Call with Russia 2020

Within the Research Preparation Grant scheme, 25 projects were selected for funding out of the 56 proposals received, bringing together a large number of researchers from 23 Russian and 12 Swiss institutions. Please find below the full list of the funded projects.

Public protests and protest publics in authoritarian regimes

Towards the end of the last century, the spread of democracy seemed inexorable. Today, the opposite appears to be the case. Not only are hybrid regimes becoming more authoritarian, but democracies are challenged by illiberal forms of populism. However, the renewal of authoritarianism has also provoked contentious politics which are challenging authoritarian leaders and forcing policy change. The later is the focus of our proposal.

This collaborative project proposes to deepen our understanding of citizen mobilization in authoritarian contexts by focusing on contestation. Rather than compare regimes, we propose to examine the different forms through which citizens engage in solidaristic action. Often, this kind of action is fairly sporadic and self-organised – defined here as ‘protest publics’ – but it can also be tied to more institutionalized forms of contention, through unions, social movements, and networks of NGOs. This contention is, of course, met by different kinds of governmental responses – among them repression, adaptation, and co-optation. While we aim to take contention as our prime focus, we then plot out from these instances of mobilisation in order to examine how they help to refigure the policy priorities of political actors that work across different scales and geographies: how do citizens mobilize against moves to deepen authoritarian rule? How do governments respond to different forms of contention? What are the outcomes of contention in terms of policy and institutional changes? A better grasp of the conditions in which civic engagement challenges, or reinforces, authoritarianism in diverse countries has important implications for understanding how and when public protests' are (or not) effective.

Our comparative analysis will draw on protests in authoritarian regimes in the former Soviet Union and Latin America. Among them we will examine contention in six authoritarian regimes (three from each region, Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus, and Nicaragua, Venezuela and Cuba) and two cases that have recently experienced democratic decay (Ukraine and Brazil). This will allow us to gain an understanding of contention in many key authoritarian regimes, but also in regimes where the political configurations are currently undergoing change. These countries are rarely examined together in international studies and yet have recorded protests around key events that we propose to study, namely, elections, social issues, corruption and the measures against the corona pandemic.

To empirically study contention, we will select similar protests in different contexts. We will predominantly draw on qualitative methods. The research design will be elaborated in detail during our preparation project.Our research team consists of 7 researchers focusing on protests and/or authoritarian contexts. The expected results of the research preparation project are: 1) a research proposal to be submitted to the SNSF as the first option; 2) develop an agreement on student exchanges; and 3) start writing a common publication.

These results will be achieved through regular online meetings and 2 workshops. The first workshop will focus on clarifying the theoretical framework; the second workshop on research design. The workshops will also be open to students from their respective institutions.


Higher School of Economics:

Graduate Institute for International and Development Studies:

Bioethics, Biolaw, and Medical Humanities: A Swiss-Russian Comparative Research

Bioethics is a field of academic inquiry that deals with the ethical questions arising at the intersection of medicine, life sciences, law and philosophy. In addition to the classic issues relating to the physician-patient relationship, bioethics explores new areas of ethical debate concerning technological developments in life sciences and medicine, as well as questions of social justice and public health. The study of these issues from a legal perspective leads to what has been called biomedical law or "biolaw". These ethical and legal approaches are complemented by the contributions from the humanities and social sciences (literature, history, anthropology, etc.), which enable a better and deeper understanding of the lived experiences of stakeholders (patients and their families, and healthcare professionals). Futhermore, it is important to be aware that bioethics and related disciplines transcend national borders and  have global implications; the Covid-19 pandemic has clearly shown that we live in an increasingly interconnected and globalized world, and that coherent, effective and ethically based responses to emerging challenges in this area require close collaboration between countries.

This is the context in which the current project of interdisciplinary cooperation between scholars from Swiss and Russian universities will take place. The overarching goal is to explore together the foundations and approaches to bioethics, biomedical law and medical humanities in both countries and to mutually benefit from the cross-fertilization of ideas and exchange of complementary expertise. Although discussions on the comparative approaches to bioethics in Switzerland and Russia will frame the collaboration, a particular emphasis will be placed on the educational dimension of the planned partnership. To this purpose, the collaborating universities will host workshops and conferences in both Zurich and St. Petersburg, and provide teaching to graduate and doctoral students in both countries.

The long-term goal of the project is to establish a solid basis for a permanent collaboration between the partner institutions and to thereby allow students and early career researchers to reflect on intercultural dimensions and conflicts in bioethics and biolaw. As the UK Lancet Commission on Culture and Health outlined in 2015, competences in the communication of care and the incorporation of cultural diversity in medical and bioethics curricula urgently need to be developed further. The multidisciplinary background of the partners involved in this project will contribute to the aim of developing key resources for teaching  and to transfer conceptual and methodological approaches in bioethics and related fields in a context of cultural diversity.


University of Zurich:

St. Petersburg State University:

Pavlov First State Medical University of St. Petersburg:

Literature of crisis – crisis of literature. Russian Literature since the 1990’s

The goal of the proposed project is to establish a network of cooperation between the Slavic Institute of the University of Basel and its Russian partners (especially the LUNN, Linguistic University of Nizhny Novgorod, see below); preliminary discussions about shared research interests have already taken place.

The project focuses on literary and discursive imaginations of crisis in Russian-language literature of the post-Soviet space. The complex and contradictory transformations of the 1990s have scarcely been examined from the viewpoint of the concept of crisis, even though this enables a much more differentiated picture of the period and its literature, than the often politically motivated conceptualization of the ‘chaotic’ 1990s. Crisis discourses always form a multi-coded field of reference ranging from diagnosis to discourse strategy[1]. This is particularly true for the post-Soviet space, where their function ranges from conceptualizing the 90s as the climax of a history of decay to a space of opportunity. As a working hypothesis, we see the specificity of the post-Soviet literary field in the following areas:

  1. The dissolution of the literary norms of socialist realism caused formal disorientation and liberation simultaneously and overlapped with the atmosphere of dissolving social structures. Much like in the conception of Lotmans vzryv, representing itself an element of time analysis of the 90’, a radical openness evolved. This was further accompanied by an intensified reception of western trends as well as the restitution of discourses formally attributed to the ‘underground’; resulting in a radical pluralization of the literary field.
  2. While the understanding of literature as a leading discourse (literaturotsentrichnost’) comes to an end, the perception of the postmodern crisis of ‘grand narratives’ (Lyotards) has its impact on the literary scene, much as the commercialization of the book market. In such an interplay of socio-economic and cultural factors, new and different scopes for literature as a medium of reflection freed up.
  3. By the 2000s, the crisis became a global “intermittent, symbolically generalized code of communication”[2]. As a part of that (western) narratives of progress were reinterpreted into narratives of decay. In this, scenarios of crisis functioned as a basis for solving also ‘national’ narratives.

The project approaches the overlapping and mutual contamination of these discourse constellations, focusing on a) the theoretical foundations of narratives of crisis of the literary 90’ and the role of the relationship between a ‘literature of crisis’ and a ‘crisis of literature’; b) the relations of imaginaries of crisis to other transitional times in Russian history (smuta, revolution, etc.), similarly used as mirrors for the present; c) the meaning of the generational change at the beginning of the 2000s, with literary voices emerging that themselves grew up in the 1990s and d) on the difference between the capitals’ (Moscow and Petersburg) and the peripheries’ view of the crisis.

[1] Cf. Henning Grunwald and Manfred Pfister (eds.): Krisis! Krisenszenarien, Diagnosen und Diskursstrategien. München 2007, pp. 8-10.

[2] Uta Fenske, Walburga Hülk, Gregor Schuhen (eds.): Die Krise als Erzählung. Transdisziplinäre Perspektiven auf ein Narrativ der Moderne. Bielefeld 2013. p. 7.


University of Basel:

Linguistic University of Nizhny Novgorod:

Responding to COVID-19 Global Crise – Best Practices for Supply Chain Management

The measures put in place in Switzerland, in Russia and all over the world to limit the spread of COVID-19 have profoundly affected the supply chains that have been expanding globally since the 1980s. This unprecedented disruption has exposed the many flaws in today's supply chains - a lack of visibility on flows, particularly upstream, single source of supply, poorly dimensioned stocks - but it has also demonstrated the resilience of some industries that have been able to react very quickly.

Companies must now demonstrate resilience, “the ability of a global supply chain to reorganize and deliver its core function continually, despite the impact of external and or internal shocks to the system” . Lockdown measures have forced many companies to fundamentally change the way they buy and sell goods and services and turn more digital. Supply chain digitalization should allow for shorter response time and quicker adaptation to change and play a crucial role for the company resilience. In particular, IoT, Cyber-Physical Systems, blockchain and smart contract allow the realization of peer-to-peer networks that can mitigate risks in times of increased risks and uncertainty.

