. “All of the information that is collected in the database is available in a cloud server. The data can be collected through an external system and even be sent to a database on another system. So it’s bi-directional – we can give the data, or take it from another system,” she outlines.
At a glance Full Project Title Eco public PLAtform for smart green CitizEn’s living labs (EPLACE) Project Objectives Smart Urban digital services for energy efficiency.
WeSave installation in Cultural center of Cartaya. One of the seven pilots. beyond the project’s initial target groups, potentially to include members of the public and domestic households. It is designed to be accessible, intuitive and easy-to-use, even for those without a technical background. “The platform has been developed for all kinds of users. Access is free, so all people can register, and enter invoices and their consumption data, to create their energy
The aim of the project is to provide a platform to public entities and building managers about energy efficiency. We aim to help building managers reduce energy consumption through ICT changes using the EPLACE platform, and also through the behaviour of the users of these buildings Smart Monitoring The other key monitoring tool in the project is the WeLight, a versatile and customized solution to meet customer needs, which is designed for smart monitoring and to save energy in streetlighting. It provides real-time information about the performance of a system and the status of public infrastructure, and can be adapted to monitor and control any public lighting panel. “It monitors and controls electricity, but through lighting. The control consists of switch-on and switch-off; furthermore, with WeLight we can reduce energy consumption without affecting comfort, through the regulation of the power intensity of the lighting” says Jiménez. The WeLight functionalities are divided into a telemanagement platform, alerts, reports and a location map, which provides the foundation for significant improvements in energy efficiency. “At the end of the project we plan to compare the situation prior to the installation of specific hardware with the situation after. This comparison will help energy service companies to draw up energy performance contracts,” explains Jiménez. The system could in future be extended
saving account,” says Jiménez. Each of the pilot studies are providing feedback on the platform, while it is also being assessed in other scenarios, information which will be used to guide its ongoing development. “Some users may not understand a specific portal, a translation may be incorrect, or they might prefer to have a report in a PDF format,” outlines Jiménez. “We can adapt these things during the project to the requirements of the user. If we make these changes now, we will have a more suitable product to put on the market later.” A large amount of data has been gathered during the course of the pilot studies, from which researchers will be able to build a deeper understanding of buildings in different locations and the impact of specific changes. This can form the basis for setting longer term objectives about improvements in energy efficiency and identifying how they can be achieved. “We will do an energy audit in a few months with all the data and use it to draft an energy performance contract per pilot building. Each of the building managers can decide whether to stay in it, and we will keep up the dissemination activities, heightening awareness of energy efficiency,” continues Jiménez.
Project Funding Total budget: €1.451.993 Total funded: (50%): €725.996 Grant agreement no.: 325182 Project Partners Wellness Telecom SL, Spain • Regionalna Energiina Agencia Pazardjik Sdruzenie, Bulgaria • Municipality of Septemvri, Bulgaria • Erato Ad, Bulgaria • SEnerCon GmbH, Germany • City of Dublin Energy Management Agency Limited, Ireland • Arden Energy Limited, Ireland • Consorcio para el Desarrollo de Politicas en Materia de Sociedad de la Informacion y el Conocimiento en Andalucia “Fernando de los Rios”, Spain • Aton Energy Solutions SL, Spain • Agencia de Medio Ambiente y Agua de Andalucia, Spain Contact Details Project Coordinator, Mrs Alicia Jiménez González Calle Charles Darwin SN, Pabellion Monorrail 41092 Sevilla Spain T: +34 95415 1706 E: email@example.com W: www.eplaceproject.eu
Mrs Alicia Jiménez González
Mrs Alicia Jiménez González is Master Engineer in Telecommunication Sciences from the University of Seville. She is a university expert in international R&D&I Project management. She has worked as Radio Access Engineer at LCC Wireless Communication Services Spain and as international project manager for smart applications in Adevice Solutions SL. She currently works as R&D&I project manager in Wellness Telecom. She is participating in different national (CONSULTING3.0, SEDA, WePark, ADAPTA) and international (FP7 CUMULUS, CIP EPLACE) R&D projects.
The EFFIDRIP system is an ICT-based tool which supports the management and supervision of irrigation and fertigation. It provides farmers an easy, reliable and cost-effective way to manage their irrigation and fertigation systems, which will bring long-term benefits, as the project coordinator Albert Torres explains
A new approach to irrigation The cost of
irrigation has risen significantly over recent years, primarily due to higher energy and synthetic fertilizer prices, a trend that puts a heavy financial burden on farmers. This is an issue which lies in the heart of the EFFIDRIP project. “The main goal of the project is to develop a system to interpret sensor data, and to convert it into useful, scalable information for specific farming scenarios,” outlines Albert Torres, the project’s technical coordinator. In the project an ICT-based tool has been developed to support the management and supervision of irrigation and fertigation of crops, which Torres believes will have a significant impact on farming. “Water use efficiency is linked to the use of energy and fertilisers. By reducing the use of water, we reduce the use of energy and
fertilisers,” he explains. “EFFIDRIP also releases the farmer from routine tasks that are necessary for efficient irrigation, but that are costly and labour-intensive.”
EFFIDRIP EFFIDRIP has been developed as a smart irrigation system that answers future agricultural needs. EFFIDRIP consists in an automatic irrigation scheduler and management support system that permits more efficient use of water, fertilizers and energy in drip irrigated tree crops. Partners: There are 9 partners involved in the EFFIDRIP project. Please see the website for full details. Budget: 2.243.954.53€ (co-funded by the EU). Albert TORRES Ateknea Solutions T: +34 932 049 922 x 512 E: firstname.lastname@example.org W: www.effidrip.eu W: www.ateknea.com Albert Torres is MsC. in Industrial Engineering from the Polytechnic University of Catalonia. He has been coordinating R&D projects for several years. He is specialist in the development of low power wireless sensor network applications and remote monitoring systems as well as in its integration into web applications and information management systems.
Wireless unit deployed in an apple orchard to measure soil moisture sensors
EFFIDRIP System The EFFIDRIP system complements the functionalities of current irrigation and fertigation control equipment by making them part of a high-level ICT-based system. It has been designed for localised irrigation systems in fruit tree crops,
collecting data that is used to decide the best dose of irrigation each day; three basic types of data are incorporated within the system. “The first type of data is introduced by the farmer, at the beginning of the irrigation season. The farmer introduces information about the crops, and information about how irrigation should be performed and managed over the whole season. It’s like a strategic view of the whole season,” says Torres. The system also automatically collects data from other services, such as meteorological networks, which is further complemented by sensor data from the field, giving farmers information on the key factors which will affect their crops. “The main inputs are information from the farmer, weather data from the internet and national services, and sensor data from the field,” says Torres. This approach provides accurate information on daily required water and fertilizer volumes, enabling farmers to optimise their irrigation strategy with respect to cost, productivity and environmental impact. Farmers can also supervise irrigation via their web browser, so they can maintain supervision over the system. “We are not removing the farmers from the irrigation process, but rather giving them more supervision and support,” stresses Torres. Pilot tests have been performed with the system during this year’s irrigation season, and Torres says that the results so far are encouraging. “On average, we found that the EFFIDRIP system led to improvements of about 14 percent, compared to an efficient farmer,” he outlines. “The ecologic and economic impact are quite difficult to calculate and involve very site-specific factors, for example calculating the energy required to pump the water in these irrigation systems, the nitrate loss or the cost of water. However, we are confident that the system is efficient, reliable and cost-effective.”
Queuing for basic supplies after Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. Photograph by Paul Stevens.
Ethics and Disasters Ethical dilemmas frequently arise in the aftermath of natural disasters, yet few resources are specifically available to help guide people on the ground in their decision-making. We spoke to Dr Dónal O’Mathúna, Chair of COST Action IS1201 about the Disaster Bioethics project’s work in investigating the types of ethical issues that arise and how people respond The
scale of natural disasters sometimes overwhelms local resources. Unable to deal with the massive medical and humanitarian task, authorities sometimes ask for international assistance. However, both local and international teams face major ethical issues in disaster response, an area which forms the primary focus of the Disaster Bioethics COST Action. “Our focus is on those situations where large numbers of people are affected in a very severe way, leading to serious medical and humanitarian needs. We’re looking at the types of ethical issues that then arise, and how we can provide resources to help people respond to ethical dilemmas,” says Dr Dónal O’Mathúna, the Chair of the Action. www.euresearcher.com
The project arose out of a realisation that people on the ground after disasters face many challenges, including ethical dilemmas. “After the Tsunami of 2004 a lot of decisions needed to be made for which evidence was lacking. Such decisions were further complicated by their ethical dimensions, especially how to decide who to treat when you can’t treat everyone due to a lack of resources,” says Dr O’Mathúna. “Similarly, after the Haiti earthquake there were many questions about how best to treat crush injuries. Was amputation always the right course of action? Such decisions have an ethical component, as well as requiring research evidence. In response to such questions, more research was called for, but conducting research during disasters raises even more ethical questions.”
Natural disasters The primary focus of the project is on natural disasters, but Dr O’Mathúna says these can’t always be neatly separated from those in which human activities have played a part. For example, the damage from Hurricane Katrina was intensified by years of poor planning and a poorly coordinated response. Similarly, ethical issues arise in refugee camps whether people have been displaced by conflict or natural events. The importance of humanitarian responses is clear, but Dr O’Mathúna says a more evidence-based approach is needed. “Today there’s a much greater emphasis on finding ways to collect data during a disaster that helps future responders. With the calls for data collection, outcome evaluation, needs assessment, and other research, ethical
guidelines for disaster research are also needed,” he outlines. The priority in disaster response remains with the immediate medical and humanitarian issues, yet Dr O’Mathúna believes it is also important to gather evidence to inform future responses. The COST project is looking at the ethical aspects of disaster research and response. “Our project is examining the ethical aspects of responding to disaster victims, helping to ensure that the people who are injured have their dignity upheld as much as possible, and that they are involved in ethical decision-making as much as is practically feasible given the conditions,” says Dr O’Mathúna. “There are ethical issues for the doctors and nurses who go into these situations.” Highly trained medical and healthcare staff sometimes find that they’re unable to act according to their normal ethical standards in a disaster setting. This creates what’s called ‘moral distress’, feelings of anxiety and distress about how they are making those decisions – or being prevented from doing what they believe is right. “We’re developing training tools that will help responders prepare, so that they will be aware of the types of issues that they may have to face when they get out into these settings,” outlines Dr O’Mathúna. “These ethical dilemmas are still going to be difficult to handle in and of themselves,
but at least we can help prepare people a little better to face those decisions.” The nature of these decisions will vary according to the exact circumstances people face. If responders travel to a nation with very different values to their own there may also be cultural differences, which Dr O’Mathúna says must at least be acknowledged as part of an ethical response. “There may be significant
a situation completely different to anything they’ve experienced before, which reinforces the importance of preparation. “Some of the NGOs [nongovernmental organisations] that we have talked to have noted that up to half of the responders they train for such missions will not go on a second one,” says Dr O’Mathúna. “In many cases that’s because of the ethical dilemmas that they’ve had to
Our project is examining
the ethical aspects of responding to disaster victims, helping to ensure that the people who are injured have their dignity upheld as much as possible, and that they are involved in ethical decision-making as much as is practically feasible given the conditions differences regarding who makes medical decisions in different cultures,” he points out. “If it’s the way things are done in another culture then that person needs to be prepared to think those issues through, and to have a way of processing them. They may even need to decide ahead of time whether they are willing to work according to somebody else’s ethical values in certain situations.” These types of situations can occur where there is quite a broad-based international response to a disaster. In many cases these responders are entering
face - they feel like those were so overwhelming that they never want to be part of another response team again.” That can be a great loss of experience and training resources to the organisations. Effective training is crucial to preparing people well, and also to ensuring that they have skills relevant to the situations they’re going to face. There is often intense publicity around natural disasters and people understandably want to help, but aid should be targeted at actual needs, which has not always been the case in the past. “People have arrived from other countries
unable to speak the language, not really trained for the needs that are there, not understanding the way things work elsewhere, or the resources that already exist,” outlines Dr O’Mathúna. “We need to realise that just because we want to help, it doesn’t mean that people need the sort of help that we might think they do.”
Ethical dimensions There is a need for clear direction in these circumstances, for people to think about what is really needed, and about how public goodwill can be directed most effectively. These types of decisions have clear ethical dimensions, says Dr O’Mathúna. “How can we ensure the just and fair allocation of resources when they get out to these places? How can policies be put in place to ensure that the donations go to those who really need the help?” he outlines. This may be particularly difficult in conflict situations. “Some organisations have a clear policy of being neutral, and of taking care of everybody. But there are other organisations who decide that this will cause other problems,” says Dr O’Mathúna. These kinds of issues are enormously complex, and there are no easy answers. However, Dr O’Mathúna hopes that the project will give responders clearer guidelines and practical training tools to help make ethical decisions. “We’re bringing together doctors, practitioners, responders,
and various organisations who are involved in the field. We’re bringing them together with ethicists from academic backgrounds and other international organisations to look at the issues, to have the people with field experience describe the practical, ethical dilemmas they face,” he says. “They have been saying to us; ‘we need help to think these issues through. What really are the kind of ethical values that we need to highlight and prioritise?’” The project aims to develop guidelines, policy proposals and training materials out of this research that could be used to help prepare responders. Ethical theory has historically been directed mainly towards finding ideal solutions in ideal settings, but a disaster setting is far from ideal; Dr O’Mathúna says it is important to take this into account. “Decision-making processes need to be appropriate for these non-ideal settings,” he outlines. The project also aims to build collaborative teams that will pursue funding for specific disaster bioethics research projects, which Dr O’Mathúna hopes will lead to a new generation of researchers trained in both ethics and humanitarian work. “They would be able to get involved in disaster response and policy-making organisations. With both humanitarian experience and training in ethics, they would be able to help various organisations address the ethical dilemmas that their members face,” he says.
