Call with CIS 2020

Within this round of the Seed Funding Grant, 11 projects were selected for funding out of the 31 proposals received, involving researchers from 7 Swiss institutions in collaboration with 7 countries. Please find below the full list of the funded projects.

Understanding the impact of genetic variations in POR gene on human health: New Ideas and collaborations, Switzerland and Belarus

The study of polymorphic variants in POR has attracted a lot of attention in recent years after our initial reports (Flück et al. Nature Genetics, March 2004, Pandey and Flück, 2013) and many research groups are interested in different aspects of this topic. Variations in POR may affect many different steroids and drug-metabolizing enzymes (cytochrome P450s, CYP proteins) and other metabolic processes in humans. A study on the sequencing of the POR gene in 842 healthy people detected 140 variations. The POR polymorphism A503V (POR*28, rs1057868), was present in about 25% of all alleles (Reference 2 and 3).

Interactions between the POR and its partner proteins are required for several metabolic reactions in humans. Differences in alteration of interaction with partner proteins may be responsible for the variable effect of POR variations on different partner proteins. Recent results by Dr. Pandey in Bern, Switzerland show that POR mutants have differences in activities with CYP17A1 (target of prostate cancer drugs), CYP19A1 (target of breast cancer drugs) as well as CYP3A4 (metabolizes 50% of drugs in the market for humans). As several different POR mutations give rise to endocrine disorders, our aim is to characterize these differences by advanced biochemical studies.

By combining results from biomedical studies with laboratory-based biophysical studies, a better insight can be gained about the molecular basis of differences in metabolism by variants of POR in humans. The laboratory in Minsk, Belarus is an expert in cytochrome P450 proteins, and Swiss researchers in Bern are experts in human POR biology. Our collaboration will have a multifaceted approach: 1. We will conduct seminars in Belarus and Switzerland to increase interactions between scientists from both institutions, and to learn the special technical aspects of each laboratory by personal visits 2. We will carry out the annual exchange of young researchers for further scientific cooperation. 3. To develop a continuing research collaboration project that uses the main strengthens and core capacities of groups in Bern and Minsk. To this end, biophysical experiments will be conducted in Switzerland and Belarus over the next two years, which will identify the structural basis of protein interactions involved in diseases linked to POR deficiency in humans. The results of these studies will be published in “Open Access” international journals, e.g. Frontiers in Pharmacology, Nature Scientific Reports, etc. Within the framework of the proposed project, not only can the University of Bern and the Belarus Academy of Sciences benefit generally from deepened scientific cooperation, but even more from helping understand the scientific basis of metabolic disorders in steroid production in patients, especially in young children who are born with a defect in POR gene.


  1.  Flück CE, Tajima T, Pandey AV, et al. Mutant P450 oxidoreductase causes disordered steroidogenesis with and without Antley-Bixler syndrome. Nature Genetics. 2004;36(3):228-230. doi:10.1038/ng1300
  2.  Pandey AV, Flück CE. NADPH P450 oxidoreductase: structure, function, and pathology of diseases. Pharmacology and Therapeutics (2013) 138:229-54.
  3.  Burkhard FZ, Parween S, Udhane SS, Flück CE, Pandey AV. P450 Oxidoreductase deficiency: Analysis of mutations and polymorphisms. Journal Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (2017) 165:38-50.



PD Dr. Amit V Pandey
University of Bern, Biomedical Research, Faculty of Medicine

Dr. Andrei A Gilep
Belarus Academy of Sciences, Dept. of Molecular Biotechnology Institute of Bioorganic Chemistry

Ms. Maria Natalia Rojas Velazquez
University of Bern, Biomedical Research, Faculty of Medicine

Dr. Andrey V Svirid
Belarus Academy of Sciences, Dept. of Molecular Biotechnology Institute of Bioorganic Chemistry

Disclose the Archaeology of Wetland Neolithic (DAWN) - Expanding scientific exchange between Belarusian and Swiss Wetland Archaeology on the beginning of the Corded Ware Culture

One of the most controversial topics in prehistoric archaeology is the influence of migration on the cultural and social change of European societies. One key question is the origin and spread of the Corded Ware Culture (CWC) and its consequences – usually traced back to the Yamnaya Complex of the Pontic-Caspian steppes – that extended rapidly over large parts of Europe during the 3rd millennium BC. Switzerland is the most southwestern area of distribution with CWC settlements at Lakes of Neuchâtel and Bienne. The CWC has been associated with Proto-Indo-European languages, pastoralism, individualistic-hierarchical leadership and patriarchal social structures. These features, clearly differing from previously observable patterns of Neolithic societies, provided the basis for the formation of Bronze Age elites.