The aim of this project is to share best practices between Russia and Switzerland in terms of digital supply chain management in response to abrupt changes to limit the spread of COVID-19.

This will allow:

  • To maintain the established collaboration between Samara State University of Economics and HE-Arc in Switzerland
  • To further develop complementary skills in both academic institutions
  • To train young researchers in digital supply chain management
  • To reinforce interdisciplinary (engineering and management) projects

HE-Arc is currently conducting a study (from May 2020 to October 2020) about best practices in supply chain management in Switzerland using quantitative and qualitative approaches in partnership with IPG consulting group and VNL (Verein Netwerk Logistik) Switzerland . The Samara State University of Economics will run a similar survey in the Samara region in order to make correlations. The results of the surveys and interviews will be then analyzed and shared during events that will be organized in Russia and in Switzerland. Other applied research projects such as “impact of smart contracts in supply chain management” and “hospital operations and supply chain optimization” will be presented too. At the end of the project, an online webinar will be organized with private companies to discuss about proven solutions they have put in place to face COVID-19. The purpose is to better understand and discuss the impact of large-scale crises on supply chain management and how digitalization improves the response to such events compared to traditional solutions. Target audience will be academics and companies interested in a collaboration between Switzerland & Russia and willing to further study and implement innovative solutions.


Haute école Arc, HES-SO:

Samara State University of Economics:

Annotation methodology in a supracorpora database of connectives

The project is aimed to substantially develop a supracorpora database (DB) of connectives. The DB was built as a result of the joint Swiss-Russian project IZLRZ1_164059/1 («Corpus-based contrastive study of connectors in Russian») co-financed by the FNS and the RFBR. This DB stores parallel texts from French and Italian subcorpora of the Russian National Corpus, which totals about 9.2mln of tokens making it a unique information resource for science, education and stability analysis of deep learning technologies. Given its volume and capacities, the DB has no world analogues. It helped unveil new fundamental knowledge about logical-semantic relations and means of their expression in French, Italian and Russian in the framework of several research projects. At the University of Geneva and Moscow State University, the DB is used in the educational process and in the preparation of theses. At the RAS, it is used to determine the degree of stability/instability of neural machine translation systems. A representative fragment of the DB is available at http://a179.frccsc.ru/RFH41002/main.aspx.

To date, it contains about 15,000 bilingual annotations (=30,000 monolingual ones) of contexts where connectives occur. The contexts are labeled with tags relevant for the study of connectives. If compared with the largest annotated corpus of discursive relations (PDTB), its volume only amounts to slightly more than 1mln of tokens (almost 10 times less than in the DB). What is more, the PDTB with its texts of the Wall Street Journal is monolingual, and the number of monolingual annotations containing an explicit indicator of the logical-semantic relation equals 24,240.

To expand the scope of the DB in science, education and new technologies implementation, it is planned to develop a methodology for marking up and annotating the boundaries of text fragments connected by a logical-semantic relation that can be expressed or not expressed by a connective. Now the DB only marks up the syntactic structure of these fragments and the connective. To implement such markup scheme requires, on the one hand, devising linguistic theoretical criteria and annotation methods, and on the other, developing computer programs that allow for applying these methods and at the same time provide simultaneous access to the DB via the Internet for its geographically distributed users.

As for linguistic criteria, it is well known that connectives can bind both clauses and independent sentences or a sequence of independent sentences. Since parallel texts tend to be sentence-aligned, which means that a part of the connective relevant for analysis may find itself in another pair of sentences, a pair-merging function has already been developed in the DB to solve this problem. There is a converse problem: not the entire context preceding or following the connective may be relevant for its analysis, and therefore, should be excluded. To tackle this problem, the proposed methodology for marking up and annotating the boundaries is necessary, and its creation needs linguistic substantiation.

This methodology is even more necessary for studying hierarchical text structures formed on the basis of enumeration that either opens or ends with a textual fragment organizing the enumeration into a single semantic block. Yet, while in some cases the enumeration is marked by relevant indicators, in other cases such an indicator is absent.

Developing the methodology and new DB software will thus become a preparatory stage for a project that will focus on marking up, annotating and researching hierarchical text structures – a problem so far little-studied from a contrastive perspective. A joint Swiss-Russian team will be able to carry it out.


University of Geneva:

Institute of Informatics Problems of the Federal Research Center “Computer Science and Control” of the Russian Academy of Sciences:

Virtual Digital Experience: New Visual Communication for Promotion of Territory

The current societal context creates a new communicative situation (Simondon, 2017), mediated by digitization and social distance, which reinforces the importance of the virtual visual environment. This environment of virtual reality (Hashish, 2020; Steuer, 1992), and immersive virtual environments (Slater, 2009) are leading to a symbiosis between machines and humans (De Landa, 2006, 2016) and are changing the way the consumers access and perceive information.

Experiences that make consumers feel emotions plays a key role in this new context. It positively influences the importance that consumers involve in their consumption experience (Giannelloni and Le Nagard, 2015). Researchers report the importance of using experiential information in promotional stimuli, particularly in the process of choosing a touristic destination (Goossens, 2000; Huang et al., 2010). The research of Jung et al (2017) on 360-degree virtual reality content reveals the potential for using virtual reality to attract tourists and improve their intention to visit a destination. One of the limitations of these studies is the lack of comparison between immersive (3D) virtual worlds and other forms of visual representation (Hashish, 2019).

The present project is in line with this work on the use of virtual reality in territorial promotion and proposes to analyze the virtual experience of a territory based on a new interdisciplinary approach. This study aims to design a new analysis virtual communication and experience models.


This project aims to

  • Identify the first tracks towards innovative approaches and models through workshop and focus groups;
  • Create a Swiss-Russian scientists consortium that addresses communication and virtual experience;
  • Initiate a process of developing interdisciplinary skills around communication and virtual experience, in particular through internships for young researchers;
  • Encourage innovation, through meetings and interactions with peers from different academic backgrounds, both in Switzerland and in Russia.


In order to propose new communication and virtual experiences models for territorial promotion, an innovative scientific consortium will be set up. This consortium will carry out a first analysis based on scientific articles. Based on this preliminary study, the project will set up a first ideation phase. The goal of this phase is to generate ideas on new models of virtual communication and experience analysis through three workshops and an internship for young researchers/docs.

In an evaluation phase, we will conduct a comparative analysis between the immersive virtual experience and virtual reality. The focus of this comparative analysis goes to the perceived value of the territory by consumers (tourists, inhabitants or investors). This experience will be conducted in two focus groups, in Switzerland and Russia. The results will allow us to identify ideas with high potential for territorial development.

Following these two cited phases the consortium will conduct an evaluation of the results in order to identify the new communication and virtual experience models. The results will be presented in a joint conference and will be subject for a joint project submission.


University of applied sciences of Western Switzerland:

Plekhanov Russian University of Economics:

  • Dr. Marina Shilina
  • Dr. Elena Okunkova
  • Mr. Alexander Vrubleskiy

Moscow Aviation Institute:

  • Mr. Alexey Kurennykh

Moscow School of Social and Economic Sciences:

  • Mr. Stepan Kozlov
Towards Sustainable Space Logistics Research Collaboration

In the past few years the complexity of space projects has increased, along with more affordable launch costs and improvements in technology. Massive satellites intended for e.g. telecommunications, Earth observation, and astrophysical observations, tend to be replaced with distributed space systems with comparable or superior performance, which are comprised of several smaller satellites. This brings flexibility and robustness to the system but presents a set of unprecedented challenges to mission designers. Indeed, in order to optimally benefit from the advantages of the complex system, it has to be built and maintained sustainably. Depending on the concept, this may include the need for on-orbit assembly, refuelling, commodity replenishment, repairs, upgrades, and active debris removal.

On the other hand, next-generation space exploration programs such as human Mars exploration and settlements require developing an interplanetary transport architecture to ensure the sustainable functioning and development of extraterrestrial outposts. A recent study on the topic made in collaboration between eSpace and Skoltech Space Center demonstrated the advantages of synergy between space architecture, mission design, and space logistics. A trade-off study between different types of supply for a Martian outpost revealed an effective transport architecture, which utilises resources extracted from near-Earth asteroids.

This project aims to reinforce collaboration on the existing research: logistics for Mars settlement supply with space resources. The Skoltech Space Center is responsible for mission design - calculating flight opportunities for goods transportation and supply schedule optimisation - and eSpace for interplanetary network and Mars settlement architecture design. The outcome of the research will contribute to the question, how to ensure colony sustainability during its growth?