Photographs taken in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan. Photographer Paul Stevens.
At a glance Full Project Title Disaster Bioethics: addressing ethical issues triggered by disasters Project Objectives The primary objective of COST Action IS1201 is to build an interdisciplinary network of scholars, relief agencies and policy-makers that will stimulate scholarly discussion on disaster bioethics and contribute to improved ethical decision-making for disasters by identifying ethical issues in disaster preparation and response, proposing guidelines, and developing training materials and other ethics resources. Project Partners The Action has partners from 28 countries that participate in COST, primarily European countries. The Action has collaborative links with other researchers in Canada, USA, New Zealand and Kenya. Project Funding Funding is provided for the Action from COST, an intergovernmental framework for European Cooperation in Science and Technology (funding period: 2012-2016). Contact Details Chair of the Action, Dónal O‘Mathúna, PhD Senior Lecturer, Dublin City University, Ireland E: email@example.com Science Officers Individuals, Societies, Cultures and Health (ISCH), COST Office E: firstname.lastname@example.org E: email@example.com W: www.DisasterBioethics.eu
Dónal O’Mathúna, PhD is Chair of COST Action IS1201: Disaster Bioethics. He is Senior Lecturer in Ethics, Decision-Making & Evidence in the School of Nursing & Human Sciences, Dublin City University, Ireland and Visiting Professor at the European Master in Disaster Medicine. He co-edited Disaster Bioethics: Normative Issues when Nothing is Normal (Springer, 2014).
For more information, please visit: www.euresearcher.com
The nutraceutical, functional food and cosmetic markets evolve rapidly, and companies are always looking for new ways to develop innovative products that also meet regulatory standards. Rice by-products could offer a new source of ingredients for these markets, as Dr Annalisa Tassoni of the BIORICE project explains
The by -product is improved efficiency Many areas of industry
are looking to make better use of the by-products generated in processing raw materials, seeing it as a way to both improve efficiency and as the basis for further commercial development. Rice byproducts represent one potential source of ingredients for the functional food, nutraceutical and cosmetic markets, an area that forms the primary research focus of the BIORICE project. “The aim of the project is to valorise the rice byproducts – mainly constituted of proteins – which come out as a residue from the rice starch production pipeline that is obtained from the ‘broken rice’, a side product of rice production which cannot be sold down the usual commercial streams. There is a company within the BIORICE consortium that is producing rice starch, and as consequence they have to deal with a large volume of processing waste water containing a high amount of protein residues. From this waste, these rice protein by-products, we are aiming to produce ingredients which could be used for nutraceuticals, cosmetics, and functional foods,” explains Dr Annalisa Tassoni, the project’s scientific coordinator.
peptides, that could prove important to industry. A key step is to treat the proteins and adjust them into tiny pieces called peptides. “Most of the work will be dealing with the production of the ingredients. We will isolate them and test them for their biological activity, such as whether they are anti-oxidant, or act against hypertension,” says Dr Tassoni. No solvents will be used in the treatment of the proteins, ensuring the project’s work meets regulatory standards. “The byproducts will be eventually dried or transformed in such a way that they can be incorporated in nutraceuticals, cosmetics or functional foods,” continues Dr Tassoni. “The separation, the isolation, will be done by mechanical and physical means, such as cross-flow membrane filtration and separation.”
Researchers are currently testing two different techniques to develop these peptides. The first is a form of molecular distillation; however, Dr Tassoni says the second method is currently proving more reliable. “It’s a sort of filtration. We treat the protein by-products with enzymes or microorganisms and we put the top of the digestate, the liquid phase, through different steps of filtration. At the moment we are isolating peptides lower than 10 kDa, which is very tiny,” she explains. Researchers are isolating smaller and smaller peptides, aiming at establishing innovative, industrydriven and eco-sustainable protocols to purify and obtain new peptide ingredients. “We will have information about the activity, the concentration, and the exact characterisation sequence of these peptide ingredients, and of which size of molecules
Biological activity Researchers aim to convert the rice protein by-products found in starch production processing water into value-added compounds, such as semi-purified digestates and small molecular weight
Scientific and technical approach of the BIORICE project.
are inside,” continues Dr Tassoni. “No solvents are used in these two techniques. They are simply physical, mechanical ways of separating these molecules.” The environmentally-friendly nature of these techniques is an important issue in terms of regulatory compliance, while the project is also working on new means to test and assess these products. This work holds real importance for the industry, particularly given the widespread commitment to finding an alternative method to testing cosmetics on animals. “We will reconstruct human skin, and use this to test cosmetics. The model for this is actually almost complete, and it could eventually prove to be an effective replacement to animal testing,” says Dr Tassoni. The cosmetics industry is constantly searching for ways to develop new products, and new peptides represent a potential source of commercial development. “We have seen that certain peptides may reduce the ‘browning’ of foods. For example, when you cut into an apple and it’s dark, some peptides could reduce this kind of oxidation. This kind of activity could be very important for the cosmetics industry,” points out Dr Tassoni.
Peptide properties The value-added compounds also have other properties which could be relevant to industry, particularly the nutraceutical and functional food markets. Some products have anti-oxidant effects while others are anti-hypertensive, so can
Mono-dimensional gel electrophoresis of enzymatically digested rice proteins. Lane 1 molecular weight standards; lanes 2-3 and 7 undigested samples; lanes 4-6 total digested samples; lanes 8-10 liquid phase containing small molecular weight peptides. reduce blood pressure. “This is very common in peptides,” says Dr Tassoni. The peptides are being tested to identify their
specific properties, part of the project’s wider goal of providing innovative ingredients with improved bioactivity. “We use the ABTS method which is a common way of testing anti-oxidant properties of food ingredients. It’s based upon a coloured molecule that changes colour when ingredients are added,” outlines Dr Tassoni. “The change in colour is proportional to the amount of antioxidant activity.” This research could bring significant benefits to not only the cosmetics, nutraceuticals and functional foods markets, but also to other areas of industry, including the rice processing companies themselves. Rice factories are only allowed to pack a certain proportion of broken kernels (broken rice) in each packet; a BIORICE partner buys the broken rice and processes it to produce the starch. “ During the process, they also get a huge amount of water with proteins inside. This comes to about 150 m3 per day, which is an awful lot of water,” explains Dr Tassoni. This water has to be disposed of properly, because it’s an organic and potentially pollutant waste, which Dr Tassoni says can be extremely
Above: Testing of anti-hypertensive activity of isolated fractions Right: Testing of anti-tyrosinase activity (against browning) of isolated fractions Bottom: Isolation of peptide fractions by a filtration apparatus
expensive. “It costs more than 100,000 Euros a year to discard this water in the proper way. That’s a lot of money for the companies,” she points out. The project’s overall approach could potentially be applied to other kinds of
adjustments, and going up-scale. We are also doing different tests,” outlines Dr Tassoni. These include tests for other types of activity, such as whether compounds have any effect on cholesterol levels, while researchers are also looking towards
From this waste, these rice protein by-products, we are aiming to produce ingredients which could be used for nutraceuticals, cosmetics, and functional foods protein by-products, yet their current focus is on rice and scaling up the process to produce more digestates and peptides. A key focus is ensuring that the ingredients perform the same activities at these larger scales. “Sometimes when you change the scale you have to slightly adjust the conditions. We are doing these kinds of
the potential applications of their work. “There is a company within BIORICE that is involved with the prototypes of cosmetics and nutraceutical products,” explains Dr Tassoni. “They go to a lot of fairs to meet potential customers; we are all working in parallel, to try and move things forward.”
At a glance Full Project Title BIOtechnology for the recovery of valuable peptides from industrial RICE by-products and production of added value ingredients for nutraceuticals, functional foods and cosmetics (BIORICE) Project Objectives BIORICE project aims at filling the gap of knowledge of the involved SMEs on rice protein by-product pre-treatment, peptide isolation and relative bioactivity and safety testing, allowing SMEs to integrate in their production lines and add to their portfolios new bioactive ingredients and protocols enabling innovative product formulations applicable in food, cosmetic and nutraceuticals sectors. Project Partners Small and Medium Enterprises: Principium Europe S.r.l. - Italy • Farcoderm France SAS - France • Amideria il Cervo S.r.l. - Italy. Research and Technology Development: Alma Mater Studiorum - Italy • Fraunhofer Umsicht - Germany • Sterlab - France Contact Details Project Coordinator, Dr Annalisa Tassoni, PhD Botany Researcher Dept. of Biological Geological and Environmental Sciences University of Bologna Via Irnerio 42, 40126, Bologna, Italy T: +39-051-2091280 (ext. 2091278) E: firstname.lastname@example.org W: www.biorice.eu
Dr Annalisa Tassoni , PhD
Dr Annalisa Tassoni is a Research Leader in the Plant Biotechnology group at the University of Bologna. She represents the University of Bologna in different working groups at both national and international level, including: Alma Food Integrated Research Team; the Healthgrain association, and the PublicPrivate Partnership for Biobased Industries.
Digestion of protein rice by-products by means of a bioreactor apparatus.
Children are our future, yet they have historically been excluded from many of the decisions that affect their daily lives. This, combined with the exponential growth in technology, has resulted in education systems that aren’t tailored to their needs. Tricia Jenkins of the SIS Catalyst project tells us about their work to find, apply and refine ways of involving children in the decisions that will affect their future
Putting children at the centre of education The children of today are growing up in a world that is fundamentally different from that in which their parents and grandparents spent their formative years, with technological development and global connectivity expanding the scope of human possibilities. A university education is increasingly important in these terms, bringing many benefits to both the student and the wider community, yet access to Higher Education remains far from evenly distributed across society; this is an issue which lies at the core of the SIS Catalyst research project. “SIS Catalyst is a mobilising mutual learning action plan. We focus on children, as they’re the one group that is not included in the development of policy and practice. It’s the one group that is most affected by them as well – our children are our future,” stresses Tricia Jenkins, the project’s coordinator. One of the key questions the project is addressing is that of how children will be involved in the development of education systems. “We work with what we call ‘children’s university-type’ activities, which are a big movement across Europe and beyond,” explains Jenkins. “We particularly focus
on what we called locally-defined minorities. In other words, which group of young people are under-represented in higher education within that particular locality?”
their childhood gave them,” she outlines. The project tackles these kinds of social inclusion issues by focusing on the young people who are least likely to go to university; Jenkins believes that their
SIS Catalyst is a mobilising mutual learning action plan. Children are the one group that is not included in the development of policy and practice. It’s the one group that is most affected by them as well – our children are our future University access The main factors which tend to make a difference in determining university access are where a young person lives, the income of their family, their gender, and their ethnicity. To illustrate the latter point, there are around 12 million Roma people living across Europe, yet their progression to university is amongst the lowest of any community, while Jenkins says there are also other factors to consider. “If a child in the UK spends time in care, their likelihood of going to university is about 6% in England and 2% in Scotland. That’s nothing to do with their ethnicity, it’s to do with the educational disadvantage that
views should be taken into account in the development of education systems. “We have been exploring the concept of different stakeholders working together, including children, to explore the key issues around education. We’ve got various focus points for the issues – the role of key players, the role of students, the role of young people. We’ve been looking at two planks of that – one is the delivery side, and the other is the policy-changing, the strategic side,” she explains. The project brings together a variety of organisations, including civil society bodies and universities from over 30 countries across the globe, to look at how
scientific communities engage with children. Key players with responsibility for change in education have been identified. “The first group of major stakeholders are the strategic enablers – people who can enable change to occur, or to prevent it. Then there are the hands-on people, the people that effect change. So we have two kinds of key players – those that we call strategic enablers, and those that we call ‘hands-on’ key players,” explains Jenkins. Both these groups of people can affect the way in which a subject is perceived, which has an impact on students’ desire to study it further. “The likelihood of someone becoming a scientist is actually quite a lot about the culture in which they were educated – it is not just about their ability,” says Jenkins. “The route into becoming a chemist runs through a university course. Therefore determining who goes to university dictates who becomes a chemist. There are lots of chemistry outreach activities, but they often come from a pre-conceived understanding of who is welcome within the scientific community and who is not.” This can result in a lot of unintentional excluding mechanisms around language, role models, values, priorities and even images. An image of a scientist wearing a white coat may reinforce negative perceptions and lead a student from a locally-defined minority to decide against studying chemistry for example, even if they have an aptitude for it. “We live in a society where the educational decisions that are made, by a child and their family, dictate the direction of their learning journey. We have to accept that the responsibility for those decisions is actually much more broad, so it’s much more about the institutions, it’s about society, it’s about our intentional messages,” stresses Jenkins. At the moment these decisions can send children down linear routes of learning, yet Jenkins believes this is unnecessarily
restrictive. “Children are naturally curious; they want to know what things are and how they work. At the end of their education system, they are in linear lines of learning, and they’re going in fixed directions. Then we have to wait until they’re postgraduates, post-docs, before we start talking about inter-disciplinary, multidisciplinary learning and projects,” she says. “Children’s natural curiosity is actually much broader and is very multidisciplinary. But our education system sends them along linear lines of learning.”