Recent paleogenetic investigations suggest that there was more than one migration associated with the formation of the CWC. However, precise localisation of its origins and the specific character of processes in local communities in connection to its emergence and spread, and the complex influences and interactions are still unclear.

The formation of the eastern CWC might have been mediated via northwest Russia and Belarus. Archaeological evidence, especially wetland archaeology, of this region has received insufficient attention in the discussion at the European level, mainly due to a lack of international cooperation. The Dnieper-Western Dvina region in the Republic of Belarus, in the centre of the CWC distribution and an important intersection of north-south communication axes since prehistory, is a key area for this question. A precise chronology is essential to assess its role adequately.

The project aims to promote exchange between Swiss and Belarusian archaeology. In preparation for a larger cooperation project (e.g. SNSF SPIRIT, ERC), we propose a pilot study for testing the scientific potential. It should focus on the Kryvina peat-bog, characterized by excellent wood preservation essential for accurate dendrochronological dating, in which the Swiss project side has the required expertise. This region is rich in CWC finds and can therefore be an important source for understanding this pan-European phenomenon. The survey will be conducted by scientists and students of both institutions and will establish long-term and sustainable cooperation, provide datable material for a more precise chronological determination and set the ground for a larger grant application. It will have the character of a summer school, in which, besides the participating project partners, 12 MA and PhD students from Switzerland and Belarus will have the opportunity to exchange experiences, working methods and approaches. Courses on wetland archaeology and the current state of research in Switzerland and Belarus will extend the scope of the practical training. A workshop in Minsk will conclude the programme, contextualise the knowledge and results gained during the pilot study and provide further opportunities for scientific exchange. Due to the current situation, the exact implementation depends on the circumstances. We aim for late summer 2021. This project will initialise a long-term exchange between the two countries and provide data for a follow-up research project focused on introducing dendrochronology in Belarus archaeology and the pan-European question of CWC origins.



Dr. Martin Hinz
University of Bern, Institut für Archäologische Wissenschaften / Abteilung für Prähistorische Archäologie

Dr. Maxim Charniauski
National Academy of Science of Belarus, Institute of History / Department of the Archaeology of the Prehistoric Society

Where Georgia and Switzerland meet: Sustainable development and livelihood strategies in mountain areas

The Department of Human Geography of the Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University (TSU) and the Department of Geography of the University of Zurich (GIUZ) plan to establish a joint course on sustainable development in mountain areas. 

Rural development in different mountain areas often faces similar challenges, for example due to structural disadvantages or climate change. The national strategy for Georgian rural development (2017-2020) adjusted to these challenges by changing the general policy orientation from an agricultural to a rural development policy (see Hodge & Midmore, 2008). The strategy promotes diversification of the rural economy, local community development and participation to tackle poverty and social inequality, and nature protection. Whereas the rural development policy evolved and various development projects support its implementation, there is a significant lack of academic knowledge, research, and education in this topic area.

With this project we aim to fill this gap and follow two goals: Firstly, we foster the collaboration between researchers of TSU and GIUZ who work in the field of sustainable development and nature conservation in mountain regions in Georgia and Switzerland, strengthen our network and use synergies from our research for ongoing and future projects. We will pave the way for establishing an environment in which Georgian and Swiss colleagues share their knowledge, experience, and visions. Secondly, we will create a modular course at both the Department of Human Geography at TSU and at GIUZ. The course will introduce rural development strategies and policies in mountain systems and embed this applied topic in a solid foundation of conceptual frameworks and research methodology. Lectures and seminar sessions will be simultaneously held online in Tbilisi and Zurich and address Geography students on advanced bachelor and master level.

Furthermore, the students will also do fieldwork in their respective regions to gain hands-on experience and practice different research methods. The course offers a unique setting to engage with different socio-political contexts in the Caucasus and in Central Europe, which stimulates a critical examination of and reflection on processes linked to sustainable development in mountain areas. Moreover, we want to allow students to establish international connections and to engage with global challenges in an international setting. 

