Horizon 2020 is the European Union's programme aimed at developing science and innovation. Representatives from Belarus took every opportunity to participate in it and cooperate with scientists and researchers from other European countries.
This article presents several projects that are being implemented in the country with support from Horizon 2020. What results will they bring to Belarus and the EU?
A new microscope that will take diagnostics to a higher level
The research team from the Centre for Quantum Optics and Quantum Information of the Institute of Physics of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus once again confirmed its high scientific level when it became a member of the Horizon 2020 SUPERTWIN project. Within the framework of the project, scientists from Belarus, Switzerland, Italy, France and the Netherlands are working together to create a new microscope based on specific quantum states of light.
The SUPERTWIN microscope makes it possible to use extremely low light intensities in order to prevent damage to specimens, primarily biological ones. In addition, the new microscope will allow a much better resolution to be achieved than conventional optical ones.
A Corresponding Member of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus and the Deputy Head of the Centre for Quantum Optics and Informatics, Doctor of Physics and Mathematics Dmitry Mogilevtsev, explains: “A new microscope will allow taking diagnostics (for example, in medical research) to a new level. Imagine that there will be a device with which you will be able to clearly see something ten times smaller than you can see now, without damaging the samples. It will be possible to look at living objects, for example viruses or parts of a cell.”
The SUPERTWIN project received support through the Horizon 2020 programme, beating the strongest competition in the field. Out of more than 400 applications, only 11 projects received funding.
“We got the opportunity to freely interact with our western colleagues, to pay well for the work of those whose knowledge and skills are crucial for the implementation of the project. Our graduate students and young employees constantly travel to visit partners and attend conferences, our results are published in leading scientific journals. For example, in 2017 we were published in Nature Communications,” says Mogilevtsev.
Junior research associate Anton Sakovich is one of the 10 Belarusian scientists involved in the SUPERTWIN project. He gives another reason why it is important for him to participate in an international project.
“Undoubtedly, scientific cooperation is important and useful, and it brings a lot of experience. While working on this project, I was most impressed by the atmosphere of a good European organisation: everyone knows their area of responsibility. We should all learn to be this organised.”
The Belarusian scientists and their European colleagues are planning to finish work on the SUPERTWIN project in October of this year.
A new web platform that will encourage young people to study technical sciences
The participation of representatives of Polack State University in the Horizon 2020 programme began with the realisation that an unpleasant trend was taking place.
“We have noticed a decline in high school graduates' interest in technical and engineering professions in higher educational institutions. Young people believe that these sciences are difficult to study, so they choose other areas in education for themselves,” says the head of the international relations department of Polack State University, Sergey Peshkun.
This is a problem across Europe, and so universities from Spain, Germany, Belarus, Greece and Finland have joined forces to overcome it. This led to the creation of the STIMEY project (‘Science. Technology. Innovation. Mathematics. Engineering for Young people’), which has received support under the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme.
The goal of the project is to stimulate the interest of secondary school students in opting for a technical education in exact science. In order to achieve this, a social web platform is being created that will unite students, their parents and teachers. It will make the learning process more accessible and entertaining.
The Belarusian team is responsible for one of the main elements of the platform: educational games. Peshkun says IT developers from Polack State University will create at least three games aimed at developing the creativity of students of different ages.
The platform will also contain other interesting elements. Schoolchildren will be able to make suggestions on the practical implementation of simple but important tasks.
“Tasks can be very different. For example, how can you decorate a street in a certain part of the city? It is assumed that the best ideas will be realised,” says Peshkun.
As part of the STIMEY project, work is also underway to create a ‘social robot’ that will be built into the platform and the mobile application. Students will be able to communicate with the robot with their voices and the robot will help them solve problems.
Staff at Polack State University are cooperating with secondary schools, conducting focus groups among pupils, and advising teachers on the use of modern teaching methods.
“The study of physical phenomena can be made more interesting and exciting for schoolchildren,” says Peshkun.
Work on the STIMEY project will end in 2020. What do participants expect to see at the end of it?
“The new system of education can be presented in schools in optional courses. It will help improve the interaction between teachers and students. We are raising a new generation of students that will be focused on studying technical disciplines, including at our university,” says Peshkun.
He says this will help Belarusian enterprises to better meet their future need for qualified research and engineering personnel.
The project is important in that participation is not only for scientists in the capital, but also for researchers from the country’s regions.
Study: Helping Eastern Partnership countries create a space of wellbeing and stability
This month, in 11 European cities including Minsk, a project – whose results may have a significant impact on relations between Belarus and the EU countries – is being completed.
The EU-STRAT (‘EU and Eastern Partnership Countries: An Inside-Out Analysis and Strategic Assessment’) is an international research project that studies the relationship between the European Union and the countries in its Eastern Neighborhood: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine. The project aims to provide an inside-out analysis and strategic assessment of the links between the EU and these countries.
The Belarusian team was represented by researchers from the SYMPA School of Young Public Administration Managers and its research centre BIPART.
Sixteen analytical documents were created as a result of the international project.
“The recommendations provided on the basis of these studies will influence the policy that the European Union will pursue in relation to the six Eastern Partner countries, including Belarus,” says the director of SYMPA, Natalya Ryabova.
“The conclusions can also be interesting for our diplomats and civil servants who need to understand the logic behind the argumentation of European partners. An ordinary person will notice only long-term effects. For instance, in the form of the price of some imported goods, the conditions for obtaining a visa, etc.”
It is expected that, thanks to this and other research projects implemented under the Horizon 2020 programme, the cooperation between Belarus and the European Union will lead to more tangible results for the citizens of our country.
Author: Ruslan Harbachou