Educational Change This approach is not preparing children effectively for the challenges of both today and tomorrow, believes Jenkins, which has knock-on effects in terms of our scientific base. Scientific knowledge is the basis of economic development, underlining the importance of public engagement with science. “We face very big issues in wider society, and public engagement with science is a key driver for the European Commission,” says Jenkins. This lies at the heart of Horizon 2020, the EU’s biggest ever research and innovation programme, which aims to secure Europe’s global competitiveness. “The Responsible Research and Innovation document underpins Horizon 2020, and we have aligned all of our recommendations to that, as it is linked to Europe’s ability to respond to societal challenges,” continues Jenkins. “We are linking our work in SIS Catalyst to Responsible Research and Innovation tools. Some of our work is targeted at policymakers specifically, but increasingly we talk about collective impact. We are not going to make the changes just through one section of society, or one section of the education system. Change will occur when there is a wider recognition that we all have a role to play.”
At a glance Full Project Title Children as Change Agents for Science and Society (SiS Catalyst) Project Objectives SiS Catalyst was an initiative to foster and support ethical, effective and sustainable engagement between children aged 7-14 years and the social, cultural, political, scientific and educational institutions which make the decisions that will shape their futures. Project Funding European Commision funded Mobilising Mutual Learning Action Plan. EU contribution: €4,090,120 Project Partners Association Paris-Montagne • Centre for Ethics, University of Tartu • ECHO, Center for Diversity Policy • European Access Network • European Students Union • Faculty of Organization and Informatics (FOI), University of Zagreb • Groupe Traces • Jozef Stefan Institute • Junge Uni - Universität Innsbruck • Karelia University of Applied Sciences • Kinder-Uni - Universität Tübingen • Kinderbüro - Universität Wien (KUW) (Vienna University Children’s Office) • The Foundation of Max Reinhardt • University of Liverpool • ZOOM Kindermuseum Contact Details Project Coordinator, Tricia Jenkins European Access Network Lawrence Building, University of Roehampton, Roehampton Lane, London SW15 5PJ, United Kingdom T: +44 (0)151 794 5203 E: P.M.Jenkins@liverpool.ac.uk W: http://www.siscatalyst.eu
Tricia Alegra Jenkins MBE
Tricia Alegra Jenkins MBE is the Director of the International Centre for Excellence in Educational Opportunities at the University of Liverpool, where she has worked for nearly 30 years. As President of the European Children’s Universities Network and Principal Investigator of the Mobilisation Mutual Learning Action Plan - SiS Catalyst: Children as Change Agents for Science and Society, she travels extensively promoting the concept of social inclusion and institutional change through the active learning, from and with children.
Sustainable future, lightweight solution The majority of lightweight components are currently produced using virgin raw material. By using postconsumer, recycled material, the SuPLight project aims to produce lightweight components that will help improve the sustainability of the transport industry, as scientific coordinator Sverre Gulbrandsen-Dahl explains The
production of lightweight components and solutions is an important element in efforts to improve the sustainability of several areas of industry. The use of aluminium wrought alloys in particular could dramatically reduce the weight of structural components, an area which forms the primary research focus for the SuPLight project. “We aim to produce lightweight components for the transport industry based on recycled materials,” says Sverre GulbrandsenDahl, the project’s scientific coordinator. The production of virgin aluminium consumes a lot of energy, but the project is developing new industrial models for sustainable lightweight solutions. “One of the project’s key goals has been to design new alloys which can use up to 75 per cent or more recycled material,” explains Gulbrandsen-Dahl. “These new alloys have a slightly higher alloy element than virgin wrought alloys.” Recycled material Many of the components used in the transport industry are currently produced using virgin raw material, or through closed-loop recycling within the production chain. By using postconsumer, recycled material, Gulbrandsen-Dahl and his colleagues aim to reduce the weight of these components. “Around 2-3 per cent of the weight of most components is made up of alloying elements, and around 97 per cent is the aluminium,” he outlines. Researchers are adding more alloying elements, while at the same time aiming to maintain the quality of the material. “The mechanical properties of the product have to be on the same level as existing products that are based on virgin material, while the corrosion properties also need to be at the same level,” continues Gulbrandsen-Dahl. “Production efficiency is an issue here. Since we add more alloying elements it’s harder to form the material – that reduces
productivity, and some of the production processes currently used are not suitable.” Researchers have developed new forming technologies to compensate for these types of issues, and while this may have an impact on the weight of the component, this is counteracted by its improved sustainability. The project is using a commercially available algorithm to assess the impact of new production methods throughout the full lifecycle of the component. “The algorithm itself is based on commercially available tools, but its implementation and the way in which it’s being used with the modelling tools has been developed in SuPlight,” says Gulbrandsen-Dahl. Researchers can use these tools to identify the specific impact of new production methods throughout the lifecycle of a product. “The goal here is
and material routes for components, which may be central elements in transport safety systems. “The Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) require more and more information regarding material content, energy consumption and other environmental factors,” says Gulbrandsen-Dahl. A multi-disciplinary approach is required to provide this wide variety of information to system manufacturers. Three sets of simulation models are being developed within the project, calculating the impact of new products and technologies. “We have a material model, which describes the developmental mechanical properties, given the chemistry and the heat treatment. The project has also developed a tolerance model, which calculates the geometrical
We have looked at test cases, where factors like energy consumption and carbon footprint have been calculated, based on established production processes. We then use them as reference points for what it is possible to achieve with new materials and technologies to be able to make corrective actions, preferably in the definition of the materials, products and processes to be used. This could be done virtually,” says Gulbrandsen-Dahl. This reaches right back to the initial production methods. While virgin aluminum can be lightweight, it’s also important to consider the energy used in its production. “We have looked at test cases, where factors like energy consumption and carbon footprint have been calculated, based on established production processes. We then use them as reference points for what it is possible to achieve with new materials and technologies,” says Gulbrandsen-Dahl. This is an important element in the project’s work in developing tools to calculate and simulate new processing
tolerances, and how that may vary. Then we have a product performance model which is designed to help optimise the product’s geometry – we have also developed an atomistic model, which is used to calculate the maximum impurity levels which can be allowed for a specific element,” outlines Gulbrandsen-Dahl. “Then we have lifecycle models, where we look at beginning of life, middle of life, and end of life calculations.” These components of course do not work in isolation, but as part of an overall transport solution. A framework for communication between software tools has been developed within the project, which Gulbrandsen-Dahl says brings important benefits. “We then have the possibility to increase our knowledge database as simulations are run. Since this
At a glance Full Project Title Sustainable and efficient Production of Light weight solutions (Suplight)
is done automatically we can run a very large number of simulations, and actually explore the possible solutions much more thoroughly than we could with manual, expert-driven simulations,” he explains.
Exploitation plan The results of the project’s work so far have been positive, with researchers reaching their objectives in terms of the proportion of recycled materials used, and also in reducing the environmental impact of components. The wider goal now is to identify how these results can be used, both by industry and for further research; Gulbrandsen-Dahl and his colleagues are working on an exploitation strategy. “Two manufacturing companies are partners in the project – one is a manufacturer of car components, and the other is a manufacturer of plane components – and they have been very active. They have
already implemented some of the SuPLight technology in their development and production,” he says. “They have expressed a strong interest in further development based on this technology, and we have also received enquiries from outside the transport sector.” This will be an important element in the project’s exploitation plans, and several presentations and information packages have already been prepared for potential users. The individual project partners each have interests in their own tools and in developing them further – either in research, as a service provider, or applying them in production – yet Gulbrandsen-Dahl hopes to pursue further collaborative research in this area. “We have had a good collaborative way of working, and we would like to look for new opportunities to work in this area together in future,” he says.
Project Objectives Lightweight component and solutions are increasingly important for a more sustainable world, and in this case wrought aluminium alloys have large potentials for dramatic weight reduction of structural parts within transportation. There is, however, a need to increase the post consumer recycling of wrought alloy aluminium, due to the high energy consumption for manufacturing of virgin aluminium. SupLigth address new industrial models for sustainable lightweight solutions – with 75% recycling in high-end structural components for transportation. Project Funding Budget: 4,270 million Euro EC contribution: 3,095 million Euro Project Partners Industrial partners: Raufoss Technology AS (Large, Norway) • Hellenic Aerospace Industry SA(Large, Greece) • Misa AS (SEM, Norway) • RD&T Technolgy AB (SME, Sweden) • C3M d.o.o (SEM, Slovenia) / Universities: Gjøvik University College (Norway) • University of Stuttgart (Germany) • Ecole polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (Switzerland) • Université de Technologie de Compiègne (France) • Norwegian University of Science and Technology (Norway) / Research Institute: SINTEF Raufoss Manufacturing AS (Coordinator, Norway) Contact Details Sverre Gulbrandsen-Dahl SINTEF Raufoss Manufacturing AS T: +47 916 01 205 E: Sverre.Gulbrandsen-Dahl@sintef.no W: http://www.suplight-eu.org/
lu m ta gh r ou go fw lin yc
• Reverse logistics
Sustainable industry models
l i fe t ic lis h o e nt or m ls f nage ma
• Robust Processes
• Process routing
• Alloy composition
Increase performance to weight ratio for advanced products
Sverre Gulbrandsen-Dahl is an experienced researcher and manager of international projects, dealing with Materials and Metallurgy. He is the Centre Director for SINTEF Raufoss Manufacturing as well as head of the society of regional aluminium manufacturing companies (TotAl).
• Multi-objective optimisation • Multi-continuum simulation • Tolerance modelling
Bridging the gap in energy research Energy efficiency and renewable energy sources are widely recognised as a research priority, with growing demand and environmental concerns putting current methods of supply under pressure. The ener2i project aims to find innovative and sustainable solutions to these challenges through collaboration between EU and Eastern European countries, as Manfred Spiesberger explains The
development of sustainable sources of energy is widely recognised as a research priority, along with improvements in efficiency as countries seek to deal with the emerging challenges of growing demand, energy insecurity and climate change. While many Eastern European countries have historically lagged behind the rest of the continent in their commitment to energy efficiency, the ener2i project is working to find innovative solutions that will help the region bridge the gap between research and industry. “The aim is to bring research players in the energy field together with business,” says Manfred Spiesberger, the project’s scientific coordinator. The project is working with four Eastern Partnership countries (EaP); Armenia, Georgia, Moldova and Belarus, aiming to strengthen links between the research and business sectors in these countries, as well as with their counterparts in the EU. “We run a range of activities including brokerage workshops, which we organise in the EU and in EaP countries. We held workshops in June and December last year in Brussels, in October in Belarus and in December in Moldova, where we invited colleagues from the EU and EaP countries. Around 60 participants attended each event and could establish contacts for developing joint projects” continues Mr Spiesberger.
Innovation capacity This approach is designed to spread knowledge and enhance the innovation capacity of manufacturers, energy service companies and in particular of SMEs. The project organises a competition in the EaP countries for innovation vouchers, encouraging closer links between research and business. “We are allocating six such innovation vouchers per EaP country, which are worth 4,000 Euros each, offering small-scale support to business. In Moldova we will be able to allocate 11 vouchers in total, due to a top-up grant from the Central European Initiative. The money goes to SMEs, and they team up with research organisations,” outlines Mr Spiesberger. Innovation vouchers have already been awarded to SMEs in Belarus, and some of the company representatives plan to travel to Lithuania to collaborate with researchers, which it is hoped will lead to significant improvements in energy efficiency. “We are working for example with a spin-off company from the Belarus State University in Minsk which produces organic cosmetics. They want to improve the energy efficiency of their production processes. Producing cosmetics involves an energy-intensive process, which is why they came up with the proposal for an innovation voucher.” Innovation vouchers are used in several EU countries, and Mr Spiesberger says it’s important to share their experience of this
approach to innovation support. “We work constructively and cooperatively with our colleagues, and discuss with them what is going on in the EU in terms of innovation support and energy research,” he explains. “Luckily we have suitable and experienced partners in our consortium, which are able to manage such support tools. We have the Belarusian Innovation Fund, the Agency for Innovation and Technology Transfer from Moldova, the SME Agency of Moldova (ODIMM), the Technology Transfer Association of Armenia and the Energy Efficiency Centre Georgia on board.” While support mechanisms like innovation vouchers or science parks (in which research organisations often share buildings with private companies) are relatively common in the EU, they are a less familiar sight in the Eastern partnership countries. “We try to adapt such tools and know-how in a cooperative way to the local needs. We work closely with our colleagues and inform them about what is going on in the EU in innovation support, in energy research.” Research and innovation links can be established on either a domestic or international basis, with the wider goal of sharing expertise and strengthening cooperation. However, while the project’s research agenda crosses national borders, the energy situation is far from uniform across the four EaP countries. For example Georgia is an important hydro-energy
producer, and they may become a net exporter of energy in the future, whereas the situation for Moldova is quite different; they are a huge importer of energy, and very much dependent on imports from Russia. Researchers are looking into these issues, and have described the energy sector in each country in individual reports available via the project website, along with a comparative cross-country report. “The important issue in each of these countries is to improve energy efficiency,” stresses Mr Spiesberger. “In the former Soviet Union energy was abundant, and there was no regulation and no real thinking about using it efficiently. It’s really a very important issue.” This importance is further heightened by geo-political considerations, which are a major factor in terms of each country’s energy strategy. Each of the four participating EaP countries was part of the former Soviet Union, and while they have since gained independence, Russia still exerts considerable influence in the region.
stakeholders that we can inform about our activities,” explains Mr Spiesberger. Twinning activities between researchers and businesses and between EaP and EU countries have also been established in the frame of the project, which will encourage further knowledge sharing and collaboration. “Colleagues from the EaP countries have the opportunity to visit research or business organisations in EU countries that are involved in our network.” This allows them to visit prominent institutions in the energy field, organisations that are leading the way in terms of innovation. These include the Technical Universities of Twente, Hamburg and Graz, the SINTEF research organisation in Norway, the Centre for Social Innovation in Austria, the Energy Agency of North-Rhine Westphalia in Germany and others. “The stakeholder database is instrumental here – we look which representative could be interested in visiting a specific organisation. We try to match interests, and send the right people over for twinning visits.” Researchers
We are allocating six such innovation vouchers per each country (except Moldova, where we have 11 vouchers available), which are worth 4,000 Euros each, offering small-scale support to business. The money goes to SMEs in the Eastern partnership countries, and they team up with research organisations “Belarus is a close partner of Russia, and cooperates in the customs union Russia has established with Kazakhstan and Belarus. So they get preferential treatment for energy imports, whereas Moldova cooperates much more closely with the EU.” These countries are therefore following different development paths, in line with their own circumstances and wider goals. “Armenia is land-locked, and they are in a difficult geo-political situation, while Georgia has strained relations with Russia, and is trying to become more energyindependent. They aim to use their own renewable energy resources much more intensively,” says Mr Spiesberger.