The project includes visits from scholars from both countries to get acquainted with the different contexts and research sites in Georgia and Switzerland, to be able to prepare for the course adequately and to enhance the learning outcome for the students, and to create a benefit for both departments by having international lecturers present physically. This didactically rich course ties in nicely with the curricula at TSU and GIUZ. Moreover, it especially fills a gap at TSU, where the existing short-term case study courses envisage students' fieldwork in mountain areas; however, the case studies are insufficiently embedded in the current curricula in terms of providing students with relevant conceptual and methodological knowledge, especially regarding environmental values or justice. Therefore, we want to offer a comprehensive course that aims at linking practical fieldwork with current social scientific debates, mainly in the area of political ecology.



Prof. Dr. Norman Backhaus
University of Zurich, Department of Geography

Dr. Annina Helena Michel
University of Zurich, Department of Geography

Prof. Dr. Joseph Salukvadze
Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University, Department of Human Geography

Temur Gugushvili M.A.
Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University, Department of Sociology

Gvantsa Salukvadze M.A.
Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University, Department of Human Geography

Gender Sensitive Research and Teaching: expanding collaboration between Switzerland, Armenia, Georgia and Uzbekistan

The aim of this project is to develop the capacities, experiences and training on Gender sensitive research and teaching through meetings and exchanges between partners from Switzerland, Armenia, Georgia and Uzbekistan. Following the success of our previous project between Switzerland and Armenia, we would like now to continue and to expand our exchanges through the inclusion of Georgia and Uzbekistan. The inclusion of partners from these two countries is an important step for establishing a transnational network (in the CIS region and beyond) that will allow for a better understanding of the developments with regard to gender in academia and society in the different countries. In addition, it allows us to initiate conversation between social and technical sciences, as well as between academia and civil society organizations working on gender issues.

Thus, this project will allow building a knowledge hub between partners from universities, organizations, and civil society to exchange and collaborate on gender issues. The purpose of this knowledge hub is to integrate and mobilize expertise from social sciences research and NGO work to advance gender sensitivity in research, teaching, education, and professional development as well as to strengthen NGO work through evidence-based data. In concrete, our discussions will focus on the following five themes:

  • How to place gender at the center of research and concern, both in social and technical sciences.
  • How to integrate gender consciousness in professional, educational, and academic training
  • How to prevent or at least minimize the influence of gender stereotypes in the career choice of young women and men.
  • Comparative accounts on how the current pandemic and the measures taken to curb the spread of the virus affect gender (in)equality in academia and NGO work in the partner  countries.
  • How to make more efficient advocacy around gender issues using knowledge and data produced in the research.

To address these themes, we will organize a series of online meetings as well as one workshop on Yerevan and a smaller meeting in Andijan. The bulk of work will take place in smaller working groups that will meet online on a regular basis. Each working group will discuss one or two of the five themes. The outcome of their work will be:

  1. An online guide on how to develop a gender-sensitive research project.
  2. Syllabi for courses for academics and NGOs that address (a) the integration of academic research in NGO work and advocacy and (b) the role gender stereotypes in career choices and professional training.
  3. A proposal for a collaborative research 2project with PhD positions from Armenia, Georgia, Uzbekistan and Switzerland.

We will translate the guide and syllabi into the language of all partners. We will use our homepages to place them at the disposal for interested institutions and persons.

The proposal for the research project will be submitted to the Swiss National Science Foundation or the European Research Council.



Dr. Andrea Boscoboinik
University of Fribourg, Social Anthropology

Dr. Gohar Shahnazaryan
Yerevan State University, Center for Gender and Leadership Studies

Dr. Sibylle Lustenberger
University of Fribourg, Social Anthropology

Siran Hovhannisyan
Yerevan State Univeristy, Gender and Leadership Studies

Dr. Zafar Juraev Ph.D
Andijan Machine-Building Institute, International Relations Department

Europe’s Geopolitical Future: Mapping Perspectives on EU policy in its Eastern Neighborhood

The European Union is one of the main partners for both Switzerland and Armenia. Given the rising turbulence and uncertainty in global affairs, it is essential for both sides to reveal, analyze and model the geopolitical future of the EU. This will allow for an understanding of the strategic environment and enable to shape policy act accordingly.