Secondly, future research collaboration in new directions such as on-orbit servicing of prospective distributed multi-satellite systems will be planned in the frame of the project. The proposed workshops will gather specialists to map future collaboration combining eSpace’s expertise in logistics and architecture with Skoltech’s expertise in mission design.

Thirdly, the findings of the research will be shared and discussed with young scientists from Switzerland and Russia in the frame of a summer school on Sustainable Space Logistics at the end of the program period, with the aim of broadening the Sustainable Space Logistics community.


École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne:

Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology:

  • Prof. Anton Ivanov
  • Mr. Shamil Biktimirov
Rationalizing the structure of the active sites in heterogeneous catalysts using X-ray absorption and infrared spectroscopies strengthened by machine learning algorithms

The active sites in heterogeneous catalysts consist of highly dispersed metal species, whose structure is difficult to probe due to the low concentration of active sites. The structure of active sites often evolves under reaction conditions. Therefore, a combination of operando techniques that are sensitive to the local geometric and electronic structure as well as the binding ligands (X-ray absorption spectroscopy (XAS), infrared spectroscopy (IR) and Raman spectroscopy) are the methods of choice in the catalysis community. Even with the plethora of operando techniques available nowadays, rationalizing the structure of active sites from the spectroscopic data is still very challenging.

We aim to develop and verify a new methodology for uncovering the structure of active highly dispersed cationic and metallic species using XAS and IR methods combined with machine learning algorithms. The approach will start with constructing an experimental spectral database of reference compounds with known structure, surface species with less known structure, and intermediate species identified under operando conditions. Calculations will be performed both for the reference compounds and many more possible intermediate species. We will use accurate finite difference method and density functional theory to calculate XANES spectra, vibrational frequencies and IR amplitudes. Based on the theoretical database, we will implement the machine learning algorithms, which should find hidden dependencies between the spectra and the structural parameters. The main challenge of such an approach is its application to the real experimental data where systematic differences between experimental and theoretical spectra might exist. The latter comprise of frequency shifts, variations between transmission and reflectance modes, self-absorption effects and so on. To overcome these difficulties, we propose two approaches. In the first one, the neural network will be trained on the theoretical dataset, which includes simulated experimental artefacts and different levels of theoretical approximations. The second approach will rely not on all spectral points but the use of descriptors. Descriptors of structure include radial distribution function, average bond length, types of ligands, valence, and local symmetry. Descriptors of spectra are the functions of spectral points: position and area under the pre-edge, edge energy, white line intensity, positions of maxima and minima, average value of the derivative, principle components.

The practical implementation will be based on catalytically relevant systems to provide an exploratory overview of the possible benefits and limitations. We will use the K-edge XANES data of 3d elements (V, Fe, Cu) in different local environments and on the IR spectra of CO probe molecules absorbed on single sites or metal-alloy nanoparticles (Cu, Pd, Pt-Fe, Cu-Ga, Pd-Ga). These topics are relevant for the ongoing projects of the Swiss PA   and the Operando spectroscopy group at PSI, which relate to selective alcohol oxidation on vanadium-based catalysts, CO oxidation and CO2 hydrogenation on bimetallic catalysts and NOx reduction on Cu and Fe loaded zeolites.

Output of the project will be a high-quality spectral database available for a wide community with data analysis tools trained to predict the structure of 3d metal site or nanoparticle by submitting the spectrum of unknown compound.


Paul Scherer Institute

Southern Federal University

ETH Zurich

Quantum skyrmions

Starting from 2006, one of the main focuses in material science has been on topological magnetic objects, skyrmions, that are characterized by a specific magnetization pattern in real space. The topological origin of these skyrmion spin structures protects them against temperature fluctuations and distortions of different kinds. Skyrmions have been observed in numerous bulk materials [Science 323, 915–919 (2009)], surfaces [Science 341, 636 (2013)] and other systems. They can be manipulated by electric and magnetic fields [Nat. Nanotech. 8, 152 (2013)], which makes them very attractive for novel data storage devices functioning at room temperatures.

Up to now, the analysis of all the experimental data and most of the results of computer simulations related to magnetic skyrmions have been performed under the assumption that the local magnetization is a three-dimensional classical vector. However, from quantum theory we know that the spin is a purely quantum property of matter, and all three components of the magnetization vector cannot be measured simultaneously. In addition, the majority of novel two-dimensional magnetic systems are characterized by a small spin (S=1/2), which necessarily requires to take quantum effects into account. All these facts challenge the theory for a quantum description of magnetic skyrmions. Due to uncertainty principle, the standard identification of skyrmions by a magnetization pattern does not work in the quantum case since the local magnetization is simply uniform for a periodic quantum crystal. Surprisingly, this is still a common practice to avoid the discussion of this fundamental problem.

Recently, our project team that combines researchers from École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) and Ural Federal University (UrFU) has introduced a completely new concept of a purely quantum skyrmion state (arXiv:2004.13526). This novel state can be seen as a quantum superposition of classical topological skyrmion configurations that can be observed as the result of independent measurements. In our work, we have proposed a theoretical framework that allows to fully characterize this novel quantum state. The key concept here is the  calculation of the quantum scalar chirality, which we introduce as a quantum analog of the classical skyrmion number. Remarkably, this quantity demonstrates a nearly constant nonzero value for the quantum skyrmion phase. Moreover, we have found that this local three-spin correlation function defined on neighbouring lattice sites gives a complete information about topological properties of the infinite quantum system, something that is impossible in the classical case.

Within the project, the concept of the quantum skyrmion will be developed along two main directions. First, we will explore a connection between classical and quantum solutions of the skyrmion problem using the concept of Anderson’s tower of states. Second, we will investigate theoretically the possibility to perform experiments that will allow to probe locally the topology of the entire quantum system. Both Swiss and Russian partners will make in-kind contributions to the proposed project. Besides scientific visits, two workshops will be organized. In addition, we also plan to explore different funding options to enhance the collaboration between EPFL and UrFU.


École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL):

  • Prof. Frédéric Mila
  • Ms. Jeanne Colbois

Ural Federal University:

  • Dr. Vladimir Mazurenko
  • Mr. Oleg Sotnikov
  • Mr Ilia Iakovlev
  • Dr. Evgeny Stepanov
Spin resolution at SKIF and SLS

Coherent synchrotron radiation takes an important place in modern condensed matter research and has provided a significant boost in the study of structural and electronic properties of novel materials. High brilliance and tuneable UV and soft X-ray radiation as generated by modern synchrotron facilities has made the detailed electronic structure research possible that has proven essential in the study of for example unconventional superconductors and topological quantum materials. The technique of angle-resolved photoemission spectroscopy (ARPES) provides direct access to the band structure of crystals, nanostructures, and 2D materials like graphene, and is the only measurement technique that does so without relying on extensive modelling.

Combined with spin resolution (SARPES), the possibilities are even further expanded. Most straightforward examples are the measurement the spin texture of magnetic materials and materials where spin-orbit interaction lifts the spin degeneracy of states, aimed at spin-orbitronics applications. However, especially in combination with tuneable synchrotron radiation, more advanced experiments become feasible, such as separating spin-singlet and -triplet arrangements, performing magnetic circular dichroism in fluctuating systems above the tradition temperature, measuring hidden order parameters, and even accessing the time scale of the photoemission process itself. Such measurements require a combination of dedicated advanced experimental facilities, high quality samples, and a large amount of experience.

The COmplete PHotoEmission Endstation (COPHEE) at the Swiss Light Source has for two decades been in the forefront on competitive SARPES research and we have gained a significant amount of experience from this. On the other hand, the team in Novosibirsk has experience in sample growth and novel spin detection techniques, and most importantly, will be involved in the construction and running of state-of-the-art new synchrotron radiation facility called SKIF. The aim of this project is to disseminate knowledge and experience related to SARPES experiments especially among young researchers both in Russia and Switzerland. This will secure that this know-how, which is now in the hands of only relatively few people, will be carried on to future generation of scientists and that the technique will be able to reach its full potential. Furthermore, the scientific exchange stimulated by this project will be used to optimise the design of novel SARPES instrumentation and provide ideas on how to optimally use the characteristics of novel synchrotron radiation. This will benefit both the new beamlines to be built at the SKIF synchrotron in Novosibirsk and pending upgrades at the Swiss Light Source.