Twinning activities The central task for the project is to build closer links between businesses and research organisations, helping them address common research problems and performing joint innovation activities. A stakeholder database has been built to help heighten awareness of the project’s work. “When we organise brokerage events, either in the EU or in our partner countries, then we need a database of
and energy stakeholders from within the EU also have the opportunity to visit EaP countries to study and widen their experience, and to establish contacts. Twinning will form a key part of the project’s agenda until it ends in September 2016. Certain quantitative goals were set out at the beginning of the project, while Mr Spiesberger hopes their work will also have a qualitative impact. “We aim to heighten awareness of energy efficiency issues among our colleagues in the EaP countries, what the situation really is in the EU and what techniques and technologies can be transferred. This is not only on the energy side, but also the innovation and stimulation side,” he says. While the social and economic context of Eastern Europe is very different to much of the rest of the EU, and it’s not always possible to transfer techniques and solutions between the two, Mr Spiesberger says there is still significant scope for improvements. “Much more can be done in terms of renewable energies, raising awareness of energy efficiency and installing energy efficient technologies,” he says.
At a glance Full Project Title Energy to Innovation - Reinforcing cooperation with ENP countries on bridging the gap between energy research and energy innovation (ener2i) Project Objectives The main objectives of ener2i are to enhance the innovation capacity and to stimulate effective linkages between research and business actors from the EU and the EaP countries Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, and Moldova in the field of energy efficiency (EE) and renewable energy sources (RES). See also: http://ener2i.eu/about/ener2i Project Funding Funded by EU Framework Programme 7. Grant Agreement no: 609532 Project Partners ZSI, Austria • RCISD, Hungary • ESEIA, Austria • BelISA, Belarus • NAS RA, Armenia • AITT, Moldova • TTA, Armenia • BIF, Belarus • EEC, Georgia • EE GMBH, Germany • ODIMM, Moldova Contact Details Project Manager, Mr Manfred Spiesberger Centre for Social Innovation (ZSI), Vienna, Austria T: +43 1 495 04 42 39 E: email@example.com W: www.ener2i.eu
Mr Manfred Spiesberger
Mr. Manfred Spiesberger is researcher and project manager with ZSI since 2008. He is a social scientist specialised in R&D and innovation policies in Eastern Europe, in evaluations and foresight. Previously he was an Austrian national expert with the European R&D funding organisation for cooperation with the countries of the Former Soviet Union – INTAS, where he was responsible for the innovation programme.
Energy efficiency is a key priority in the development of integrated circuits, and researchers continue to investigate new means of improving efficiency. Dr Christoph Hagleitner of the NEMIAC project tells us about their work to build a processor using a fundamentally new digital logic technology
Switch on to the future of logic technology Integrated circuits play a central role in a variety of electronic devices, including computers and mobile phones, and researchers continue to investigate how performance can be improved further. While CMOS (Complementary Metal Oxide Semi-conductor) technology has been dominating the field for the past decades, its limitations in terms of energy efficiency are becoming increasingly apparent. “First of all, it has become difficult to lower the supply voltage. That has traditionally been one of the main drivers of energy efficiency when scaling CMOS technology,” says Dr Christoph Hagleitner, the coordinator of the NEMIAC project. “The other key point is the leakage current, the passive power that is expended just by switching the circuit on. This has become more and more of a problem due to the ever smaller dimensions of the gate oxide and drain/ source regions. Technological advances like high-k metal gates are only partial solutions and now the static power is approaching the dynamic power of modern CMOS technology.”
NEM relays These issues limit the potential application of transistors in ultra low-power applications. The NEMIAC project is developing an alternative switch which uses an entirely new digital logic technology, called Nano-ElectroMechanical (NEM) switches; this switch addresses both the shortcomings of CMOS technology identified by Dr Hagleitner. “NEM switches can have airgaps of 10nm for actuation voltages smaller than 1V. So the leakage of even a scaled NEM switch is virtually zero,” he outlines. “The second point is that NEM switches have an abrupt switching. So once the threshold voltage is reached, the switch pulls in and closes the contact to within millivolts. CMOS switches
have what is called a sub-threshold slope – you need at least around 400-500 millivolts between the closed and open state of the switch. So a NEM switch, with this abrupt switching technology, has the potential to lower the supply voltage far beyond what CMOS will ever be able to achieve.” This is a real priority in the ongoing development of smart components, such as autonomous sensor nodes, wireless communications devices and mobile computers, as well as many other consumer applications. Dr Hagleitner draws a parallel here with smartphones, which typically need to be recharged regularly; sensors
Fig 1: NEM switches developed in NEMIAC can be co-integrated with standard CMOS logic.
Energy efficiency is the key problem in terms of enabling a lot of autonomous sensor applications, where huge numbers of sensors will be deployed in the environment face similar issues, as they have the same basic components. “Energy efficiency is the key problem in terms of enabling a lot of autonomous sensor applications, where huge numbers of sensors will be deployed in the environment,” he explains. While battery technology has advanced over recent years, it hasn’t yet reached a point where autonomous sensors could be left out in the field for years without needing to be recharged. “You don’t really want to have to recharge the sensors every two days, so this is an important problem,” says Dr Hagleitner. These NEM switches hold real potential in this regard, yet certain issues around speed, reliability and miniaturisation remain unresolved. Previously mechanical switches were thought to be very slow, but researchers have found that NEM switches perform differently at smaller scales. “If you miniaturize mechanical switches to the micro or nano-domain, they’re actually not that slow any more. So a switch in the
nano-metre range has resonance frequencies on the order of a gigahertz (GHz), which allows you to build circuits that operate at a few hundred megahertz,” explains Dr Hagleitner. “That’s comparable to CMOS. So suddenly this extreme miniaturization of mechanical switches has brought them into a range where they are competitive with low-power CMOS circuits and other low-energy circuits. That’s what we’re aiming at.” The project is also looking to develop innovative circuit architectures alongside this work on the NEM switches, which is key to the wider goal of building the world’s first nano-electro-mechanical processor. This approach of looking at the complete system distinguishes the NEMIAC project from other initiatives pursuing research into NEM relay-based logic. “We are also looking at the new circuit techniques that would be enabled by NEM switches,” says Dr Hagleitner. The application of NEM switch
At a glance Full Project Title Nano-Electro-Mechanical Integration And Computation (NEMIAC) Project Objectives The aim of NEMIAC consortium with Swiss, British, Swedish and Italian partners is to demonstrate the viability of nano-electromechanical (NEM) switch technology for ultra-low-power microelectronic applications technology could open up a whole new set of circuit techniques that further reduce power consumption beyond what can be achieved with CMOS. “We use mechanical switches to drive static power consumption down; this has historically been an important driver of development in the industry,” continues Dr Hagleitner.
Long-term performance These NEM switches will of course have to function at the same level as CMOS switches in terms of both efficiency and long-term performance if they are to be widely applied. The air-gap is the key issue with respect to the performance of the switch; researchers are attempting to reduce this down to around 50 nanometres. “To be really competitive against the power of CMOS, you need to scale that further, but then one has to take into account that this is a fairly immature technology,” says Dr Hagleitner. The main goal of the project is to demonstrate the feasibility of the NEM technology, yet Dr Hagleitner and his colleagues are also considering the potential future applications of their research. “Some applications should be enabled by the technology we have developed in this project. There are some specialized applications where the NEM switches have a significant advantage over the CMOS-based logic, even without scaling,” he continues. This will form an important part of the
Fig 3: SEM image of a single-stage NEM switch inverter and an output stage to interface the logic circuit with external measurement equipment.
future agenda in this area, which will balance both applied and fundamental research into NEM switches. Similar technologies are already being applied commercially, for example in band switches for mobile phones, and Dr Hagleitner says further research could look into commercialising the technology for specialist applications. “There could in future be more research-oriented work that further miniaturises the technology we have now,” he outlines. There are still some technical hurdles to overcome to take the technology into the nanometre domain, which is an important issue in terms of future commercialisation. “The switch needs to be built to be competitive on the broader scale against low-power CMOS technology,” says Dr Hagleitner.
Fig 2: SEM image of a fabricated curved in-plane NEM switch and closeup views of the contact in open and closed position.
Project Funding Funding scheme: STREP Total Cost: €3,958,629.00 EC Contribution: €2,440,000.00 Project Partners IBM Research GmbH (CH), Lancaster University (GB), École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (CH), Kungliga Tekniska Hoegskolan (SE), STMicroelectronics S.r.l. (IT), University of Bristol (GB) Contact Details Project Coordinator, Dr Christoph Hagleitner IBM Research Zurich Research Laboratory Saumerstrasse 4 CH-8803 Ruschlikon, Switzerland T: +41 44 724 8470 E: firstname.lastname@example.org W: www.nemiac.eu/ W: http://researcher.ibm.com/researcher/ view.php?person=zurich-hle
Dr Christoph Hagleitner
Christoph Hagleitner manages the accelerator technologies group at the IBM Research Lab in Ruschlikon, Switzerland. The group focuses on (hardware-based) accelerators for big-data and analytics applications. The research addresses all aspects of accelerator design, ranging from system architecture and compilers to new nano-electro-mechanical (NEM) devices and circuits.
The Beagle Has Landed The first European mission to land on Mars and search for signs of life, past or present, was classified as a failure for 11 years. The man behind the mission died in 2013. It was with huge amounts of both relief and frustration that the Beagle 2 lander was recently found intact, if stuck in mid-deployment, on the surface of Mars. It’s time we reassessed the balance of success and failure of this important milestone of achievements. By Richard Forsyth
n Christmas day 2003, a space probe about the size of a motorbike wheel called Beagle 2 tore through the thin Martian atmosphere at 20,000 kilometres per hour. Several days earlier on 19 December, the craft had ejected from its mothership, the European Space Agency’s Mars Express Orbiter, which had given it a 400 million km piggy back ride from Earth to the red planet. The Beagle 2 had no propulsion system of its own and would be required to manage its own stability, power, thermal control and sequencing procedure for entering the atmosphere and settling on the surface of Mars. It was wrapped in protective airbags with the expectation of bouncing on the surface. As planned, its parachutes deployed – and eventually it came to settle on the soil of the alien world. This was a historical moment. Beagle 2 was the first British and European spacecraft to successfully land on Mars. Whilst what appears to be two of the four solar panels unfolded like the petals of a flower, at some point one of them – for
reasons unknown – became stuck and the deployment sequence halted. Speculation since, is that maybe the integrity of the structure was distorted from a heavy bounce on the surface and this trapped a solar ‘petal’ from unfurling. Unfortunately this meant that even though the probe would have likely collected data and even taken a picture of the surface, no information could be transmitted back to Earth as without full deployment of the solar panels there was no way of communicating its findings – the antennae was trapped. Back across the gulf of space in the UK, the Beagle 2 mission team waited anxiously for the sound of a call-sign to alert them of a successful landing. The call sign was in fact composed by the Britpop band Blur – a piece of brilliant space PR that would have made a special moment. Of course, as we know now, it never came. The sense of disappointment was overwhelming. The presumption was that the probe had crashed, speculation was that the parachutes did not open and the probe accelerated to its destruction.