From this perspective, the main objective of this project is to contribute to the discussion on the geopolitical future of the EU in its Eastern Neighborhood, as well as to analyze the Swiss experience in cooperation with the EU, testing its applicability for the EU’s relations with countries of the Eastern Neighborhood.

To achieve this goal the project comprises two parts:

  • Research
  • Workshop/conference

The research will explore the future of the EU as a global player and analyze its role, interests, goals, and opportunities in the transforming global geopolitical environment.

It will continue with the analysis and search for the opportunities for the EU to effectively present itself as a partner in a geopolitically complicated environment of the Eastern Neighborhood.

Based on actor/interest analyzes, this project will look into the foreign policy priorities of individual countries of the Eastern Neighborhood, with a special focus on Armenia, and discuss problems as well as key areas of ongoing and potential collaboration with the EU.

Additionally, the research will analyze the Swiss model of cooperation with the EU in order to reveal and check its applicability to EU-Eastern Neighborhood relations.

Based on this research, the group will prepare and submit three peer-reviewed articles on the following topics:

  • EU as a global power? EU geopolitical future in the Eastern Neighborhood
  • EU and protracted conflicts in the Eastern Neighborhood: Case of Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict
  • Switzerland – EU cooperation: Model for the Eastern Neighborhood countries?

At the same time, to stimulate a wider discussion, a conference will be organized in Zurich to bring together, Swiss and Armenian scholars, but also specialists from the EU and other countries of the EU’s Eastern Neighborhood.

The conference will focus on the following main tracks:

  1. EU in the transforming global security environment: threats, challenges, and opportunities
  2. EU foreign policy priorities: Eastern Neighborhood in the EU agenda
  3. Strategic security environment in the Eastern Neighborhood: EU and the Rise of Great Power competition
  4. EU-Swiss cooperation model and its applicability in the Eastern Neighborhood
  5. EU in the foreign policy agenda of the Eastern Neighborhood countries
  6. Mapping the EU role in protracted conflicts in the EaP region
  7. EU in Eastern Neighborhood: Building a Sustainable Geopolitical Future

The conference papers will be submitted as a special issue to a well-known peer-reviewed academic journal. In addition, the project partners plan to publish key conference findings as an edited monograph.

Thus, the project will contribute to the ongoing discussion on the EU’s geopolitical future in the Eastern Neighborhood which will be relevant not only to scholars, but policy makers and an interested public.

Finally, the project will set a ground for the further cooperation between research institutions in Switzerland, the EU, Armenia, and other countries of the Eastern Neighborhood.



Prof. Dr. Jeronim Perović
University of Zurich, Center for Eastern European Studies

Prof. Dr. Ruben Elamiryan
Russian-Armenian University, World Politics and International Relations

Prof. Dr. Vrezh Kardumyan
Russian-Armenian University, World Politics and International Relations

Ruzanna Airapetova
Russian-Armenian University, World Politics and International Relations

Child friendly Urban Development Network

Cities around the world are developing extremely fast. According to the New Urban Agenda (Habitat III) Urbanization is on the most transformative trends of the 21th century. Not only the size of cities, but also the forms and complexity of coexistence and the resulting challenges are changing. These challenges can only be met with holistic approaches, which in many places requires a change in the cooperation between different disciplines. Transdisciplinary and transnational projects can contribute to this. Especially demands for participation in development issues are a challenge shared by different regions and disciplines. Very often participation is very formalized (western countries) or doesn’t nearly exist (post-soviet countries). Participation in urban development processes, the appropriation of urban spaces, Human (Children) Rights in urban contexts are only a few keywords (SDG 11, UNICEF, Habitat III etc.) to be highlighted.
Urban Development and Social Work are two disciplines that have little cooperation so far. While the interweaving of the social and built environment is obvious in everyday life, it is often divided in practice and science ("hard" facts and "development" competencies for planners and architects, “soft” facts and "problem-solving" competencies for Social Workers). On one hand, Social Work is by definition an agent of social change and development. Sustainable urban development, on the other hand, aims at integrative, resilient and socially sustainable cities (World Bank).

