Five new projects collaborate on societal challenges
Five new projects have received funding within the framework of Uppsala University's Verification for collaboration program, VFS. The projects concern for example virtual learning and museums and the implementation of the Philani Mentor Mother Model in socially deprived communities.
VFS is part of the university's work to stimulate sustainable collaboration and the impact of research in society. The funding, of up to 300,000 SEK per project, gives researchers and external actors the opportunity to jointly develop and test new solutions to needs-driven challenges.
The projects that have received funding concern virtual learning and museums, smart window technology, design of digital daily activities, motherhood mentoring and child health, and single cell phenotyping for industrial applications.
Virtual learning experiences promoting societal change
Anna Foka at the Department of ABM (archives, libraries and museums) is the responsible researcher in one of the projects that received funding. In collaboration with the National Museums of World Culture, she and her research colleagues will carry out a feasibility study on distance learning and possibly with the help of virtual reality. Representatives from Google Arts & Culture, Europeana and the National Heritage Board will also contribute to the project.
“Our project is based on the need of the heritage sector to be inclusive and correspond to the audiences of the future, but also to our increasingly digital global society - an issue that has been highlighted by the effects of COVID-19. We want to investigate what museums and virtual learning processes can do for showcasing arts and culture transparent to a target group of school students and how we can deploy resources to expand the reach and spread of the digital content it features, while at the same time ensure equality and diversity,” says Anna Foka.
Starting in April
The project begins in April and a core part will be the survey that will be aimed at both teachers and school students who get to test the digital learning platform, which after careful evaluation will be selected as best practice and filled with content. There is no doubt about what Anna Foka looks forward to most of all.
“Students’ and educator’s questionnaire answers! I am very interested to see other views than my own concerning our rich heritage collections in Sweden. I believe it is important to listen and observe different perspectives so as to make an experience inclusive for all.”
Here is a summary of each of the five projects that have received funding:
1. World culture becomes a digital learning experience
How can cultural heritage be made available to more people and become a force that unites a multicultural society? This project seeks to harness the potential of digital technology to help bring collections and objects to life in a way that includes and engages school pupils, regardless of their gender and cultural and socioeconomic background. The project is being led by Anna Foka, a researcher with the Department of ALM (Archives - Libraries - Museums) in partnership with the National Museums of World Culture (NMWC), which includes four museums in Sweden: the Museum of Ethnography, the Museum of Mediterranean and Near Eastern Antiquities, the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities and the Museum of World Culture. NMWC preserves a large part of the international cultural heritage held by the government in Sweden and this project gives the National Museums of World Culture an opportunity to experiment along with expert researchers in the field of virtual learning to further develop the museums’ offerings of digital learning experiences. For the researchers, the project will further spread and increase the impact of their knowledge gained in previous and ongoing research projects. Drawing on the researchers’ deep expertise in the digital humanities and intersectionality, the project will develop content, learning formats and technical solutions. The goal is to develop a prototype of a virtual learning platform that will be tested and evaluated by the team and school pupils. A central idea is that the learning platform should promote greater acceptance of cultural differences and contribute to social sustainability.
2. Protective layers should make smart windows even smarter
Smart windows use electrochromism (EC), an energy-saving technology which allows control of the solar heat and light transmission. A building with smart glass windows can therefore significantly reduce its energy consumption, and thus the cost, for cooling, air conditioning and illumination. An additional plus is that indoor comfort can increase. Smart windows have been commercially available for some years but have not yet made a breakthrough. EC devices consist of dynamic materials in several thin layers and still suffer from compatibility oriented issues between these layers, such as degradation, dark spots and cracks. This ultimately reduces performance and product quality. In this project, Ilknur Bayrak Pehlivan, a researcher at the Department of Materials Science and Engineering in collaboration with Sisecam, which is the largest flat glass manufacturer in Europe, will develop and adapt oxide thin film protective layers to EC systems. More specifically, preparation and characterization of oxide thin film protective layers between electrochromic and polymer electrolyte layers is targeted. The project aims to contribute new knowledge in the field of protective layers and improve the EC properties and durability of EC systems. The project will also be a basis for continued research on multi-functional EC devices, which in addition to controlling heat and light can provide energy storage and energy production. By joining forces and combining fundamental research and industrial experience to advance the development of EC technology this project can help realise the enormous potential for energy savings in modern buildings.