There are very few true superstar scientists, think Stephen Hawking and Brian Cox and undoubtedly Pillinger joins their ability to capture the imagination of others 58
Inset Images to right: Top: Professor Colin Pillinger and the Beagle 2 model. Middle: Computer generated picture of Beagle 2 lander leaving Mars Express. Bottom: Damien Hirst Beagle 2 spot painting. On gold background. Photos courtesy Mike Levers. All Rights Reserved Beagle 2 Images sourced from https://web.archive.org
The Pillinger Effect The silence from Mars was particularly bitter for the man who was considered the driving force behind the Beagle 2 project, the charismatic Professor Colin Pillinger of the Open University. There are very few true superstar scientists, think Stephen Hawking and Brian Cox and undoubtedly Pillinger joins their ability to capture the imagination of others, he had that special something that set him apart and endeared him to the media as much as the public. Pillinger understood that science needed to be a bit more accessible and a bit more rock and roll if it was to get support and funding. He also understood that landing a spaceship on an alien world was something that could really capture the public’s imagination. The very idea of involving popular culture icons into the mission was inspired. It wasn’t just Blur composing a call sign – they also asked the famous artist Damien Hirst to paint the test card used to calibrate the probe’s cameras and spectrometer instruments after landing. Collinger courted the press to great effect. He was famously filmed putting a replica of the 33kg spacecraft (a £50 million project) he was working on, in a supermarket shopping trolley and instantly gave scientific questing a more every man, every day feel. He once appeared on the UK music show, Top of the Pops, playing a drum for the England football anthem Vindaloo and he rarely shied away from an opportunity to promote and enthuse about science. He even appeared on an episode of the TV show Top Gear in what was called a ‘Boffin Burn-Out’ challenge with Brian Sewell and Prof Heinz Wolff, to see who could do a wheel burnout in a Nissan 300ZX. Students were inspired by his enthusiasm and his turn of phrase, it felt like the man next door could conquer planets. Pillinger, however much a showman, was an accomplished scientist and one of the few British scientists allowed to study the moon rock bought back from the Apollo missions in the 60’s. He won many awards including a CBE in 2004, and the Michael Faraday Prize in 2011. He had a distinctive image – broad ‘pork-chop’ sideburns, a strong Bristolian accent and a leather jacket, which separated him from the crowd in the science fraternity. Pillinger was every bit the
Above Left: The UK-led Beagle-2 Mars lander, which hitched a ride on ESA’s Mars Express mission and was lost on Mars since 2003, has been found in images taken by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. This colour image has been sharpened to show possible details of the Beagle-2 lander on the surface of Mars. © HIRISE/NASA/Leicester. Above Right: Frame from animated gif of the landing site targets: the Beagle-2 lander and its parachute and rear cover. © HIRISE/NASA/Leicester country farmer his image portrayed. He lived on a 30-acre dairy farm outside Cambridge, where he had 16 cows, a horse, two pigs, two dogs and several cats. His home lifestyle may be the reason he had a down-to earth ‘metal’ resilience to his personality. It was never-the-less a devastating blow when his dream of landing his British made probe on the Martian surface seemed to evaporate.
original intended landing site in the plains of Isidis Planitia, that Beagle 2 was aiming for in 2003. One of the objects looked startlingly familiar in close-up – almost like a white fuzzy outline of the head of Mickey Mouse – with two distinct looking solar panel ears. The other objects were presumed to be the parachutes and part of the capsule the probe entered the atmosphere in. It was a big moment in science and in history.
The Benchmarks Of Success
Hitting The Cross Bar
In 2004 the mission was officially classified as a ‘Fail’. A year later, the scientist was diagnosed with progressive multiple sclerosis which made it hard for him to walk. Tragically in May 2014 – aged 70, Colin Pillinger died of a brain haemorrhage, which was devastating for his wife and two children and a sad shock for his legions of fans. When that happened, for many it was the closing of the last chapter on Beagle 2’s incredible story but in early January of this year there was a flurry of excitement as the press were alerted to an important news development by the London’s Royal Society scientific institution. It transpired that the HiRISE camera aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, a camera capable of picking out small objects on the Martian surface from 185 miles above, found a very interesting trio of man-made objects about 5km from the
When the news broke, Damien Hirst tweeted, ‘I have a painting on Mars! It’s amazing!’ UK Space Agency chief executive Dr David Parker said: “What we can say with some confidence today is that Beagle 2 is no longer lost and furthermore it seems we are not looking at a crash site. “We have good evidence of Beagle 2 resting on the surface of Mars. These images are consistent with the Beagle 2 having successfully landed on Mars but then only partially deploying itself.” As Mark Simms, Beagle 2’s Mission Manager said in a filmed interview to Keith Cooper from Astronomy Now: “It got close to fully working. It is a vindication of all the hard work people put in between 1998 and 2003, both academia and industry. It also vindicates the engineering and design of Beagle two… Colin, being a football fan would have said we’ve hit the cross bar – I’d like to get the goal next time and he would have been furiously
Background Image: © NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./Arizona State Univ.
writing grant applications and lobbying people to go back and do a Beagle three.” There are in reality many reasons the Beagle 2 mission could be considered a success. The landing is of obvious importance for the credibility of the mission and the investment that went into the project but beyond that – as science often does in perceived failure – the true lessons become apparent by studying the processes of a project and what can be learned from them. Whilst success is obviously desired, a bit of failure can focus the analysis and go a long way. The first success story that the mission of Beagle 2 could claim was in the method it drummed up interest in the subject matter – largely led by Pillinger. In reality, before the discovery in January this year, Pillinger’s true legacy was already safe. He was a man who spearheaded an incredibly ambitious mission to Mars and his enthusiasm and ‘un-stuffy’ approach inspired young generations to get excited about space science. If Europe is to become a contender for space it must have young generations now that understand the potential and importantly who are motivated to participate and learn in the first place. The Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency, Dr David Parker, told the BBC that Professor Pillinger had played a huge part in raising the profile of the British space programme and he had inspired “young people to dream big dreams.” Pillinger’s own life is testament to the importance of why it’s important to start young with scientific ambition. In the BBC’s Desert Island Discs programme, Pillinger recalled “If I ever said as a child I can’t do this,” his father would reply, “There’s no such thing as can’t”. Indeed – inspiring public support in that classic PR friendly way has rubbed off a bit. Mark Simms and the British Space Agency are also involved in Lunar 1 – a crowdfunding mission to the moon. Crowdfunding may well become a method to circumnavigate funding from grant applications but it once again relies on public support and to a large degree exceptional PR, the like Colin excelled at. New blood in the space programme needs mentors and adventurers to be role models and Pillinger fitted the profile. His energy was infectious to many people around him and certainly affected many of his colleagues. Martin Bean, Vice-Chancellor, The Open University, acknowledged this by stating: “Professor Pillinger was not only an inspiration to us here at the OU, but to people across the world with his infectious enthusiasm for science and discovery.” All of this is all very well – but how can we say there was
success in the actual mission? We need to step back here and think about what happened in its entirety. Beagle 2’s legacy paved the way to miniaturised space technology, some of which is being given over to the ExoMars 2018 rover and being proposed for other space missions in planning. The probe pioneered new methods of project management and construction. The limited ‘complete probe’s’ size of 65kg meant that it had to have an integrated design as one entity. There were ‘no boxes’ as such, explained Mark Sims – it was a collective system driven by restricted parameters to work within. That said – some of the component parts of Beagle 2 consisted of technology that could be transferred into other market sectors – such as healthcare. For instance, part of the funding for the mission to Mars was provided from the Welcome Trust, a medical charity. They knew that some of the equipment developed for the mission could be converted for medical uses. They made a pact with Pillinger that he would help them if they helped finance his project. The Beagle 2’s mass spectrometer is an instrument that can identify unknown compounds. It is lightweight and survives extreme temperatures – whether that is the cold of Mars or the heat of being sterilised and it runs on low power (the space probe used less power than a light bulb). Researchers soon realised that it could be used to diagnose tuberculosis (TB) which kills near 2 million people a year. A prototype is being tested in trials in Malawi. As for space exploration - Beagle 2 is now more than ever the mission of second chances. It is the mission that gave the British and European space race a new lease of life to go further – to explore on the edge. It brought planetary science and industry together in a focused way. More than anything, however, it showed us the ways to do things. It showed us to be excited, brave and to take risks. Without these three elements the will to move forward and to explore what is around us, will grind to a halt. The mission goal of the Beagle 2 was to find signs of life – past or present. The legacy it leaves is a story of human endeavour but also of chance. It’s a story of hard graft, perseverance and innovation. It shows us all that however prepared we are, luck always has a say. It’s a story of heartache but ultimately – this year – a story of one of the greatest of human achievements, to land a space craft on an alien world. Finally, we must say congratulations to the Beagle 2 team and to the late Colin Pillinger – as one mystery of Mars has at last been solved.
www.beagle2.com Simulation of Beagle 2 on the martian surface. All Rights Reserved Beagle 2 Image sourced from https://web.archive.org
Fostering collaborative communities Commons-Based Peer Production (CBPP) is being used across an ever-wider range of activities, including software development and open data sources, challenging traditional conceptions of productivity and value. The emergence of the CBPP model raises questions which Mayo Fuster Morell and Samer Hassan of the P2Pvalue project aim to address The proliferation of
collaborative communities is radically challenging our traditional conceptions of productivity and value. CommonsBased Peer Production (CBPP), a new model of production in which large numbers of people work together collaboratively, has been used in the development of GNU/Linux, Wikipedia and Open Street Map, raising fundamental questions that the P2Pvalue project aims to address. “New definitions of value are necessary in order to evaluate the contribution of the
wide diversity of productive activities,” says Mayo Fuster Morell, a post-doctoral researcher at IGOP in Barcelona. Although CBPP is being used ever more widely, the concept is still relatively underdeveloped, which is an important area of Fuster Morell’s research. “CBPP involves some form of ‘collaboration’ and some ‘production’ – it is a process among peers; in their interaction they form, develop, produce or build something valuable that was not present before, and which remains accessible as a public good,” she says.
P2Pvalue This approach has led to the development of widely-used pieces of software and other commons resources, yet many lack a market value in the conventional monetary sense. The P2Pvalue project brings together six partners from across Europe to investigate the conditions which favour collaborative production, aiming to foster value creation and productivity in CBPP communities, and inform the design of a decentralized infrastructure. “The application of conventional value metrics is increasingly problematic, not
Some of the the multidisciplinary team of P2Pvalue.
P2Pvalue methodology for building theoretically grounded free/open source software. only in CBPP, but in information and knowledge economics more generally,” says Fuster Morell. Researchers are investigating the issue of value in CBPP communities by identifying a set of dimensions, and applying them empirically. “For the statistical analysis, five diverse dimensions of value are distinguished: community building, objective accomplishment, monetary value, social use value and reputation,” explains Fuster Morell. This reflects the varied and complex nature of the work produced by CBPP communities, which includes citizen science programmes, product design and open data sources. While the economic impact of this work tends to be significant, it is not typically accompanied by a large monetary flow, leading researchers to consider other dimensions of value. “There is a wide diversity of conceptions of value within CBPP communities, and these dimensions aim to cover the whole spectrum,” says Samer Hassan, a researcher and assistant Professor at Universidad Complutense de Madrid,
another key figure in the project. The foundation of the project’s research is a detailed understanding of how CBPP communities work and how value is created. “Community interactions are not solely or mainly coordinated by contractual relationships, mercantile exchange or hierarchical command. In contrast, individuals are in an autonomous condition and there is a decentralization in the conception and execution of problems and solutions,” explains Fuster Morell. Where it is applied by large online communities, the CBPP model can be understood as enabling widely distributed groups of people to work together, regardless of their location. However, although most known examples of CBPP have a strong digital presence, CBPP is not restricted solely to the digital environment. “A community does not need a digital dimension, or to be digitally-based, to be defined as a CBPP,” says Fuster Morell. The results of these communities’ work is very diverse, spanning everything from operating systems and websites through to
P2P currency, illustrating the versatility of the CBPP model. “We have identified up to 30 areas of activities where CBPP takes place, including: FLOSS communities, Open technology, Free software social networks and platforms, Collaborative archive and Collaborative video,” continues Fuster Morell. The traditional organisational structure is very different to this CBPP model, with people having clearly defined responsibilities and lines of management. However, the emergence of post-modern networks and communities, partly fuelled by technological development, is stimulating change. “We are seeing plenty of experimentation in the forms of organization, both in the for-profit and non-profit sectors,” outlines Hassan. The American software company and distributor Valve is a prime example; the company has a completely flat organisational structure, offering employees a high degree of freedom and encouraging them to take risks in the pursuit of technical development. “This was unthinkable two decades ago. This is
justified on the basis of exploiting workers’ talent, and technological development has provided the tools to facilitate this change,” continues Hassan.
P2Pvalue The project’s work in developing a technosocial platform will play an important role in the continued evolution of the CBPP model. This development is being informed by both the results of social research, including surveys, interviews and legal analysis, and feedback from CBPP communities on the project’s prototypes. “P2Pvalue considers multiple dimensions of value in CBPP, including not only monetary value, but also reputational and ecological value, as well as others. There is a wide diversity of conceptions of value within CBPP communities, and these dimensions aim to cover the whole spectrum,” says Hassan. The platform will be based on decentralized architecture and is being designed through a Lean approach, with short development cycles, which Hassan says brings important benefits to the project. “This methodology is commonly followed by IT start-ups, but thanks to the funding we are receiving
tailored for the actual needs of real-world communities. Instead of building something and hoping it will be used, we make sure it will be used before building it,” explains Hassan. This is key to ensuring the viability and effectiveness of the software, and also to the project’s long-term goal of fostering the sustainability of CBPP communities. P2Pvalue is part of the Commons social movement, and the project is working together with other networks and collaborators towards the development of a more CBPP-driven society. “Our research is not only published in scientific journals or conferences. We follow a strongly Open approach where all datasets are released as open data, software as free/open source, publications as open access, and any content is openly-licensed publicly,” says Hassan. “We encourage third parties to access, reuse, reproduce and disseminate our research and tools. We also work to expand the developer community, and the more the platform fulfills a social need, the easier it will be to become an economically sustainable project on its own.”