The practice of urban development often is exclusive. In particular the needs and rights of children and young people are given little consideration while shaping their environment. Child protection and child rights are a very important field of work and research for social work. But these aspects play only a minor role in urban planning. Furthermore Chan et al. describe the situation regarding the Child Friendly Cites (CFC) initiative of UNICEF, as "limited research is available with respect to the global distribution of CFC initiatives”*.
Armenia and Georgia are undergoing transformation processes towards democratization after the breakdown of the Soviet Union. Before this collapse social work in Georgia and Armenia did not exist and urban planning was very centralized. Even today, social work is still in the process of development. At the same time, Urban Development is mostly determined by investors and less by the needs of the people.

In the context of globalization not only the former socialist countries changed dramatically after soviet breakdown . Western countries face a lot of challenges in the above mentioned areas as well. At the same time transdisciplinary research in this field is not well elaborated. Both sides will have a benefit from the cooperation.
The project aims to foster a nascent network of researchers from both areas and regions. Transdisciplinary research projects will be carried out, lecturers and student exchanges will be organized and joint curricula will be developed. Furthermore, an internet exchange platform is planned. The network should also form the basis for cooperation with other international initiatives and projects and for participation in international programs.

* Chan, Erlings, Mizunoya, Zaw. (2016). A City Fit for Children: Mapping and Analysis of Child Friendly Cities Initiatives.



Prof. Jan Zychlinski
Bern University of Applied Science, Department of Social Work

Prof. Dr. Iago Kachkachishvili
Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University, Department of Sociology and Social Work

Prof. Mira Antonyan
Yerevan State University, Facult y of Sociology, Social work

Manane Petrosyan MA
Yerevan State University, Facult y of Sociology, Department of social work

Dr. Tabias Baitsch Baitsch
Berne University of Applied Science, Architecture, Wood and Construction

Prof. Dr. Salome Namitcheishvili
Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University, Department of Sociology and Social Work

Dr. Andrea Abraham
Bern University of Applied Science, Social Work

Assessment and optimization of Junctionless Field Effect transistors for COVID sensing

The scope

The project concerns modeling field-effect transistor (FET)-based nanowire biosensor for viral detection, in particular the SARS-CoV-2. The sensitivity dependence on the parameters of FET-based biosensor will be studied theoretically in order to optimize its architecture in terms of sensitivity and reliability.

State of the art

FET based biosensors attracted attention since they provide high sensitivity and resolution enabling acute detection of biochemical molecules. Electrical detection of biological viral molecules using semiconducting nanowires configured as FETs was introduced in [1] and a FET-based biosensor device to detect SARS-CoV-2 was also reported [2] with graphene sheets coating of the FET with a specific antibody.

Device Concept

The conversion of FETs into a sensing devices involves the replacement of the metal gate electrode with a biochemically sensitive surface brought into contact with the analyte solution. The selective sensing is achieved by linking a recognition group to the nanowire to recognize target analytes such as viral nucleic acids (DNA and RNA), viral proteins and depends on the virus–receptor interactions with FET surface. Upon binding charged macromolecules to receptors on the device surface, the charge distribution changes over the channel cross section which modifies the conductivity of the FET. When the virus unbinds, the conductance returns to the baseline value. Biocatalytic reactions influence the presence of charge carriers at the gate surface in proportion to the original analyte concentration, opening the way to the charge-based detection of macromolecules. The conductance variation is recorded and further processed by the measurement system.

A precise model of the nanowire-virus interaction at aim in the project is then mandatory to optimize the device and analyze the data.

Materials and methods:

Coronaviruses are RNA viruses that enter in cells when their glycoproteins bind proteins on the cell surface. SARS-CoV-2 binds to the angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2).

We will model FET biosensor, the surface of which is anchored with a specific antibody against SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. Virus binding to the surface of a nanowire leads to depletion or accumulation of carriers and increases sensitivity to the point that single-molecule detection might be possible. Virus–receptor interactions will be modeled with the help of numerical simulations (molecular dynamic simulations: Gromacs and finite element analysis at device level with Ansys or Comsol). The translation of biological data into electrical signals will be mathematically modeled by incorporating the virus–receptor binding mathematical model with the charge based junctionless (JL) NW FET compact model [3]. The similar generalization of JL NW FET model  has been done for ISFET JL NW model [4]. In particular, the signal will depend where biomolecules will stick, an example of a feature that must be accurately modelled for a correct interpretation of the data (selectivity, concentration) and which is not yet addressed.