3. Digital daily activities
How can good digital meetings be designed in the context of daily activities for people with intellectual and multiple physical disabilities? This is an urgent question in the light of the ongoing pandemic, as daily activities programmes have also had to switch over to digital activities. This requires digital skills on the part of service users and staff alike, as well as access to smoothly functioning digital media, aspects that make the transition more difficult. The Danvikstull daily activities programme quickly switched to digital meetings so that it could offer much-needed structure to the daily lives of its service users, despite the pandemic. How has it gone and how can digital daily activities be developed going forward in a way that benefits people with intellectual disabilities and improves their conditions for social engagement? Kristina Engwall, researcher at the Centre for Social Work (CESAR) at the Department of Sociology and the staff at the Danvikstull daily activities programme are coming together around these issues in a joint project that focuses on practice-based research and organisational development. Based on activities including workshops, interview studies and surveys, the partnership is meant to result in a learning conference for daily activities programmes, a manual containing recommendations for digital daily activities and a scholarly article.
4. South African innovation will promote child health in socially deprived communities
The Philani Mentor Mother Model is a South African innovation for improving child health and development. Mothers with experience and good childrearing skills support other mothers in similar environments in creating a sustainable and healthy life situation for themselves, their children and their families. The Philani Model will now be introduced in disadvantaged communities in Malmö through a collaborative project between Professor Mats Målqvist at the Department of Women's and Children's Health and Yalla Trappan, a social enterprise in Malmö. The collaborative project is based on an earlier project in which Professor Målqvist worked with the Church of Sweden to compile registry data to identify socially deprived communities in Sweden where child health metrics are poorer. Contacts were established with Yalla Trappan and the City of Malmö within the framework of that project. All parties will be involved in adapting, implementing and evaluating the Mentor Mother Model that is the focus of this project. The partners share strong commitment to trialling new methods that can promote integration and better child health among disadvantaged groups in Sweden. The Philani Model will be an important complement to Yalla Trappan’s ongoing activities and the Preschools Department of the City of Malmö will be able to use the model to reach further into communities with knowledge about early childhood development and, it is hoped, spark greater interest in preschool activities. For the researchers, the project provides an important opportunity to study implementation processes for reducing marginalisation and improving child health. The project is expected to lead to better conditions for women and children in the deprived communities in which the model is implemented, as well as evidence for the model itself, so that it can be scaled up in the future to cover more communities where there is a need for it.
5. Refined use of microalgae for industrial purposes
Could algae be the sustainable food, chemicals and fuel of the future? Even though there is huge potential for using photosynthesised microalgae as efficient catalysts in bioproduction, especially in industry, the systematic characterisation and selection of microalgae to improve productivity or stress resilience (“phenotyping”) has remained largely inaccessible. Scientist Lars Behrendt and his colleagues at the Department of Organismal Biology have developed the PhenoChip platform that uses microfluidics to enable phenotyping under carefully defined environmental conditions. Within this collaborative project, which includes scientists from Uppsala University and Linnaeus University, as well as several industrial partners, PhenoChip will be used to select microalgae with the best capacity to capture carbon dioxide from industrial flue gases. The selected microalgae will be cultivated in ALGOLAND photobioreactors, which are fed with flue gases from the incineration of residual forest products at Kalmar Energi’s Moskogen waste facility and from the reburning of sludge at the Södra Cell pulp mill in Mönsterås. The biomass from the microalgae will be used to produce animal feed in partnership with two companies, BioResM and Kollberg Sustainable Engineering. The selection process that is the focus of the project is expected to lead to the identification of microalgae that have unsurpassed capacity to produce biomass from industrial gas waste. The cell culture from the microalgae can then be used to start grafting within existing photobioreactors to more efficiently capture carbon dioxide from emissions.
Short facts about VFS
VFS has three applications per year and five projects were granted funding in the second round of 2020. They were chosen from a total of nine applications.
Applications for VFS funding are assessed by reviewers appointed by the university's three disciplinary domains. Thereafter, funding recommendations are made by the university’s Advisory board for external collaboration. The Vice-Chancellor makes the formal decision on funding.
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