Industry is already looking more and more towards Commons-Based Peer Production (CBPP) and this
is clearly a growing trend. We are seeing large corporations like Orange and Deloitte fund large studies on CBPP in order to
understand this new paradigm
from the EC, we can apply it without pressure from investors,” he outlines. This bottom-up, lean approach enables researchers to tailor the platform to the specific needs of real-world communities, rather than having to work in a top-down way. While company structures are in many cases well-established, Hassan believes there is an openness to change in Europe, particularly following recent financial turmoil. “The economic crisis has not damaged but in fact boosted CBPP, as society is more open to embracing alternatives, and there is a real need for new models different to those that the classical private and public sectors, which are now in crisis, have provided,” he says. Researchers aim to deploy several customised nodes of the federated platform, giving real-world communities the opportunity to interact and collaboratively create content. “The Lean approach allows us to build software
The P2Pvalue platform will be adopted by three or four CBPP communities, who will help guide its development. This could eventually lead to the wider adoption of CBPP as a means of production. “We are working with the communities to make our work their own. If the software platform is successful, as we expect it to be, it will be used not just by our casestudy communities but also by others,” says Hassan. Researchers are applying for further funding to extend the work of the project, while Hassan says that industry is taking a growing interest in CBPP, heralding wider change. “Industry is already looking more and more towards CBPP and this is clearly a growing trend. We are seeing large corporations like Orange and Deloitte fund large studies on CBPP in order to understand this new paradigm. We are witnessing the beginning of a shift, and no one wants to be left behind,” he stresses.
At a glance Full Project Title Techno-social platform for sustainable models and value generation in commons-based peer production in the Future Internet (P2P Value) Project Objectives • Enhancing community sustainability by adopting the governance, legal, economic, and technical infrastructures that favour value creation and resilience; • Supporting the contributors with systems of reward that allow value to flow back to the creators; • Integrating the functionalities of online social networking services and collaborative software in a privacyaware platform based on a decentralised architecture. Project Partners Please see website for full details Contact Details Project Coordinator, Professor Nigel Gilbert Department of Sociology University of Surrey, Guildford, Surrey GU2 7XH T: +44 (0)1483 689 173 E: email@example.com W: www.p2pvalue.eu
Mayo Fuster Morell (Right) Samer Hassan (Left)
Mayo Fuster Morell is a postdoctoral researcher at the Institute of Government and Public Policies (IGOP), where she directs the IGOPnet.cc research group. Samer Hassan is an activist and Assistant Professor at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid (Spain). He has more than 45 publications in Computer Science and Social Sciences.
Advanced radio technology to support mobile traffic growth Mobile traffic is expected to grow further over the coming years, and current networks may not be capable of meeting this demand. Dr Laurent Dussopt , coordinator of the MiWaveS project tells us about their work in demonstrating the feasibility of millimeterwave (mmW) communications and how they can support continued traffic growth The mobile traffic
transmitted over wireless networks is expected to grow very sharply over the coming years, with an increasing number of users, each managing a larger volume of data. Existing cellular networks will be unable to cope with the anticipated surge in demand, an issue which the MiWaveS project is addressing through the development of advanced radio technologies to support continued traffic growth. “MiWaveS is targeting wireless communications in millimetre wave bands. More specifically, we target frequency bands around 60 GHz, and between 70-80 GHz,” explains Dr Laurent Dussopt, the project coordinator. The reasons why the project is targeting these specific frequency bands are that they will allow much higher traffic capacity per area and very high data rate transmissions, in the range of several gigabits per second. “This is much higher than current radio technologies used for cellular communication,” continues Dr Dussopt. “The idea is to use a shorter wavelength so that radio technologies can benefit from a much larger frequency band than those that are currently used.”
Spectrum availability There is only a limited amount of spectrum available to operators currently, which means there is a limit to the volume of mobile traffic they can handle. The project will demonstrate how advanced millimetre-wave (mmW) technologies can provide multi-Gigabits per second access to mobile users. “The main focus of the project is on showing and demonstrating
the feasibility of these mmW communications,” says Dr Dussopt. A key focus is ensuring that the network is capable of implementing communication with a given mobile user, using several mobile radios simultaneously. “When an individual uses the mmW radios that we are investigating, they will remain connected to the network using the legacy radios, which provide much wider coverage and a more reliable wireless link,” outlines Dr Dussopt. “So we have to make sure the network is capable of handling these two radio links with a given user simultaneously.” The efficient exploitation of the mmW spectrum is another important issue in the development of next generation mobile
individual using a given frequency band – other users will be able to use the same frequency resource, even if they’re only 100-200 metres away. This is not the case at lower frequencies, because the propagation range is much larger and leads to severe interference issues.” These interference issues have historically been a major bottleneck in the evolution of mobile networks, caused by the number of base stations deployed by operators to meet the traffic demand. The project is investigating key enabling technologies to support the integration of mmW small-cells in future heterogeneous networks, which means that different kinds of base stations will be used. “We will continue to use current 3G and 4G base
Millimeter-wave communications will enable a dramatic improvement of mobile networks performances in terms of capacity, data rates and efficiency networks. Strictly speaking, these mmW technologies do not have a higher spectrum efficiency than lower frequencies, but Dr Dussopt says there are two significant differences between them. “First of all, there is a larger spectrum available in the mmW domain, so this is how we benefit from increased data rates,” he explains. The second important point is that mmW radios have a much shorter communication range than legacy technologies. “That means we can re-use the same spectrum resources in a much denser way in geographical terms, and therefore increase the capacity of the network” says Dr Dussopt. “Consider an
stations, but in addition to that we will also use mmW access points,” says Dr Dussopt. The key technologies being developed in the project are antennas, mmW circuits and algorithms for controlling reconfigurable antennas and implementing the networking functions. “These algorithms will enable a self-organized operation of the network, dynamic routing of the transmissions, and optimized radio resource allocation,” continues Dr Dussopt.
Network communication It will be important at this point to ensure that there are mechanisms by which the network can understand when a mobile
At a glance
user is close to a mmW access point, effectively a base station. Once the network is aware that a mobile user is within reach of a mmW access point, it will then transfer the information to the user. “So there is a whole mechanism to set up communications between the mobile user and the mmW access point,” explains Dr Dussopt. This will enable higher data rates, meeting the demands of modern mobile users. “When a mobile user is within reach of a mmW access point, it will then be possible to achieve a much higher data rate,” outlines Dr Dussopt. “Of course, there will be limits in terms of the number of users, and maximum data rates, but it will certainly be a dramatic improvement to the current state of the network.” This is of course in the long-term interests of mobile operators, who are constantly aiming to improve the service they offer and differentiate themselves from their competitors. The project consortium includes a number of smallmedium enterprises and larger companies, who have played a key role in defining use cases; one scenario being considered is a densely populated urban area. “In urban areas, there are large numbers of people
who use wireless services, or exchange large amounts of data, either for work or for their personal use. This could be videos, or personal or professional data,” says Dr Dussopt. Other, more specific use cases include busy shopping malls; Dr Dussopt says mmW access points could bring important benefits to these areas. “Shoppers may be interested in interactively receiving informations about the products available in nearby shops, while the shop owners themselves may be interested in installing these mmW access points, to offer this multi-media content to their customers,” he outlines. Researchers expect to achieve a maximum data rate of about 5 Gigabits per second for a given mobile user and 10 Gigabits per second for the wireless link between the access point and the network. Along with continued technical development, researchers are also considering standardisation issues around the development of 5th generation mobile networks. “There are many discussions about what frequency bands will be allocated to mobile communications in the future and what licensing scheme will be most appropriate,” says Dr Dussopt.
Left Diagram: MiWaveS concept of an heterogenous network of Macrocells overlaid by MMW small cells.
Full Project Title Beyond 2020 Heterogeneous Wireless Network with Millimeter Wave Small Cell Access and Backhauling (MiWaveS) Project Objectives MiWaveS investigates and will demonstrate key enabling technologies and functionalities supporting the integration of millimeter-wave smallcells in future heterogeneous networks, particularly at the level of networking functions and algorithms, and integrated radio and antenna technologies. Project Funding Funding scheme: IP Total Cost: €11,349,195 EC Contribution: €7,358,113 Project Partners CEA (FR), Telecom Italia (IT), Orange (FR), Nokia (FI), Intel Mobile Communications (DE), STMicroelectronics (FR, IT), National Instruments (DE), Sivers IMA (SE), Optiprint (CH), TT (FI), Tech. Univ. Dresden (DE), TST (ES), Univ. Rennes 1 (FR), Univ. Surrey (UK). Contact Details Project Coordinator, Dr Laurent Dussopt CEA-LETI T: +33 (0)4 38 78 58 98 E: firstname.lastname@example.org E: email@example.com W: www.miwaves.eu
Dr Laurent Dussopt
Below Diagram: MMW small-cell access points will use antenna beamsteering techniques to serve multiple users.
Dr Laurent Dussopt received the Ph.D. degree in electrical engineering in 2000. From 2000 to 2002, he was a research fellow with The University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. Since 2003, he has been with CEA-LETI, France, as a research engineer and project leader on radio and antenna systems. His research interests include mainly advanced antenna systems for wireless communications at microwave and millimeter-wave frequencies.
Bringing the cloud
closer to users
While maintaining strong data consistency is relatively simple in a centralised cloud, this approach no longer meets the needs of modern online services, which handle huge numbers of concurrent updates. Dr Marc Shapiro, Leader of the SyncFree project, tells us about their work in exploring new approaches to maintaining data consistency
Social networks, advertising platforms
and multi-player games are familiar features of today’s technology landscape. Maintaining the consistency of data in these types of interactive services is an increasingly complex challenge. While historically it was relatively simple to maintain strong consistency in a centralised cloud, increased scalability requirements mean that new approaches are required, an area that the SyncFree project is investigating. “The general idea of the SyncFree project is to investigate how we can decrease latency, and increase availability, so that it scales better,” explains Dr Marc Shapiro, the project’s coordinator. The project has its roots in the long-term research of Dr Shapiro and his colleagues, who have worked together on the scalability of cloud and distributed computing. This work attracted the attention of the commercial sector. A number of businesses, including Basho Technologies in the UK, Danish company Trifork and Finnish company Rovio, were looking to deploy large-scale databases for their applications. “They want their data to be always available, accessible and updateable, even when there are poor network conditions or failures. Our research group had principled solutions that were exactly what they were looking for,” says Dr Shapiro.
Researchers were in a position to help develop an approach to this practical problem facing industry, namely maintaining the data consistency of interactive services against a backdrop of continued growth in the number of users and the volume of data they generate. Interactive services, such as virtual wallets, social networks and healthcare information networks, have grown rapidly over recent years; maintaining data consistency in these services is a growing challenge, due to issues including geographical spread, network delays, operational costs and hardware failure. A key question is how data from these interactive services can be updated consistently while also remaining available, in the sense that users are always able to make updates to their database. The SyncFree project’s approach is to replicate the data across several distributed data centres, and to develop a method of distributing updates over these copies. “With this approach it is now possible to make multiple updates to the same record at the same time,” says Dr Shapiro. “Whereas classically updates need to be coordinated across the whole system, our approach decouples the replicas, and distributes updates to the replicas in an asynchronous manner.”
The foundation of this work is ConflictFree Replicated Data Types (CRDTs), which offer many advantages to programmers, including encapsulation, low latency of updates and full-time availability. These CRDTs also require less computation and network resources, and Dr Shapiro says programmers find them relatively easy to use. “We encapsulate and hide all the complicated programming, of distribution and of concurrency, inside the data type. The basic idea is to support and embrace concurrent updates, and to merge them in a deterministic fashion,” he outlines.
CAP theorem The project plans to maintain open-source libraries of reference CRDT implementations, and develop a highlyscalable CRDT database, which will include familiar abstractions such as sets, maps or sequences, to be used in future scalable distributed applications. A key consideration in the development of such applications is the CAP (consistency, availability and partition tolerance) theorem, which was put forward by Computer Scientist Eric Brewer. “The CAP theorem says you cannot get consistency, availability and partition tolerance at the same time,” explains Dr Shapiro. “If you want your data to be strongly consistent
– which is the case with an online bank account for example – then when a network failure occurs (partition) your data will not be available.” By contrast, the project’s approach provides partition tolerance, or reliability, together with a weaker form of consistency. Instead of providing strong consistency, so that a user knows their data is the most recent version at the moment that they view it, Dr Shapiro says the SyncFree approach provides what is called eventual consistency. “This is a guarantee that your data will converge as soon as the network is up and running,” he outlines. “The data is always available because we allow concurrent updates. We allow a user to read and write, even though the replica cannot connect with other replicas. But that means those replicas might diverge for a short period, so they’re not strongly consistent any more.”
kind of problem. “CRDTs are a principled solution that is guaranteed to always work,” he says. The evolution of the internet is of course difficult to predict, but Dr Shapiro and his colleagues are looking to improve CRDTs further and adapt them to emerging needs, so that they prove a long-term solution. One area of interest is scaling to much larger numbers of replicas than is currently possible, while Dr Shapiro and his colleagues are also looking at new kinds of applications. “We’re looking at applications that have stronger requirements and more complex needs,” he says. “We are also looking at making it easier for programmers to access distributed programming with CRDTs, by providing tools so that it’s easier to programme and develop these systems.” This research has been driven by a
Whereas classically updates need to be coordinated, our approach decouples the replicas and distributes updates to the replicas in an asynchronous manner This level of consistency might not be sufficient for online banking, but it is less of an issue in other large-scale online services. The project consortium includes Danish company Trifork, who run an application through which all Danish medication records can be accessed. “Every hospital in Denmark has its own server for this network. Patients can go to different hospitals, and those hospitals share their information. This means that, in an emergency, any doctor from any hospital can access and update the record of any patient,” explains Dr Shapiro. The data needs to be available and distributed across different locations; Dr Shapiro says CRDTs offer an effective solution to this
combination of scientific curiosity and the practical needs of industry, which have converged together around a common agenda. The project consortium is relatively small by the standards of EU projects, comprising only eight major partners, and Dr Shapiro plans to pursue further research in this area. “We will continue looking at the problems around scaleability and consistency, and how they could be solved from a principled, algorithmic point of view,” he outlines. “We anticipate that future applications will have a kind of transactional approach, where you can update many different pieces of data. We’re working on a mechanism that is transactional, scaleable and available.”