  1. Patolsky, at al., PNAS, 101 (39), 14017–14022, 2004.
  2. G.Seo et al., ACS Nano,14, 4, 5135–5142, 2020,
  3. M.Sallese et.al., TED, 60 (12), 4277–4280, 2013.
  4. Yesayan et al., TED, 67 (3), 1157-1164, 2020.



Dr Jean-Michel Sallese
École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne, ED-LAB

Dr Ashhen Yesayan
National Academy of Sciences (Armenia), Institute of Radiophysics and Electronics

Mr. Harutyun Sahakyan
National Academy of Sciences (Armenia),  Institute of Molecular Biology

Capacity building towards the development of small hydropower in Kazakhstan

Supporting the transition of the Republic of Kazakhstan to a "green economy", the share of renewable energy sources (RES) by 2020 should be 3% of the total volume of electricity production: by 10% in 2030 and 50% in 2050. In 2013, state support by the Settlement and Financial Center based on the law supporting RES for the renewable energy sector was launched with a centralized guaranteed purchase of all electricity produced by renewable energy sources at fixed tariffs supplied to the electrical networks of the unified electrical power system of the Republic of Kazakhstan. Further, for 2020, the Department of Energy announced an auction for the purchase of electricity from renewable energy sources, where 50% of the auction is covered by hydropower. Kazakhstan, with more than 39,000 rivers and watercourses, has a high potential for hydropower production. However, most regions of the country are sparsely populated and characterized by predominantly rural areas with larger cities only in the east and south. This causes long transport distances leading to energy transfer losses. In this context, small hydropower (SHP) is a form of attractive power generation. The benefits of SHP projects include the ease of smaller investments compared to larger energy projects, faster build-operation periods that exclude the building of large dams, ensuring local energy production and consumption avoiding transport losses, and provision of local work places. Further, it supports a stable electricity supply to the local population and development of rural areas. However, the social, political, economic, historical, regulatory, and environmental issues have to be considered for the development and deployment of SHP.

The aim of this seed project is first to build up capacities between the Kazakh-German University in Almaty (DKU) and the Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW) in Switzerland centered on the hydrological potential and utilization of SHP in river basins in Kazakhstan. Capacity building will be used to develop a methodological framework to analyze and explore the potential and sustainable use of SHP focusing on the following objectives: 1) Compilation and analyses of technical, hydrological and environmental data in a spatio-temporal approach using GIS techniques and remote sensing data; 2) Development and application of hydrological modeling at the catchment and local scale to check for water availability, hydropower potential and sustainable use; and 3) Establishment of impact analyses to the use of water resources, environment, electricity sector, regional social development and related legislation relevant for the sustainable use of SHP. The seed project will focus on pilot regions located in the Almaty province (Talgar district, neighborhoods of Tekeli town, Enbekshikazakh district, ile-Alatau State National Natural Park) in Kazakhstan. After development and application of the methodology to analyze and evaluate the potential of SHP to support the utilization and sustainable use of SHP for the pilot regions, the knowledge achieved will be used to develop a comprehensive proposal scaling up results to other regions in Kazakhstan submitted to appropriate funding organizations.



Prof. Dr. Michael Doering
Zurich University of Applies Sciences ZHAW, Institute of Natural Resource Sciences

Alexey Kobzev
Kazakh-German University in Almaty DKU, Natural Resource Institute

Dr. Barbara Janusz-Pawletta
Kazakh-German University in Almaty DKU, UNESCO Chair for Water Management in Central Asia

Dr. Nikolay Chuchvaga
Kazakh-German University in Almaty DKU, Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology

Dr. Manuel Antonetti
Zurich University of Applies Sciences ZHAW, Institute of Natural Resource Sciences


Scanning Near-field Optical Microscope: plastic fibers-made and other new probes, new applications of quartz tuning fork – based feedback, and work in liquids

The aim of the current project is the continuation of existing collaboration and the preparation of new lines of such a collaboration between LBEM EPFL, Lausanne, Switzerland, Dr. S. K. Sekatskii and Institute of Physics of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus, Minsk, Belarus, Dr. D. S. Mogilevtsev. The following main topics will be pursued.