The budget will be used to partially finance a SARPES workshop in Novosibirsk for young scientists with lectures given by experts in the field, and further to allow for travel between Russia and Switzerland to study and exchange ideas on experimental equipment and to gain experience with state-of-the-art SARPES experiments. The details of the workshop and travel organisation will depend on any restrictions following the Covid-19 crisis.


Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne:

Rzhanov Institute of Semiconductor Physics SB RAS:


OMC4DBD:Ordinary Muon Capture as a probe of properties of Double Beta Decay processes

The search for the neutrinoless double beta decay (0νββ) is one of the key research topics in neutrino physics with major impact on particle physics and cosmology. It probes the neutrino nature (Majorana vs. Dirac), the neutrino mass scale, and possibly CP-parity violating effects. An observation of 0νββ would also shed light on the origin of the matter dominance in today's universe. In order to derive an effective Majorana neutrino mass from the measured 0νββ half lives, the corresponding nuclear matrix elements (NME) need to be known with sufficient accuracy. Currently, the theoretical calculations of the NMEs differ by a factor of 2-3, depending on the nuclear model framework applied. In the recent report of APPEC (Astroparticle Physics European Consortium), the neutrinoless double beta decay committee therefore explicitly recommends dedicated theoretical and experimental efforts to achieve a more accurate determination of the NMEs.

The OMC4DBD proposal aims to carry out key experimental measurements on several 0νββ daughter isotopes to provide critical input for benchmarking nuclear matrix element calculations. The groups from JINR and PSI, together with members from other institutes in Europe, propose to measure the Ordinary Muon Capture (OMC) process on several isotopes using the muon beams available at the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI), Villigen. The OMC4DBD proposal has been accepted by the PSI User Committee in January 2020 (PSI R-20-01.1), and beam time has been granted in October 2020 with the perspective of a multi-year program to follow. This proposal extends the previous program of the OMC measurements, initiated and led by the JINR partners of this proposal.

Unfortunately, the beam measurements planned for this year were rescheduled to the next year due to pandemic. Therefore, our team will focus on the analysis of data obtained during the measurements of 2019.

In the years 2021-2022, to be covered by this proposal, we plan to measure the OMC on Ba-136,  Se-76 and Mo-96, which are daughter nuclei of corresponding ββ-isotopes Xe-136, Ge-76, and Zr-96. A set of world leading 0νββ-experiments such as nEXO, KamLAND2-Zen, NEXT, DARWIN, and PandaX-III will use Xe-136 isotope as a ββ-source, while Ge-76 will be measured in the LEGEND - next-generation 0νββ-project. Currently, the Zr-96 enrichment method is finalized (Russian companies together with JINR) and up to 0.5 kg of Zr-96 will be available in 2021 (for the first time in the world), which will be measured in the Demonstrator of the SuperNEMO 0νββ-project. Planned OMC measurements in the frame of this project will provide vital experimental data to improve the theoretical knowledge of the ββ-processes.

The PSI and JINR groups will combine their expertise and instrumentation to achieve this goal. All preparation of the measurements, mounting and testing, the data taking and analysis tools will be carried out in close collaboration by the two groups. Analysis workshops are planned to be carried out at PSI in preparation of the publications. The project expenses also include costs of travel and stays at the PSI Guest House during experimental shifts.


Joint Institute for Nuclear Research:

  • Dr. Yuri Shitov
  • Dr. Daniya Zinatulina
  • Dr. Mark Schirchenko

Paul Scherrer Institut:

  • Dr. Andreas Knecht
Operando physics of novel ferroelectric devices by soft-X-ray spectroscopy

Progress of the electronic devices based on the conventional Si-based technology is presently slowing down, calling for alternative device concepts. One of them is heterostructures embedding a ferroelectric (FE) layer such as doped HfO2. Using FE-HfO2 as a gate dielectric in field-effect transistors, one can realize multifunctional  devices combining the conventional field effect on the channel conductivity (logic functionality) with the effect of FE-polarization reversal (non-volatile memory functionality). The channel materials may vary from the conventional Si and A3B5 semiconductors (SCs) to transition-metal oxides (TMOs), where FE polarization can affect the subtle balance between the spin, charge, orbital and lattice degrees of freedom and thus the device functionality. For example, a recent study on the BaTiO3/La1-xSrxMnO3 multiferroic interface has revealed a dramatic FE effect on the polaronic coupling and thus mobility of the interfacial charge carriers. However, the fundamental physics of FE interfaces still remains far from detailed understanding.

We propose a collaborative research between teams from the Swiss Light Source (SLS), Paul Scherrer Institute, Switzerland and Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (MIPT), Russia aiming at fundamental physics of novel FE-based electronic devices. Specifically, we will perform operando spectroscopic investigations of FE/SC heterostructures (HfO2/Si and HfO2/GaAs) and FE/TMO heterostructures (HfO2/La1-xSrxMnO3 and HfO2/CaMnO3) under variation of the FE-polarization. The scientific exchange between the Swiss and Russian scientists will be fostered by a joint workshop in Moscow.

The samples embedding FE-HfO2 layers will be fabricated at MIPT using a combination of atomic layer deposition and pulsed laser deposition techniques. Both polycrystalline and heteroepitaxial samples will be grown. The multilayered structures will be optimized and patterned in prototype devices to enable operando measurements at ADRESS beamline. MIPT team holds unique expertise in the operando synchrotron studies of electronic and structural vs. functional properties of prototype electronic devices.

The operando spectroscopic experiments at SLS will aim the electron-momentum-resolved electronic structure of the FE/SC and FE/oxide heterostructures, underlying all their physical properties. We will use angle-resolved photoelectron spectroscopy (ARPES) with synchrotron radiation in the soft-X-ray photon energy range ~1 keV, where the photoelectron escape depth becomes sufficient to probe electron states in the channel through the few-nm thick FE layer. These experiments will use the ADRESS beamline of SLS, which is presently the most advanced soft-X-ray ARPES facility worldwide in terms of energy resolution and photon flux. Its unique scientific potential has been demonstrated by discoveries of polaronic charge carriers at LaAlO3/SrTiO3 the paradigm oxide interface, electronic-structure anisotropy in GaN-based high-electron-mobility transistors, magnetic impurity states in the diluted magnetic semiconductor Ga(Mn)As, etc.

We envisage that our project will deliver FE-polarization dependent (1) concentration and distribution of electrons/holes between different energy bands, defining their effective masses; (2) polaronic coupling and the corresponding effective-mass renormalization; (3) shape of the interfacial potential barrier. Whereas the first two properties define the mobility of the charge carriers, the third one defines their spatial localization. This fundamental information about FE heterostructures is essential development of novel multifunctional electronic devices.


Paul Scherrer Institute:

Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology:

On- and Off-screen. The ‘New Woman’ in Early Russian Cinema (1907-1921)

Early cinema and its role in modernity are closely linked to the transformation of the role and image of women. This is also the case in Russia, where cinema has occupied an important place in the public life of women in the big cities, at the latest since its institutionalization around 1908. It is the place of the entertainment industry, permitting access to women regardless of their social class - even alone without male company. At the same time, the difficult entry of women into public life becomes a central subject on the screen. The new Russian silent film heroine of the 1910s is an heiress of the femme fatale, who is characterized by a (sexual) self-confidence, but she is also a variant of the 'New Woman', who often emancipates herself – economically independent – in the process of a professional and artistic self-realization.

Apparently, the discourses, topoi and figures of the ‘New Woman’ are strongly engendered by the cinema as a cultural technique in itself. This relationship is to be further examined and refined in the present project. Furthermore, the project will focus on an important question that has received little attention in research to date, namely that women have in fact entered the new space and market of cinematography as professional filmmakers - as scriptwriters, editors, directors, producers and distributors.

In recent years, the review of female contribution in early film has become an important concern of international film studies. However, with regard to the cinema culture of the late Tsarist Empire and the early Soviet Union, we are confronted with a massive gender data gap - even though the available, albeit scarce, sources indicate a broad and significant creative participation of women. The central object of research is the personal archive of Vera Popova-Khanzhonkova (1892-1974), editor, wife of the influential film producer Aleksandr Khanzhonkov and research associate of the Gosfilmofond, Soviet State Film Archive in Moscow.

Starting from this representative case, a group of experienced and young researchers – film historians, slavists and archivists – will evaluate previously marginalized or unexplored sources of various female protagonists and re-contextualize them with already known material. In addition to the meetings in Russia and Switzerland, the participants will work with an annotation tool that will allow them to share and discuss preliminary results, as well as enable networked and multimedia editing of the archive material (text, image, film) - despite the geographical distance.