At a glance Full Project Title Large-scale computation without synchronisation (SyncFree) Project Objectives Large-scale on-line services including social networks and multiplayer games handle huge quantities of frequently changing shared data. Maintaining its consistency is relatively simple in a centralised cloud, but no longer possible due to increased scalability requirements. Instead, data must replicated across several distributed data centres, requiring new principled approaches to consistency that will be explored by the SyncFree project. Project Funding SyncFree is a European research project taking place for 3 years, starting October 2013, and is funded by the European Union, grant agreement n°609551. Project Partners Inria (FR) • Basho Technologies (GB) • Trifork A/S (DK) • Rovio Entertainment (FI) • Faculdade de Ciências e Tecnologia, Universidade Nova de Lisboa (PT) • Université Catholique de Louvain (BE) • Koç Üniversitesi (TR) • Technische Universität Kaiserslautern (DE) Contact Details Project Leader, Dr Marc Shapiro Inria & LIP6, UPMC 4, place Jussieu 75252 Paris Cedex 05 France T: +33 1 4427 7093 E: firstname.lastname@example.org W: https://syncfree.lip6.fr/ W: http://lip6.fr/Marc.Shapiro/
Marc Shapiro is a Senior Researcher at Inria. His research topics cover different aspects of large-scale parallel and distributed computing systems. After his PhD at LAAS (Toulouse), Marc Shapiro did his research at MIT (Cambridge, USA), CMIRH (Paris, France), Inria (Rocquencourt, France), Cornell University (Ithaca, USA), at Sun Microsystems (Chelmsford, USA), and Microsoft Research (Cambridge, UK). He is currently a senior researcher for Inria in the Regal group (Inria-LIP6).
One step ahead in internet security Smart mobile devices are an increasingly ubiquitous feature of everyday life, yet they can be vulnerable to cyber-attacks, the impact of which reaches beyond privacy and security issues. The NEMESYS project of the EU FP7 develops, on a day to day basis, novel security technologies for seamless service provisioning in the smart mobile ecosystem, as Professor Erol Gelenbe explains A quick glance
down any busy street tells you that mobile devices are becoming increasingly ubiquitous, and people use them for an ever-widening range of everyday tasks. These devices communicate first of all by accessing the wireless networks that are around us, as Professor Erol Gelenbe, the coordinator of the NEMESYS project explains. “Mostly the wireless networks are provided by telephone operators. Communications then enter what we call a backbone network, which is essentially a private network, run by the same operators or, by the companies that provide a service to them,” he outlines. “Beyond that, the communication goes through another wireless network, to reach another enduser – if it’s a voice communication. It might reach a website, if it’s for Internet purposes, or it might reach a cloud server. So the communications that we think of as, broadly speaking, telephone communications, have become universal.”
Physical infrastructures These communications access different physical infrastructures, and there are security risks across that whole chain. This issue is at the core of the NEMESYS project. “Broadly speaking, there are two main security risks. One kind is where the information that you are conveying is actually being illegally tapped into, in one way or another. It is not just an issue of reading what you have written, or listening in to your conversation – it’s also a matter
of trying to understand what you’re doing and inferring some valuable information out of that. That information could be used by a third party for their commercial benefit” says Professor Gelenbe. Another form of attack is trying to delay or stop normal communication, which Professor Gelenbe says can also have a big impact. “Suppose somebody delays the transfer of data from large number of electricity meters. Not only will this affect end-users, who may not get the energy that they need, but it will also influence the quality of service and hence the reputation of the energy provider,” he points out.
what the attacks are doing, we try to attract them to certain points, called honey-pots, where we can analyse them more effectively,” outlines Professor Gelenbe. Researchers in the project are also gathering information from industry on cyber-attacks, deepening their understanding of how attacks work. “A lot of information is also available through communications between operators and service providers,” says Professor Gelenbe. Researchers can use this information to identify those parts of the network and the system design which could potentially be improved. Rather than thinking in terms of
In future we may use self-driving cars. The person who previously would have been driving will be working on their tablet while the car drives itself. But driving itself means more than just driving, it also means communicating with cars around it, and with the walls, barriers and traffic lights on the road The impact of this kind of disruption goes beyond privacy and personal security to affect a far broader range of issues, underlining the wider importance of smart phone and mobile security. The NEMESYS project addresses this by developing technology that can detect different forms of attack, and re-organise the system’s operation in a manner that either eliminates the threat or mitigates its impact. “This is based, first of all, on our understanding of how the system operates. Then, on the basis of our understanding of
single isolated threats, Professor Gelenbe says it is the way a system is designed and operated as a whole which creates security risks. “The standards that we use in communications for mobile devices are not free of design errors for example, which means they can be vulnerable to attacks,” he outlines. Researchers look at the whole system as a source of possible flaws that could be exploited; these threats could have an impact beyond mobile security. “For instance, in the future we may use selfdriving cars. The person who previously
At a glance Full Project Title Enhanced Network Security for Seamless Service Provisioning in the Smart Mobile Ecosystem (NEMESYS) Project Objectives The main goal of NEMESYS is the research and development of novel security technologies for seamless service provisioning in the smart mobile ecosystem. Mobile and smartphone security is a fast moving field. To this end, NEMESYS gathers and analyses information about the nature of cyber attacks targeting smart mobile devices, so that appropriate countermeasures can be taken to combat them. Project Funding NEMESYS is an EU FP7-ICT funded project, under the grant agreement no: 317888.
NEMESYS Architecture would have been driving will be working on their tablet while the car drives itself,” continues Professor Gelenbe. “Now, driving itself means more than just driving, it also means communicating between cars, and the walls and barriers on the road. A mobile network threat can the impair the physical security of the driver and the car.” An attack on the mobile network underpinning these communications would clearly have serious consequences, underlining the importance of security in the smart mobile ecosystem. Professor Gelenbe says the issue is becoming evermore pressing. “We really need to understand how we can render the system resilient, secure and stable,” he stresses. The project is developing novel security technologies for this purpose. “One set of technologies is related to how we select and change various parameters in existing networks, so that attacks are detected and rapidly mitigated. They’re related to our understanding of the overall design. Some parameters cannot be changed overnight, so any change to the system is going to be gradual and based on consensus,” continues Professor Gelenbe. “The system is parameterized in many different ways, and you can modify the parameters to, on the one hand, detect attacks, and on the other hand render them ineffective or less harmful.” The project is also developing a layer of software that encapsulates operating systems, which will be used to gather further data. Operating systems on mobile devices have certain transition steps in their behaviour, from which information can be collected about attacks. “If certain transitions happen more frequently than
others, then this is an indication that there is some kind of anomalous behaviour,” explains Professor Gelenbe. Researchers are developing software that can gather information from honey-pots. “A mobile phone may be targeted by an attack, so we create software that gathers information about that attack, and then analyse it and do the transition analysis I talked about, at the operating system level,” outlines Professor Gelenbe. “Then of course this information must go back to a reporting and analysis system.”
Project Partners The NEMESYS Consortium consists of 6 complementary partners from 5 different European Countries, namely United Kingdom, Greece, Spain, Germany and Italy. Contact Details Project Coordinator, Professor Erol Gelenbe Imperial College London T: +44 207 594 6342 E: email@example.com W: www.nemesys-project.eu
Professor Erol Gelenbe
Statistical analysis This system is based on network-wide statistical analysis and also includes a visual component to help detect, identify and analyse threats. While it’s difficult to predict the nature, extent and timing of a cyber-attack, Professor Gelenbe says it is possible to prepare for when they do occur. “What you can do is look at the technology that’s being deployed and try to see how you can detect an attack when it happens,” he outlines. This of course is an issue that concerns both government and industry, and Professor Gelenbe and his colleagues are keen to translate their research into practical improvements. “We’re talking to governments about regulatory and policy issues, which could have wider implications,” he says. “We are also discussing possible extensions in the form of new enterprises and new research projects. We are dealing with exploitation, looking at the parts of the project that could be transferred to industry, or sold or commercialised – either by companies from within our project group, or from outside.”
Erol Gelenbe was born in Istanbul, and graduated from Ankara College and the Middle East Technical University in Turkey. He is a Fellow of IEEE and ACM, a Member of the French National Academy of Engineering, and of the Science Academies of Hungary, Poland and Turkey. He has held Chaired Professorships at the Universities of Liege (Belgium), Paris Orsay, Paris Rene-Descartes, Duke University, and the University of Central Florida, before joining Imperial as the Professor in the Dennis Gabor Chair. His work has earned him technical awards from ACM (USA), the Institution for Engineering and Technology (UK), the French Academy of Sciences and the Parlar Foundation in Turkey.
Collective adaptive systems play a central role in today’s smart city applications, yet many existing modelling techniques do not scale sufficiently to build realistic models. We spoke to Professor Jane Hillston, coordinator of the QUANTICOL project, about their work in developing an innovative formal design framework that provides a unique modelling language for such systems
Design frameworks for the systems of tomorrow The socio-technical fabric of society is increasingly dependent on collective adaptive systems, which are constructed as a collective of heterogenous components and are used in a variety of smart city applications, such as energy generation and storage, or real-time transport information systems. The design of these systems must be supported by a powerful, well-founded framework that supports formal modelling and quantitative analysis, an area being addressed by the QUANTICOL project. “Mathematical modelling techniques that can handle systems of that size, and which can capture timing and probabilistic behaviour, are required to predict how well resources are being shared in terms of fairness and timeliness of response. We’re trying to extend existing techniques in this area,” says Professor Jane Hillston, the project’s coordinator. Researchers face two major challenges when looking at collective adaptive systems. “One is scalability. These systems are, by necessity, very large, and many existing techniques do not scale sufficiently to be able to build realistic models of operational systems,” explains Professor Hillston. “The other is that physical location of the entities plays an important role in these systems, more perhaps than in standard distributed systems.”
Boris bikes A good example of a collective adaptive system is the ‘Boris Bikes’ system in London, one of the case studies within QUANTICOL. The bikes are physically distributed across the city, yet matching supply to demand is a complex challenge. “A key issue for system planners is where to put the bike stations and how many
bikes to put at each. This is a difficult problem, because if users consistently find there are no bikes at a bike station, they will alter their behaviour, or possibly not use the system at all,” outlines Professor Hillston. Mathematical modelling has an important role to play in these terms, enabling system planners to predict the impact of specific changes, so that it can be run as efficiently and effectively as possible. However, while aware of the wider potential of their work, Professor Hillston says the project is currently focused on fundamental research. “QUANTICOL is quite a foundational project, in that we’re seeking to work with
population of users. Each of these components have different characteristics – the slots cannot move while the bikes can, but they can only be in a particular location if they’re matched with a slot. So they have to be put into a slot and people can only take one bicycle at a time. Then we add the spatial aspects, the locations,” explains Professor Hillston. Process algebras are used to describe the actions of these entities at the micro level and how they move between different states, such as a user moving from home, to the bike station, then getting a bike. “We describe the actions each of the entities can undertake, then describe how they are forced to either
QUANTICOL is a foundational project, in that we’re seeking to work with applied mathematicians who develop modelling techniques and abstractions. We aim to lift those mathematical techniques to a level where they can be used by systems designers, by embedding them into design languages applied mathematicians who develop modelling techniques and abstractions. We aim to lift those mathematical techniques to a level where they can be used by systems designers, by embedding them into design languages, which are small, formal languages,” she continues. The project’s main objective is to develop an innovative formal design framework that provides a unique specification language for collective adaptive systems. Researchers approach the mathematical modelling by looking at what each of the components in a system is capable of doing, building a population, then looking at how those populations need to interact. “With the Boris bikes, you have a population of bicycles, a population of slots, and a
synchronise or compete with each other as different populations of entities. There are clear rules about how that can be manipulated,” continues Professor Hillston. “Just as algebra tells you how you can manipulate symbols if you’re looking at x+y type equations, so there are rules about how you can rearrange things using process algebras.” These process algebras can be thought of as small programming languages which have certain rules about how entities can be combined. Certain properties have to be satisfied if specific mathematical techniques are to be applied. “Essentially we are talking about discrete systems, about numbers of entities that move around - so those are all discrete objects.
At a glance Full Project Title A Quantitative Approach to Management and Design of Collective and Adaptive Behaviours (QUANTICOL)
When we’re trying to do the scalable analysis, the very large analysis, we approximate that by continuous models, which are a set of ordinary differential equations. So we treat the populations as if they were fluid,” says Professor Hillston. However, Professor Hillston says the population has to be a certain size before this approach can be used; it might be applicable to London, but not to a smaller city with a less widely distributed system. “If you’re just looking at a very small bike-sharing system for example, the tool might say to you; ‘no, your system is too small,’” she outlines. “Our project partners are working with the city of Pisa, who are just establishing a bike-sharing system. Pisa is a small city with 14 bike stations and a relatively small number of slots at each – it’s therefore probably not appropriate to use the continuous approximation. But because it’s a smaller system, it’s fine to run a simulation.”