  1. New SNOM probes, feedback schemes and their applications.

Nowadays, sharpened glass fiber – made probes attached to a quartz tuning fork (TF) are by far the most popular in the field of SNOM. These probes are expensive, very fragile and their fabrication is difficult, hard to control and hazardous. Already in 2010 we published a paper where we presented first Polymer Optical Fiber (POF) SNOM probes made from polymethylmethacrylate fibers with normally used for side illumination purposes, see “Near-field scanning optical microscopy using polymethylmethacrylate optical fiber probes”, H. Chibani et al., Ultramicroscopy, 2010, 110, 211. These probes demonstrated much less fragility and greater ease of preparation. Quite recently, we have realized the first SNOM probes made from POF specially prepared for us by Paradigm Optics Company, USA, see K.  Dukenbayev et al., Proc. SPIE 10881, 2019. These fibers have small, submicron size, core diameter and are made from famous Zeonex/Zeonor polymers pair, which has excellent optical and chemical properties, are well biocompatible and supposed to have all chances to become “optical fibers of tomorrow”, see https://www.zeonex.com/. We believe this is the new generation POF single mode optical fiber probes.

Besides aforementioned probes, glass fiber – made bright “axicon-type” SNOM probes having large cone angle (90-100 degrees) prepared by Belarus partners exploiting the proprietary technology will be exploited. We also plan to continue the researches in the field of PhotoThermal Induced Resonance (PTIR) imaging with pulsed visible lasers (NanoVis), see J. Zhou et al., Nano Letters, 2019, 19, 8278. The earlier obtained results (ca. 5 nm spatial resolution and monolayer sensitivity) are already quite impressive, but we hope to profit from the mutual experience to work with quartz tuning fork (having narrow electromechanical resonance at ca. 33 kHz) – based SNOMs to drastically improve them.


  1. The construction of SNOM working in liquid.

This line is also based on the earlier realized prototype employing two original proprietary ideas of the involved teams: double resonant montage of SNOM probes onto the TF, see J. Microscopy, 2008, 229, 287, and joint water recipients principle, see SPIE Proceedings, Vol. 6728, ICONO 2007. It should be noted that despite the often made claims, it is almost impossible to find a SNOM really working in liquids all over the world. This, together with the extreme fragility of standard glass optical fibers-made SNOM probes, are considered as the main obstacles for the truly routine and widespread use of SNOM technique. We believe that the realization of this small-scale Project will be truly important step to partly overcome these obstacles. From the very beginning, not only research, but subsequent commercialization of the results of the joint researches, is seriously considered.



Dr Sergey Sekatskii Switzerland

Dr Dmitry Mogilevtsev Belarus
Institute of Physics NAS of Belarus, Center for quantum optics and quantum information

Improvement of partner management by Swiss SME companies exporting to Moldova and Moldavian SME companies exporting to Switzerland

Export growth is important for both industrial companies in Moldova and in Switzerland. Collaboration between the above-mentioned countries will help both universities since the features of their regional development are complementary to each other. We define "Export" as all activities involved in pre-sales, sales, and after-sales of industrial products. One of the main success factors of a successful export business is the motivation, support, and control of the distributor in the target country. Due to the Corona crisis, companies need to re-think their support processes as personal travel and meetings are often no more possible.


The main objective is to set the foundation for a joint research project. The future project will investigate the challenges of exporting companies regarding the successful motivation of a distribution partner in an export country. The main focus will be on the design of a digital support process that will allow minimizing personal contacts. Trust between the exporting company and the distributor plays a very important role in achieving export success and therefore the area of "digital trust", i.e. how can digital tools help to build and maintain trust between exporter and distributor - without the traditionally very important personal contacts! New forms of collaboration via digital instruments, e.g. augmented reality or artificial intelligence, need to be investigated.