The aim is to present and discuss the results at various relevant platforms, including the database "Women Film Pioneers Project", the peer-reviewed journal “Apparatus” and selected international conferences. Furthermore, in a follow-up of the project, we aim to migrate the compiled and edited archive material into a database developed in collaboration with the DaSCH (Data and Service Center for the Humanities), based in Basel.

Critically examining aspects of inclusion and exclusion of women in early cinema, the project does not intend to repeat the male-centric concept of "author-greatness" under female perspective, but rather to take into account the complexity of film, a fundamentally collaborative medium.


University of Basel:

University St. Petersburg:

Gosfilmofond Russia:

Development and application of extended steroid profiling to clinical practice: a metabolomic approach

Metabolomics aims to identify and quantify all metabolites in a biological system. Metabolomics is a powerful approach to improve early detection of diseases, diagnosis and prognosis. Among the numerous biological compartment that can be evaluated, screening of steroids as disease biomarkers is an emerging area with numerous applications. Current advances allow an efficient simultaneous quantification of extended steroid panel. Steroids function in human metabolism as signaling molecules and gene expression regulators, affecting multitude of physiological processes. They are known to play a critical role in multiple disorders and diseases, such as prostate cancer. Determining highly sensitive and specific steroid precursors and bioactive steroids can be carried out in non-invasive biofluids (i.e. serum or urine). This proposal is aimed to exchange the expertise between the Swiss and Russian research teams to improve and expand a clinical human steroid metabolomics profiling.

The Swiss team will be led by members of the Biomedical and Metabolomics Analysis group at the Université de Genève (UNIGE). The Swiss team has extensive experience in innovation of instrumentation and analytical strategies, in biomedical and toxicological metabolomics analysis, as well as in data analysis. Prof. Serge Rudaz, Head of the group and President of the Swiss Metabolomics Society, is developping new analytical strategies for targeted and untargeted metabolomics and specializes in the analysis of low molecular weight compounds including steroids.

The Russian partner will be led by members of the Laboratory of Pharmacokinetics and Metabolomic Analysis, Institute of Translational Medicine and Biotechnology at I.M. Sechenov First Moscow State Medical University, the oldest medical school in Russia founded in 1758. The Russian team has experience employing metabolomic profiling in drug assessment, forensic toxicology, prostate cancer, and cardiovascular diseases, among others.

The proposal is aimed to exchange the expertise from both teams with an emphasis to further develop and apply an extended steroid profiling and quantification in clinical research. Exchange of expertise will be focused on a) method development and validation of metabolomic approaches, including analytical protocols, b) application of steroid metabolomics in clinical practice and c) improvement of analysis and interpretation of experimental data.

The extended steroid profiling is intended to be used for investigation of diseases, including prostate cancer. Prostate cancer is a field of expertise of the Russian team and of great interest within the framework of the Swiss Center of Applied Human Toxicology (SCAHT).

Furthermore, this approach could be also applied to investigation in the context of the COVID-19 crisis. Sechenov University in Moscow has available COVID-19 positive samples in a biobank, being an opportunity to contribute to further understanding the disease at the level of biomarker discovery in COVID-19 associated sepsis, pneumonia and infection.

Finally, this proposal is aimed to improve training of young researchers and to open opportunities to students from both countries. It is also expected to impact the chances for future collaborative grants. Specific scientific exchange will include visits both in Moscow and Geneva, the preparation of publications together and collaborative work on data analysis and interpretation.


University of Geneva:

I.M. Sechenov First Moscow State Medical University:

Asymmetric Synthesis of Highly Functionalized alpha-Amino Acids via Radical Intermediates

Enantiopure α-amino acids (α-AA) play a key role in nature being building blocks for the construction of a broad range of peptides and proteins. At the moment the scientific community pays attention to the non-proteinogenic (or unnatural) AAs due to their wide use in the modification of the structure of peptides and proteins in order to improve their bioactivity and stability. Furthermore, unnatural AAs provide a unique opportunity for modulation of artificial enzymes with novel biological activities.

Non-proteinogenic AAs are often inspired by the natural structure and can be synthesized either by enzymatic conversion or organic synthetic methods. On the other hand, enantiopure unnatural AAs are broadly applied in asymmetric catalysis as organocatalysts and as ligands for transition-metal catalysis. However, due to the lack of synthetic methodologies, their structural diversity is strongly limited. For example, the introduction of new functional groups at the α- or β-carbon of AA could lead not only to the creation of synthetically new unnatural AAs, but also opens up a wealth of opportunities for its application in both biology and organic synthesis. Among them perfluoroalkyl (Rf)-containing α-AAs are great of interest because perfluoroalkyl groups can improve their stability, increase the lipophilicity of target molecules, and can act as “labels” in protein structure studies. However, the methods of asymmetric synthesis of such AAs are scarce and, in most cases, restricted by the introduction of the trifluoromethyl (CF3) group only. From the point of view of synthetic organic chemistry, there remains a great need for new methods that can expand the availability and diversity of unnatural AAs.

Given this hurdle, the collaborative work aims to develop novel catalytic concepts for the synthesis of unnatural perfluoroalkyl-containing AAs through the post-functionalization of the chiral nickel(II) complexes of Schiff bases bearing AA fragments with unsaturated motifs (double and triple C-C bonds). It is proposed to modify the AA residue using the various in situ generated radical intermediates from the hypervalent-iodine-based reagents under catalytic manner including transition-metal catalysis, photocatalysis, and electrochemical synthesis. Further, functionalized enantiopure AAs that are important for pharmaceutical studies or synthesis of bioactive compounds, will be isolated from the nickel complexes through one-step chemical decomposition under an acidic media, while the chiral auxiliary will be recovered from the reaction mixture, and reused to obtain the starting nickel complexes. This method will allow to obtain enantiopure unnatural AAs that cannot be synthesized using classical methods including Michael or Mannich additions, and etc. Besides the introduction of the fluorinated motifs, successful catalytic methodologies will also be used for the incorporation of other vital functional groups into the structure of AAs including nitro (NO2), azido (N3), alkoxy (OR), and cyano (CN) groups.

It was demonstrated that the chiral nickel(II) complexes are perspective synthetic tools for the development of efficient methodologies to generate enantiomerically pure AAs and they already applied in industrial processes. Therefore, we are convinced that successful methodologies developed within this research collaborative platform will be extensively used by chemists both in the laboratory and in industry.


University of Fribourg:

A.N. Nesmeyanov Institute of Organoelement Compounds of Russian Academy of Sciences (INEOS RAS):

Breakdown of thermalization in quantum systems: analytical and numerical approaches

Recent experimental advances have enabled realization of synthetic quantum systems with many particles. Examples include ultracold atoms in laser traps and superconducting qubits. These systems have provided ideal platforms to investigate non-equilibrium quantum dynamics, which previously has been out of reach.

In recent years, theoretical investigations have focused on describing universality classes of quantum dynamics. Remarkably, classes of systems which do not reach thermal equilibrium, were discovered. Such systems go beyond conventional statistical mechanics, and new analytical and numerical tools are necessary. The interest in non-thermalizing systems stems from their fundamental and technological importance. In particular, as shown by the Geneva team, absence of thermalization allows one to protect quantum coherence and realize new non-equilibrium states of matter.

In parallel, thermodynamics of black holes, quantum chaos, and universality of quantum dynamics have been actively studied in the context of quantum gravity. It has become evident that the two communities (condensed matter and quantum gravity) are largely interested in the same set of questions, but approach them using very different sets of tools. There is clearly strong potential for collaboration between the two communities, which will reveal new connections between synthetic quantum systems studied in the lab and quantum effects of gravity exemplified by the black holes.

The goal of this project is to establish a collaboration on quantum dynamics between two teams, at UniGe and SkolTech, led by D. Abanin and A. Dymarsky. The two teams have made key contributions to the recent developments in the field, in particular, developing theories of thermalization and its breaking. The teams have condensed matter and quantum gravity backgrounds respectively, which provides foundation for synergetic activities. The expertise of the Geneva team includes condensed matter techniques and numerical methods for non-equiliubirum lattice systems, while the Moscow team focuses on holographic correspondence and field-theoretic approaches. In this project, these very different tools will be combined to make progress in describing universality classes of quantum dynamics.

We plan to investigate two classes of phenomena: quantum many-body scars and prethermalization, and to link them to quantum chaos.

Quantum many-body scars is a novel mechanism to avoid thermalization, introduced recently by the Geneva team. In particular, several constrained lattice models exhibiting quantum scars have been constructed. As a part of this project, we aim to develop field-theoretic description for such systems and reveal classes of theories that exhibit non-thermalization dynamics via the “scar” mechanism. Furthermore, connections between the models exhibiting quantum scars and integrable models will be clarified, and new exactly solvable models will be constructed.