Design logics Once these mathematical models have been developed they essentially become a tool which can be used to investigate a system. Some parameters may still need to be changed to investigate particular scenarios though, so alongside its work in process algebras the project is also developing design logics, which enable system operators to ask particular questions of the mathematical model. “The systems we’re dealing with are very large and complex, so it’s quite difficult to know just which probabilities of which states within the system are the ones that you need to answer your question. That’s why we then use a logic, which will pick out the elements of behaviour that are relevant to the question we’re asking,” says Professor Hillston. This
could be the likelihood of a particular phenomenon, made up of thousands of individual states, occurring. “It may be that 100,000 states that make up a phenomenon, but they’re within a state space of 10 million states in total. So it’s very hard to know which ones are the relevant states,” explains Professor Hillston. “That’s why we use the logic, to do that filtering. Then we use mathematical techniques to calculate the actual probabilities of the states that really matter.” The project is currently doing some innovative case studies, using data from the Boris bikes, the Edinburgh bus network and smart energy systems, to understand the characteristics of these collective adaptive systems. The main focus is designing the language, and eventually a software tool will be developed; at first it will rely on people using the language directly, but Professor Hillston says it will evolve and develop. “By the end of the project it’s likely that we will have more graphical front-ends, where somebody looking at Boris bikes, or a similar system, could place their bike stations on a map and say how many bikes they plan to have, and estimate their number of customers. They would then be guided through their scenarios – they might want to ask; ‘well, what if I add another bike station here? What if my number of users goes up by 10 per cent?’ What’s the probability that a customer comes along and cannot get a bike?’” she outlines. The tool will be accessible and easy-to-use, even for nonmathematicians. “The tool would guide people through what techniques are appropriate for their model, or how they might adjust their model to make it amenable to different techniques,” says Professor Hillston.
Project Objectives The main objective of the QUANTICOL project is the development of an innovative formal design framework that provides a specification language for collective adaptive systems (CAS) and a large variety of tool-supported, scalable analysis and verification techniques. These techniques will be based on the original combination of recent breakthroughs in stochastic process algebras and associated verification techniques, and mean field/continuous approximation and control theory. Project Funding 2,605,000 euros Project Partners University of Edinburgh, CNR-ISTI, IMT Lucca, University of Southampton, INRIA Grenoble (LMU Munich and EPFL also initial partners) Contact Details Project Coordinator Professor Jane Hillston School of Informatics University of Edinburgh T: +44 131 650 5199 E: firstname.lastname@example.org W: www.quanticol.eu
Professor Jane Hillston
Jane Hillston is Professor of Quantitative Modelling in the School of Informatics at the University of Edinburgh and member of the Laboratory for Foundations of Computer Science. Her principal research interests are in the use of formal languages to model and analyse dynamic systems and the development of efficient solution techniques for such models. These models capture both engineered computer systems and naturally occurring systems such as biochemical pathways and the spread of disease within a population. Professor Hillston received the BA and MS degrees in Mathematics from the University of York (UK) and Lehigh University (USA), respectively. She received the PhD degree in computer science from the University of Edinburgh in 1994.
Technology for tomorrow’s educators Personal Learning Environments (PLE) represent a new trend in education, which could help engage students and provide a more individualised means of learning. The IMAILE project is using the pre-commercial procurement process to stimulate innovation targeted at practical needs, as project coordinator Ellinor Wallin explains The teaching profession
is keen to harness the benefits of technology in education, using it to provide teaching tailored to each student’s individual needs. However, technology must be targeted at practical educational needs if benefits are to be realised, an issue which is central to the IMAILE project. “The objective of the project is to identify new technologies to the challenges posed by increased demand for personalised learning, especially in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects,” explains Ellinor Wallin, the project’s coordinator. The project’s research covers primary and secondary education, aiming to enable closer dialogue between the technology demand and supply sides. “We are looking at pre-commercial procurement (PCP) processes. A key goal is to avoid ‘locking-in’ innovation capacity for SMEs and industry,” continues Wallin. “We have identified this common challenge of increasing demand for personalised learning, to which there are not currently any viable solutions available on the market.”
Class sizes The primary reason this has been identified as a major issue on the European level is rising class sizes. The average ratio is between 24-26 students to one teacher, making it difficult for staff to focus on individual needs. “All children require personalised learning – we are all
(PLEs) provide a means of providing more individualised teaching to all students; Wallin says some educational institutions already offer such environments. “PLEs are based upon the individual interests of the student, and are tailored to those interests,” she explains. “So a PLE should help the student to select the tasks that
Personal Learning Environments should support all students in reaching their goals. This could be students with concentration problems for example, but it can also be the gifted students, those who need different kinds of exercises and tasks to remain motivated individuals – but some require it more intensively than others. They may have concentration disabilities, such as ADHD, which is increasingly common in the classroom and demands a lot of attention from a teacher. This means there is less one-to-one interaction between the teacher and other students,” points out Wallin. Personal Learning Environments
interest them in a particular subject. It can help them with tasks or planning according to their individual needs.” These types of PLEs are currently used more for upper-secondary or university level education, now Wallin and her colleagues are investigating how their use could be extended further into primary and secondary education. Researchers
have analysed the global market, aiming to identify possible new solutions. “We have a functional criteria of what we would like. But this has to be very open – because otherwise the innovative capacity of suppliers responding to our calls would be restricted,” says Wallin. This research has included very thorough needs analysis, aiming to identify what students and teachers actually require and how the market responds to those needs. “We’ve held surveys on a European level. Around 450-500 teachers of STEM subjects have responded to our questions,” outlines Wallin. “We also sent out another questionnaire asking which subjects primary and secondary teachers would need more support with in terms of individualised or personalised learning.” Many teachers needed support in maths, a subject which can have an important impact on a student’s motivation and commitment to learning. Subjects like maths and science are technically demanding, and students who struggle may be discouraged without support. “Access to support in maths and science at primary and secondary education is crucial in determining which students will drop-out of education early,” stresses Wallin. This is one of the key reasons why the project chose to focus on STEM subjects, bringing together procurers from Sweden, Finland, Germany and Spain within the IMAILE consortium, while the needs analysis also covered other European nations. “There are big differences between European countries in terms of how they look at technology in schools,” says Wallin. “We held quite an intensive study before the project where we held discussions and workshops among the procurers to try and find a comon picture of how we would like to work in the project.”
Needs analysis The views of teachers, procurers and students were included in the needs analysis, generating a clear picture both of what future PLEs should look like and how that can be achieved. One of the key findings was that students want greater dialogue in class and more studentcentred learning; the first stage in this is to secure the necessary investment and develop the infrastructure. “The first question to ask is about the infrastructure in each school. Do they have broadband? Do they have the means to procure SmartBoards, tablets, and computers?” says Wallin. It’s also important to consider whether teachers have the skills necessary
to use these technologies creatively. “Some teachers are less familiar with new technology, and so use it as a substitute for exisiting methods,” continues Wallin. “The next step is to use technology in a different way, like in the flipped classroom, where students access material at home, and then come to school and ask questions of the teacher, so there’s more interaction between teacher and student.” This would be more like a university seminar than conventional primary and secondary education, where the emphasis has traditionally been on students absorbing information imparted by teachers. Wallin says this flipped classroom approach has been used in Swedish secondary schools. “Instead of giving classwork after the class, students get homework before. They listen to the subject matter, then they work in the classroom,” she outlines. Wallin believes that PCP is the ideal way to identify new products and services for this teaching model. “There are a lot of technological solutions on the market, but the teachers felt that not all of them fitted with their curriculum, or not all of them were developed to actually provide benefits in the classroom,” she explains. “They had a feeling that the ICT market and developers were telling them how to teach, instead of teachers saying ‘this is how we would like to teach, and we need this and this solution.’ So the project was almost a reaction to the presence of too many solutions on the market.” The project aims to create more dialogue between the suppliers and the schools to identify practical needs. This represents a significant cultural shift, as schools haven’t always been aware of the opportunities that technological development offers. “The PCP instrument is a great way of creating dialogue on a European level between the demand and supply sides,” says Wallin. The ultimate goal is to develop PLEs that enable students to take control of their education, which Wallin believes will bring significant benefits. “These environments should support all students in reaching their goals. This could be students with concentration problems for example, but it can also be the gifted students, those who need different kinds of exercises and tasks to remain motivated,” she continues. “The PLE should support teachers in planning lessons, help students get individualised tasks, and help to document and assess the learning process.”
At a glance Full Project Title Innovative Methods for Award procedures of ICT Learning in Europe (IMAILE) Project Objectives The overall objective of IMAILE is to use the PCP (pre-commercial procurement) process to identify new technologies and services which address the challenge of providing the next generation of Personal Learning Environments (PLE) in primary and secondary education within the subjects of Science, Math and Technology (STEM). Project Funding IMAILE (no.619231) co-funded by the European Commission, Seventh Framework Programme (FP7 – CP –CSA CALL 8.2.A) Project Partners Halmstad kommun (SE - Coordinator) • INNOVA ESZAK (HU) • Ministerium der Finanzen des Landes Sachsen-Anhalt (DE) • Konneveden Kunta (FI) • Oulun Yliopisto (FI) • E.N.T.E.R. (AT) • Varbergs kommun (SE) • INOVA+ (PT) • Otto-von-GuerickeUniversität Magdeburg (DE) • Ajuntament de Viladecans (ES) • Jyvaskylan Yliopisto (FI) Contact Details Project Coordinator Municipality of Halmstad (SE) Project Manager Ellinor Wallin T: +46 730 791862 E: email@example.com W: http://imaile.eu Please visit the CD Manual at http://www. imaile.eu/media/ http://www.imaile.eu/media/publications/
Ellinor has been working with high level EU projects and Innovations since 2008. Her specialist areas are access to finance for SME:s, Innovative procurement and the instrument PCP ( Pre commercial procurement), ICT and Education. Ellinor is currently contracted as speaker at events arranged by the European Commission, national innovation agencies and authorities in several countries.
Collaborative learning to improve public services The role of public administrators is evolving, with staff expected to deliver improved services while also adapting to rapid social, legal and regulatory change. The Learn PAd project is developing an e-learning platform that will support collaborative knowledge-sharing, as project coordinator Antonia Bertolino explains The delivery of
public services is underpinned by extremely complex processes. Effective training is therefore essential to maintaining and indeed improving the quality of public services, an issue at the core of the Learn PAd project. “The aim of this project is to deliver an e-learning platform that is specifically targeted at employees of public administrations,” says Antonia Bertolino, the project coordinator. The wider objective is to offer staff the opportunity to train and update their skills on a continuous basis, which is essential considering the rapidly changing nature of public administration. “The rules and laws coming from central government change regularly,” points out Bertolino. “So on the one side citizens want more efficient services. On the other side there are public administrators, and they face a lot of constraints.”
Model-driven approach There is little scope at the moment for public administrators to take time off work to take a course, so training needs to fit alongside today’s working patterns. Staff in any job typically learn from each other in a collaborative way, so the Model-Based Social Learning for Public Administrations (LearnPad) @ProjectLearnPAd (https://twitter.com/ProjectLearnPAd/) http://www.linkedin.com/groups?gid=6661961 Project Coordinator: Antonia Bertolino, Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche E: firstname.lastname@example.org W: http://www.learnpad.eu/ EU FP7-619583
Antonia Bertolino is a CNR Research Director in Pisa. Her research interests cover Software and Services Engineering, particularly validation and verification, on which she has published more than 150 papers. She serves in the editorial boards of the Journal of Systems and Software, ACM TOSEM and Empirical Software Engineering and is the General Chair of the Flagship Conference ICSE 2015.
project is using a model-driven approach to develop a platform that supports both informative and procedural learning. “We are going to deliver a platform in which collaborative learning is done through a model-driven approach,” says Bertolino. The advantage of this modeldriven approach is that once the model is in place, automated transformation can be used for different views and users.
activity. Researchers are in close touch with public administrators to guide development of these demonstrators. “Procedural knowledge and related information will be represented in suitable models and related forms and textual descriptions. For instance, business process models will be used to outline the steps to be followed to serve a citizen’s request.” explains Bertolino.
The platform will allow people that have information about a specific issue or question to include this material in the platform. We are going to use the wiki-concept, developing an open-source, collaborative, web-based platform “When you make changes to the model, you don’t have to manually re-address it,” explains Bertolino. “So most things are achieved by automated transformation. This is a Software Engineering concept that we are exploiting in the project.” The focus is on integrating existing components into a platform specifically focused on the needs of collaborative learning. “The platform will allow people that have information about a specific issue or question to include this material in the platform. We are going to use the wikiconcept, developing an open-source, collaborative, web-based platform,” outlines Bertolino. During the lifetime of the project, the platform will be demonstrated on two application scenarios; budget reporting to the European Commission by an EU-funded research project (as Learn PAd), and the procedures mandated by regional administrations for setting up and organising a business
Collaborative learning This approach will allow staff with the necessary credentials to manage materials and content, and to edit and add content as required. Staff looking for guidance will be able to go into this web-based platform, and find the information they require, while Bertolino says the platform will also offer other opportunities for collaborative learning. “People will be able to jointly enter a training session, simulating the delivery of services to citizens, and they can collaborate during the simulated session. So they can send each other questions and exchange documents, as they really do while serving citizens,” she outlines. The project’s current focus is on developing the platform for public administrations, but Bertolino says it could potentially be used in other sectors as well. “We are targetting the public administration scenario, but the platform could also be used in the private sector in future,” she says.
Kick Off Meeting
Published on Aug 28, 2015
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