To define this project, workshops in Moldova and in Switzerland will be organized to find out the status of the implementation as well as of the success factors of the collaboration with export partners. Companies that will participate in the workshops will share their experiences as well as their expectations regarding improved partner management. In this way, the mobility and contacts between young talents in both countries will be encouraged. They will contribute to reinforcing the Swiss-Moldovan network in Science and Technology between the two universities. Through the workshops, companies' interviews, companies' visits, and research seminars organized in both countries and involving local exporting industrial companies, chamber of commerce, government, and academics the two research universities will present the status of partner management. The most important part of the workshops will be to collect the experiences of the companies and discuss them in-depth.  As a second focus, the experiences and expectations of companies in the field of partner management will be surveyed.



Prof. Dr. Paul Ammann
Bern University of Applied Sciences, Engineering and Information Technology

Daniel Rehmann MS, MBA
Bern University of Applied Sciences, Engineering and Information Technology

Prof. Dr. Alexandr Gribincea
Universitatea Liberă Internațională din Moldova, Department Economics, International Economic Relations and Tourism

Prof. Natalia Ursul
National Research University 'Higher School of Economics ' (HSE, Russia), Department of Foreign Languages

Alexandru Gribincea MS, MBA
Universitatea Liberă Internațională din Moldova, Doctoral School of Economics, World Economy and International Economic Relations

Larisa Trifonova MS, MBA
Universitatea Liberă Internațională din Moldova, Faculty of Economic Studies

Snow avalanche hazard assessment in Uzbekistan applying multitemporal radar satellite imagery and numerical avalanche models

Snow avalanches frequently threaten people and infrastructure in Uzbekistan and Switzerland. Every winter, people are caught in avalanches and suffer serious injuries or even die. Roads and railways have to be closed during periods of high avalanche danger and get interrupted by events. In Uzbekistan, the avalanche warning for the public is based on weather information and snow and avalanche reports from Uzhydromet observations. During bad weather, however, information about avalanches that have occurred is scarce or even completely missing. But such information would be crucial for a robust avalanche cadastre as base for hazard mapping and decision making.

The proposed project will assess the potential of weather-independent radar satellite data for Uzbek mountains to detect and map snow avalanches. The focus area covers the Kamchik pass, which is part of the Tashkent-Osh highway connecting the important Fergana valley with Tashkent. Often in winter, snowfall, snowdrift, and avalanche activity disrupt traffic for hours or even days at the most vulnerable segments of the road. The project partners started a collaboration to improve hazard assessment for debris flows, rockfalls and snow avalanches in Uzbekistan applying numerical models funded by the SNF SCOPES grant (IZ74Z0_160463/1) lead by the Institute of Geology and Geophysics of the Uzbekistan Academy of Sciences and SLF from 2016 to 2018. During that time students, researchers, and employees of involved Uzbek institutions were trained and educated applying numerical simulations of gravitational mass movements using the RAMMS software developed by SLF. New findings were published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Applied Remote Sensing and such project-related conference proceedings as the Swiss Geoscience Meeting, 5th International Conference on Debris Flows, and International Snow Science Workshop. Furthermore, satellite data processing software (ENVI, SARScape) was purchased to produce digital elevation models (DEM) to set up RAMMS simulations to carry out natural hazard assessments applying numerical models.

Now we are working on the processing of radar satellite data to map avalanches, adapting the numerical models for the alpine regions of Uzbekistan and validating results with optical satellite data, field measurements, and numerical RAMMS. We plan to test open source Sentinel-1 and 2 data from ESA for these tasks. To generate current high-resolution DEMs with SARScape software we plan to use TerraSAR-X/ TanDEM-X data provided by the DLR under our joint proposal number XTI_GLAC6758. This work will lead to a better understanding of hazard management and hazard mitigation in complex mountain areas with challenging winter conditions. During the project, we plan to visit study areas in Switzerland and Uzbekistan, to exchange knowledge in the fields of remote sensing and snow avalanche management, to involve the experts from Uzhydromet Service (snow avalanche recording stations) and Institute of Geology and Geophysics, and to publish the results in international journals and conference proceedings. The collaboration between Swiss and Uzbek scientists will promote the advanced technologies in the important challenges of timely awareness and appropriate protection in avalanche-prone areas.



Dr. Eleonora Semakova
Ulugh Beg Astronomical Institute of the Uzbekistan Academy of Sciences, Department of Applied Space Technologies

Dr. Yves Bühler
WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research SLF, Department of Remote Sensing, Snow Avalanches and Prevention