Prethermalization – the ability of a system to thermalize parametrically slowly – is the second direction in which both teams have significant complementary expertise. The Geneva team have rigorously established general conditions for prethermalization in Floquet systems. The Moscow team has discovered promising analytic connections between prethermalization, operator growth, and quantum chaos. This will form the basis for a long-term collaboration.

This project will establish a collaboration on quantum dynamics, involving PIs, postdocs, and students, preparing the teams for joint funding opportunities.


University of Geneva:

  • Prof. Dimitry Abanin
  • Dr. Alessio Lerose
  • Mr. Michael Sonner


Magnetoencephalography and machine learning techniques for studying predictive processes of the human brain

The world around us is full of sensory experiences, which follow repetitive rules. Through exposure to reoccurring stimuli, we are able to learn patterns and form predictions about future events. Predictive traces manifest in multiple stages of processing in the brain, with the most prevalent theory being that brain regions that are ‘high’ in a cortical hierarchy, (frontal areas), propagate predictions to ‘lower’ regions, (sensory areas). One way to study predictive processes is through omission paradigms: in a sequence of stimuli -sounds- a regularly repeated stimulus is rarely omitted, eliciting a neural response which is similar to the response to the actual stimulus.

Omission responses have been reported at multiple levels of a neural hierarchy. Sensory cortices show similar patterns of neural responses to omitted as to experienced stimuli. Additionally, omission responses have been reported in prefrontal and subcortical regions. This raises the question of whether omission responses originate from one global mechanism or whether independent predictive traces coexist at various levels of processing. While omissions provide a window of investigation on the neural mechanism underlying predictions, it remains unknown how omission responses change while learning a new regularity.

We hypothesize that omission responses are generated by sensory areas  during learning, and by higher cognitive areas (i.e. prefrontal) when a model of the environment has been built (after learning).

The proposed project capitalizes on state-of-the-art magnetoencephalography (MEG) and machine learning techniques to achieve two goals: investigate the neural mechanisms that underlie omission responses across cortical hierarchies and study how these are modulated by learning. 

MEG measures magnetic activity of the brain in a fine temporal resolution. Unlike other techniques like electroencephalography, MEG is sensitive to localizing the sources of neural activity. Unfortunately, MEG is a technique that does not exist in Switzerland, which led to the proposed collaboration with the MEG center in Russia.

We have designed an experiment which consists of presenting participants with sound sequences at different predictability levels, and including rare omissions. In March 2020 we collected preliminary MEG data in N=5 participants, which showed that: (a) the identity of omitted sounds can be decoded using machine learning models trained to discriminate responses to sounds; (b) decoding is modulated by learning and is highest in a fully learned sequence.

These first results strongly encourage the continuation of data collection over a larger cohort of N=25 participants, following standards in the MEG field. Acquiring this dataset will allow to: (a) confirm our preliminary findings on a larger cohort (b) identify brain sources (c) delineate the predictive network in order to formulate tailored protocols to test the  network causality, by employing non-invasive magnetic stimulation to modulate the formation of sensory predictions. These follow-up studies will be the subject of future funding applications with all applicants.

In terms of clinical application, the completion of the proposed project will improve our understanding of pathological conditions whose neural predictive mechanisms are impaired, such as patients with disorders of consciousness and a host of neuropsychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia.


University of Bern:

University of Zurich:

Higher School of Economics (HSE) in Moscow:

Towards understanding the structural evolution of the Verkhoyansk fold-and-thrust belt (Russia)

The Verkhoyansk fold-and-thrust belt is located in far-east Russia and formed during the Mesozoic as a result of accretion of several continental terranes to the Siberian platform. The fold-and-thrust belt consists of imbricated thrust sheets of sedimentary sequences deposited onto the Verkhoyansk continental margin, which represented the eastern boundary of the Siberian platform. These thrust sheets are composed of a stratigraphic succession of Mesoproterozoic to Cretaceous continental, shallow- to deep-marine and syn-tectonic deposits. Several microcontinents were formed during a long-lasting phase of rifting from the Neoproterozoic to the Devonian. Tectonic inversion and subduction of formerly developed oceans lead to the amalgamation of these continental terranes during the Mesozoic.

This seed grant aims to initiate a scientific collaboration between the Geological Institute of the ETH in Zürich and the Institute of Earth Sciences of the St. Petersburg University with the ultimate goal of submitting a proposal to the Swiss National Science Foundation. The long-term goals of the SNSF project are resolving i) the large-scale tectonic history related to the separation of several terranes from the North Asian Craton since Neoproterozoic times and their amalgamation during Jurassic to Cretaceous times, and ii) the structural evolution of the Verkhoyansk fold-and-thrust belt that was formed from Late Jurassic to early Late Cretaceous times, including major structural variations dividing it into a West and a South sector. In this sense, the Leading House project allows for initial fieldwork in the Verkhoyansk and the possibility of testing our hypothesis on selected key samples collected during this field trip.

To achieve the targeted goals, we conduct provenance analysis and low-temperature thermo- and geochronology on selected Neoproterozoic to Cenozoic sandstone samples from the Verkhoyansk fold-and-thrust belt. This analytical work will be used to constrain the large-scale and long-term geo-tectonic history of the passive margin and amalgamated terranes and the timing of uplift of the Verkhoyansk range (low-temperature geochronology). The project includes a field trip to the Verkhoyansk to collect samples. Provenance analysis and low-temperature geochronology will be conducted at the Department of Earth Science at the ETH, including MSc students from either institution.

The implication of both partners is crucial for the success of the project. The Russian team consists of Prof. Dr. Andrei Khudoley and Dr. Sergey Malyshev, both from the Institute of Earth Sciences at the St. Petersburg University, who provide extensive experience in conducting fieldwork in the Verkhoyansk and invaluable scientific expertise of the regional geology. The Swiss team includes Dr. Jonas Ruh and Dr. Giuditta Fellin, both working at the Department of Earth Sciences at the ETH Zürich. The main PI of this project, Jonas Ruh, contributes as a specialist in structural geology with expertise in paleostress reconstructions. Giuditta Fellin is the manager of the sedimentology laboratory at the Geological Institute with expertise in provenance analysis and low-temperature thermochronology. The project aims towards establishing a long-term collaboration between the two partners and a vivid exchange of Master and PhD students for future field and laboratory work.


ETH Zurich:

St. Petersburg University:

Embedded Neural Quantum State

There is always demand, and especially in light of recent events,  in faster and cheaper methods for simulation of chemical systems. Due to extremely high complexity of the full quantum many-body problem, one needs always to find a compromise between accuracy and computational cost.

At the present time my project in UZH (group of Prof. Dr. Luber) is related to development of quantum chemistry methods for simulation of the "embedded" molecular systems , i.e. interacting with the environment (e.g. molecules in solvent). The environment in this case is represented by less accurate method (e.g. density functional theory - DFT) and the molecule is by accurate many-body method (e.g. DMRG, Quantum Monte Carlo). One of the last developments in these area are the embedded DMRG-in-DFT case (M. Reiher 2015). My main idea is to follow this scheme and to use the new many-body Neural Quantum State (NQS, G. Carleo, 2017) methods instead of DMRG. The development of NQS part is planned to do in collaboration with Dr. Dmitry Bazhanov (Moscow State University - MSU, Moscow, Russia), where such method is currently developed.

In short about NQS. In last years the significant progress was achieved in development of methods in Machine Learning, Neural Networks and its application for simulation of quantum many body systems. The NQS method is based on stochastic simulation principle of a quantum system by using neural networks for representation of a quantum state.  Comparing to the existing methods for simulation of many-body systems like DMRG or "classic" Quantum Monte Carlo family, the new method can potentially take into account higher degrees of correlation in the system requiring less computational resources (first of all memory). The last work devoted to NQS (G. Carleo, 2020) showed that this method can be successfully used for electron system, which makes it possible to apply the NQS for studies of quantum chemical systems. Therefore, it connects this method directly with cheaper practical application in the area of chemistry and, in particular, in drug development.

The technical side of the project is based on code development in frames of the quantum chemistry simulation tool CP2K (DFT, Hartree-Fock). The many-body accurate embedded simulations will be performed using NQS code developed in collaboration with MSU, Russia  and compared with existing NQS code NetKet (G. Carleo) and DMRG code Block. During the collaboration work several visits are planned: Two visits of collaborator from MSU, Moscow in UZH, Zurich and two my visits from UZH Zurich to MSU, Moscow.

As a result of the collaboration the new method "embedded DFT-in-NQS" will be developed and tested. The results will be published in Open-Access journals.


University of Zurich

Dr. Ilia Sivkov

Moscow State University

Dr. Dmitry Bazhanov

Deterministic and stochastic methods in manufacturing process

Manufacturing has changed drastically over the last decades due to adaptation and application of new technologies from different disciplines. The increase of computational power brought artificial intelligence  as counterweight to the often very sophisticated deterministic modelling with new chances and challenges into play and is today with the massive evaluation of data from different sources part of Industrie 4.0.  Collaborating at the forefront of manufacturing technology MSUT Stankin and IWF / ETH Zürich want to mobilize their combined expertise in manufacturing processes to explore the seam between the two different approaches, as it becomes evident that the stochastic methods come to their limits and can be cross-fertilized with physical models.  This allows enhanced prediction and analysis, creation of digital twins throughout the entire manufacturing field, for process steps, process chains, manufacturing equipment, quality assurance etc., T and are the basis for further digitization and utilization of the internet of things.

The goal of proposed project is setting up a joint initiative to explore the most effective and efficient combination for different tasks in manufacturing. Both organizations share their experience, create an inventory of mutual competences and a knowledge pool for best practices. Tools involved are

  1. Artificial Intelligence (AI) methods: Neural Networks, Bayesian optimization, Markov–Decision Processes, iterative learning control, Ontologies, Monte Carlo method etc.
  2. Physical modelling: phenomenological and analytical modelling, FEM and meshfree simulations.

Potential research directions:

  1. Stochastic modelling of spark placement and crater generation in Electrical Discharge Machining (EDM). Using probability function and Fuzzy logic for the influencing parameters like field line concentration, debris, roughness remaining ions in the gap, etc.
  2. Direct Metal Deposition (DMD) process modelling with experimental verification using 10 kW disk laser from Trumpf, available in MSUT "STANKIN". Process controls for extremely high power DMD with powders of different and especially limited quality to minimize the process costs.
  3. Processes with geometrically non defined cutting edges, esp. brittle-hard materials, their stochastic parameter description combined with physical models on the single grain and the macroscopic level taking into account wear and dressing.
  4. Prediction of fractalized supply chains.


Joining expertise would further increase the knowledge through planned tandem work and workshops on models and modelling methods. Through this project it is possible to create a competition which model in the end is best suitable to generate some difficult to obtain results.

The goal of the present PSG is to trigger an active scientific and educational collaboration between academic institutions and help to:

  • strengthen existing collaboration
  • develop applied projects and set up a creative innovative network between students and researchers in both countries;
  • further develop complementary skills and promote academic excellence among graduate, postgraduate and PhD students;
  • support graduate students and PhD candidates promising research through research advisors in both countries;
  • create a basis for future long-term collaboration:

Publications in international scientific and Russian and Swiss industry journals will already result.


ETH Zürich:

Moscow state university of technology "Stankin":

Demand networks: from smart city to tourism intelligence

In the last years tourism has seen an incredible growth. However, this has resulted in a high diversity in the ways destinations have experienced the phenomenon and its effects, mainly for what concerns the concentration of tourist flows to specific areas. Overtourism, undertourism and other similar buzzwords have been used to highlight the different problems seen in many locations and situations. Much is, probably, just a subjective perception due to the high variability and strong seasonality of the phenomenon during a typical year. A growing strand of literature has examined the issues. From these, one element seems to emerge: it is a complex and multi-layered phenomenon that manifests differently in different locations and needs multidimensional efforts to address associated challenges in terms of policies, organizations, institutions, and behavior. In the end, as many maintain, the issue can be reduced to a destination management issue, or, better, to a failure in correctly managing a destination and the flows of people visiting it.

One of the most important points, for a rational and efficient management of a destination, is the adoption of an integrated set of strategies that combine tourism, transport and land-use related measures. In this, the control of accessibility and mobility to and within a tourism destination is a crucial tool to regulate visitor flows (VF), reduce traffic congestion and pollution and meet tourists’ and residents’ requirements. Therefore, understanding tourist mobility becomes a central activity for planning of on-site movement and marketing of attractions and services. In the past years, many have increasingly studied the movement patterns of tourists and how to guide practice based on movement patterns.

The recent development and diffusion of information and communication technologies (ICT), mainly since internet could be embarked in mobile phones and the increase number and adoption of social networking platforms have brought the availability of extensive geolocated datasets related to human movement, enabling researchers to quantitatively study individual and collective mobility patterns, and to generate models that can capture and reproduce the spatiotemporal structures and regularities in human trajectories. Thanks to the social network multimedia broadcast capacities, the spatiotemporal information is enriched by contents such as photos, videos, text which add a second analysis layer namely, virtual interactivity. This virtual interactivity allows the users to be in touch with their family and friends reporting in real time and geotagged way their experiences. For the research, this virtual interactivity adds a social level to spatiotemporal aspects of VF. Therefore, this conception of VF locates the methodological tools in the crossroads of quantitative and qualitative methods. Moreover, assessing and monitoring VF and using the outcomes for reshaping the destination organization’s governance model, moving it from a static-central model to a dynamic network approach requires good multidisciplinary competences and the choice of the data to collect and of the methods for gaining the needed insights. Bridging the gap from smart city technologies to tourism intelligence enrichment is the main aim of this project.


HES-SO Valais Wallis:

Tomsk Polytechnic University:

Group theory, topology and dynamics: Russian-Swiss collaboration

The main goal of this proposal is to organize a strong multi-disciplinary research group working in a rapidly developing area at the intersection of  dynamical systems, low-dimensional topology and geometric group theory. The group will include several leading mathematicians from Switzerland and Russia, as well as young researchers and graduate students from both countries.

Historically, since the work of Poincaré in the beginning of the 20th century, there was a fruitful interaction between dynamics, topology and geometric group theory. Multi-disciplinary approach combining algebraic, geometric and dynamical intuition and techniques continues to be extremely productive and has led in recent years to spectacular developments in all these subjects. Areas of front-line research include Teichmüller dynamics, ergodic theory, measurable group theory, theory of groups of homeomorphisms and so on.

Mathematical ties between Russia and Switzerland have a long and successful history, and there currently exist many active mathematical collaborations between our two countries. In the same time, Swiss Universities and Russian counterparts have established global cooperation programs and many students have benefited from existing exchanges. In this beneficial situation for further development of contacts and mobility,  our project aims at creating a solid framework for more regular and active research collaboration.

Given the scope of the present call for proposals, we have decided, as the first step, to concentrate our efforts on the creation of  a "triangle" including one cluster in Switzerland (with PA and her group at the University of Geneva and a former collaborator now starting independent research at the University of Neuchâtel) and two clusters in Russia: in Moscow (with PA and her group at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow and  one senior participant and his group at Steklov Institute) and at the St.Petersburg State University. All these departments are centers of excellence in the area of the project, and there is high potential for further development. Indeed, based on the present proposal, we plan to extend our collaboration beyond the funded period and to seek other funds and also to expand it by eventually including other colleagues from Geneva and St.Petersburg, as well as another cluster at the University of Zurich.

An important part of the proposal consists in enhancing mobility and contacts among young members of the participating research centers. In particular, we plan such activities as internships for advanced students, doctoral school and a monthly joint online seminar. We hope that an opportunity to learn from actively working leading mathematicians and to collaborate with them in the frame of this project will allow the young talents not only to get their first results, but also to extend their scientific horizons and to form a useful network of contacts for their future academic career.

To summarize, active and regular contacts and collaboration in the frame of this project will  be beneficial for the global scientific cooperation between our two countries, for development of young researchers and for the advancement of research in Russia and in Switzerland.


University of Geneva:

High School of Economics:

Steklov Mathematical Institute of RAS:

University of Neuchâtel:

St. Petersburg State University :

Impact of genetic deficiency in the synthesis of brain-specific gangliosides and glycoproteins mediated by the ST3GAL3 and ST3GAL5 genes on the neuropathology

Background: Neurons and glia carry diverse glycolipids and glycoproteins, regulating their  interactions with cellular environment (Yoo et al.,2015). Sialic acids are playing a key role in these processes (Svennerholm,1994). Sialoglycan biosynthesis is mediated via glycosyltransferases, where glycoprotein/ganglioside sialyltransferase ST3GAL3 and ganglioside-specific sialyltransferase ST3GAL5 are critically important. Human mutations in genes St3gal3 and St3gal5 result in seizures, developmental delay, intellectual disability and increase a risk of neurodevelopmental disorders, including attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder(ADHD) (Demontis et al.,2019;Hall et al.,2020;Klein et al.,2020;Rovira et al.,2020).

The mechanisms of neuropathology resulting from ST3GAL3 and ST3GAL5 dysfunction and the role of environmental factors in relation to these abnormalities are unclear, while roles of neuroinflammation (Dukhinova et al.,2018) and dysmyelination (Lesch,2019) were shown. Mice lacking St3gal5 demonstrate motor deficits, anxiety, aberrant social and cognitive behaviours, overexpression of pro-inflammatory cytokines and their dysregulation after challenges (Dukhinova et al.,2018). On another hand, various environmental factors increase a risk of neurodevelopmental pathologies/ADHD via pro-inflammatory changes, and interact with genetic mechanisms (Demontis et al.,2019). Infections and neuroinflammatory processes resulting from nutritional obesity and diabetes, can be such factors (Anand et al.,2017;Cortese,2019).

Given high medical and social need in understanding gene/environment factors underling neuropsychiatric pathologies, it is of high importance to study the role of ST3GAL3 and ST3GAL5 deficiency in this context. Particularly, this might concern (1)hall-marks of ADHD and neurodevelopmental conditions revealed in human studies; roles of (2)systemic inflammation and (3)dietary-induced metabolic conditions in the development of neuropathologies related to these genes;  (4)the effectiveness of the use nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids and anti-inflammatory anti-oxidant derivatives of vitamin B1.

Methods: We will address cellular, molecular and behavioral phenotypes of St3gal3- and St3gal5-null mutant mice, uniquely available via Moscow, LPN, under normal conditions, dietary challenge and the use of anti-inflammatory/anti-oxidant nutrients. During the 1styear, mice will be studied for myelination and neuroinflammatory markers, motor functions, emotional, social and cognitive behaviours, also after the administration of drugs used during ADHD. A selection of molecular hallmarks of ADHD will be based on clinical studies of a Prof.Walitza group (Demontis et al.,2019;Grünblatt et al.,2019b,2019a,2013;Walitza et al., 2007,2005) and shall be performed using their unique the Bio-Plex assay analysis platform in Zürich.

During the 2ndyear, the role of environmental factors and nutrients changing oxidative stress and neuroinflammation in the development of ADHD-like pathology will be studied in both lines.  Juvenile St3gal3- and St3gal5 null mutants will be housed on high-fat/carbohydrate ‘Western’ diet inducing oxidative stress, neuroinflammation and ADHD-like-syndrome (Strekalova et al.,2016,2015;Veniaminova et al.,2020), or challenged with LPS. Chronic administration of anti-inflammatory thiamine(vitamin B1) compounds (Gorlova et al.,2019;Pavlov et al.,2020) and omega-3 fatty acids (Emery et al.,2020;Häberling et al.,2019) will be used also.

Anticipated results: Joint efforts of Moscow LPN providing unique work on mutant mice and Translational Molecular Psychiatry Laboratory in Zürich, offering specialized molecular techniques and clinic-based approach will let to determine new ADHD-related mechanisms of genetic inactivation of St3gal3 and St3gal5 and the impact of systemic inflammation, Western diet and anti-oxidant/anti-inflammatory nutrients under these conditions.


University of Zurich

I.M. Sechenov First Moscow State Medical University

Fritz Platten: Switzerland, Communism, and Soviet Russia

Fritz Platten (1883–1942) was one of the best-known Swiss Communists of his time. After an early encounter with the radical left, he joined Lenin’s cause at the clandestine Zimmerwald Conference in 1915. He was the organiser of the legendary ‘sealed train’ which, in April 1917, transported Lenin and a group of Russian exiles from Switzerland to Petrograd, and is said to have saved Lenin from an assassination attempt in January 1918. In the same year he played a leading role in the Swiss general strike. In 1919 he was a member of the Executive committee of the 1st Congress of the Comintern in Moscow. Between 1920 and 1922, he held a seat in the Swiss Parliament for the Communist faction of the Social Democratic Party and subsequently for the Communist Party of Switzerland, of which he was a founder member in 1921.

From 1917 onward, Platten frequently travelled to Revolutionary Russia, finally settling in the USSR in 1923 and setting up an agricultural cooperative with a group of like-minded Swiss émigrés. In 1938, after a period teaching at the Moscow State Pedagogical Institute of Foreign Languages, Platten and his third wife Bertha Zimmermann fell victim to the ‘Great Terror’; Zimmermann was shot soon after her arrest, while Platten was sentenced to four years in a labour camp and executed in 1942. After Stalin’s demise and Platten’s rehabilitation Soviet discourse cast Platten as a ‘companion of Lenin’s, who saved his life’, while his memory in Switzerland, by contrast, progressively faded; his son, Fritz N. Platten, made many unsuccessful attempts throughout his life to write a biography of his father, and left a large collection of papers on the subject, now held by the university library of Basel.

This Swiss/Russian collaboration will proceed from Fritz Platten’s transnational life story to explore the intertwinements between Switzerland and Soviet Russia during the twentieth century’s first half. This will entail examining the history of Switzerland’s Communist and socialist movement and the opposition to it, alongside that of Swiss socialists and Communists in Revolutionary Russia and the early USSR. In so doing, the project will point ahead to the Cold War era, whose ideological roots extend deeply into the inter-war period.

With the University of Basel (Unibas) and the European University at St Petersburg (EUSPb) as lead institutions, the project will involve further institutions including Basel University Library, the Swiss Social Archives in Zürich, the Swiss Federal Archives in Bern, the Archives of Contemporary History in Zürich, and the NGO “Memorial” in Moscow.

The project’s central objectives are: 1) to view and review source material in Swiss libraries and archives (Basel University Library holdings; Swiss Social Archives, Zürich; Swiss Federal Archives, Bern) and Russia (RGASPI, GARF etc.); 2) to prepare and stage a joint exhibition to be hosted by Basel University Library and to open in the autumn of 2021; and 3) to prepare a major collaborative research project on the history of entanglements and interrelationships between Switzerland and Soviet Russia between 1918 and 1946.


University of Basel :

European University Saint-Pertersburg :

  • Prof. Dr. Boris Ivanovich Kolonitsky
  • Dr. Konstantin Godunov
  • Mr. Kira Georgievna Valter
Interdisciplinary Archaeological Science and Knowledge Transfer in Siberia

The Tunnug 1 project is excavating, documenting, and analyzing the earliest princely tomb of Scythian material culture in Tuva Republic, Russia. The size, dating, and preservation conditions make the monumental burial mound (kurgan) an archaeological archive of primary importance for the understanding of the prehistory of the Eurasian steppes and human adaptation to this harsh environment. The transition from the late Bronze Age to the early Iron Age in Tuva marks the beginning of the appearance of fully mobile pastoralist groups, a steeply hierarchical society with an elite of warriors fighting from horseback, together with a material culture which is defined through the so-called “Scythian triad,” consisting of an assemblage of horse gear, weapons, and items decorated in animal style. Two large excavation campaigns have already been conducted leading to the discovery of well-preserved wooden architecture. The construction was dated to the 9th century BCE. Only one other large tomb of this cultural horizon is known and information on this formative period thus remains very scarce. The site provides the unique opportunity to change notions and generate knowledge about the rise of the horseback warrior nomads and their essential role for idea transfer between East and West within a pan-Eurasian network as well as for understanding past human adaptation to a changing environment. The project's aim is to investigate and contextualize the Tunnug 1 site in an interdisciplinary manner including but not limited to stratigraphic and typological analyses, palynology, physical anthropology, aDNA, proteomics, and isotope analyses makes it ideal as a basis for knowledge transfer between Switzerland and Russia. The workshop and excavation on site will bring young researchers together who will work on a highly interdisciplinary project. The formed connections will allow for a strengthened international collaboration between young Russian and Swiss researchers in the field of archaeological research. The direct discussion and face-to-face communication will speed up the idea generation and ultimately the publication process as well as provide new ideas and perspectives for additional research questions and innovations. Young researchers involved in the project will participate in the discussions and derive ideas on how to strengthen interdisciplinary aspects of their own research projects and establish lasting international connections. Additionally, we will bring Russian researchers to Bern and Swiss researchers and students to St. Petersburg in order to exchange knowledge and conduct research based on the materials excavated in Tuva Republic. These contacts in diverse research environments will allow for a number of academic articles being written. Young talents from both countries will develop their international network hence furthering their careers and planting seeds for project extension and long-term innovation.

Participants :

University of Bern

  • Dr. Gino Caspari

Institute for the History of Material Culture

  • Dr. Natalisa Solovivea
  • Mr. Timur Sadykov
  • Mr Jegor Biochin

Institute for Archaeological Sciences

  • Prof. Dr. Mirko Novak