Research grants

BIOBLU (BIOremediation for coastal debris in BLUE Flag beach and in a Maritime Protected Area)

The BIOBLU project is funded through the Interreg Italia-Malta European Regional Development Fund (total of €1,650,052)  and will aim at mitigating the effects of plastic and microplaslic debris which litter our seas and beaches. Deep learning will be used to detect and localise litter remotely, which will enable automatic litter connection using a robot. Apart from aiding litter collection, the project will also provide useful information for biological studies on the different benthic and nektonic species, to understand the amount of pollution in different levels of the food chain, and above all to trace the origin of such pollution. The project is led by the Università degli Studi di Messina, and the University of Malta is one of the partners in the project.

Duration:  2021-2023 

Grant: 1,650,052 


Coastal SAGE

Coastal erosion is an unrelenting phenomenon which is of importance to the Maltese Islands as the coast is one of the most-intensely used and visited areas. Research in the downstream Earth Observation sector is key to achieving reliable and cost-effective monitoring of coastal erosion. Persistent Scatterer Interferometry (PSI) techniques utilize Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) onboard satellites to provide millimetric deformation estimates. However, SAR suffers from speckle noise, which can affect the PSI processing pipeline and the resulting deformation maps and their interpretation. The “Coastal Satellite Assisted Governance (tools, techniques, models) for Erosion” (Coastal SAGE) project will use image processing and deep learning techniques to address two key aspects of the PSI pipeline: denoising of interferometric phase and phase unwrapping. The developed denoising and unwrapping methods will be used to extract ground displacements from time series of synthetic aperture radar (SAR) acquisitions, in order to estimate deformation and displacement in study areas around Malta and Gozo. These estimates will be validated through in-situ sensors. The Coastal SAGE project is led by Dr Ing. Gianluca Valentino from the University of Malta, with the Marine and Storm Water Unit of the Public Works Department within the Ministry of Transport, Infrastructure and Capital Projects as a partner within the consortium, led by Dr George Buhagiar.

Duration:  2020-2022 

Grant: €150,000  


WAter Resource Management platform using Earth Observation (WARM-EO)

Malta has a semi-arid Mediterranean climate with a low availability of natural renewable water resources for sustaining the production of drinking water, the water demand of agriculture and the sustainability of the environment. This coupled to a high population density exerts a significant pressure on natural water resources and associated ecosystems. The overall objective of the WARM-EO project is to develop a Water Resource Management platform that can be used to estimate irrigation water consumption of particular crops at country level. Nevertheless, models adopted in other countries are not applicable to small Mediterranean countries such as Malta where the parcels are too small and fragmented for the resolution of existing open-access satellite services. The WARM-EO project aims to develop a cost-effective high-resolution evapotranspiration model to estimate the irrigation water use at parcel level. More specifically, the project aims to develop a deep-learning based multi-frame superresolution algorithm to improve the resolution of Sentinel-2 optical images to enable the computation of vegetation indices at 3 m resolution. Moreover, this project intends to fuse in-situ data obtained from nine farms scattered around the island and remote sensing data to estimate land surface temperature at parcel level. The resulting high-resolution evapotranspiration model will be validated against ground-truth evapotranspiration measurements provided by the Energy and Water Agency as part of the CF.PA 10.0096 Project. A Web-GIS service will also be developed to estimate the evapotranspiration of the whole country.

Duration:  2020-2022 

Grant: €150,000 

VideO Light field Acquisition and REstoration (VoLARe)

Duration: 2019-2022

Grant: €200,000

The state-of-the-art in augmented-reality (AR), virtual-reality (VR) and cinematic recording is the Lytro Immerge 2.0, using a rig of ninety-five (95) cameras. This technology allows digital refocusing after capture and facilitates 3D modelling and the realistic integration of computer-generated content. The major hurdle is that this system is too expensive for most productions. The VoLARe project involves the design and development of a low-cost video light field capturing prototype which aims to reduce the number of cameras by a factor of nine (9) thus reducing the throughput down to 30 Gbps. The major challenge in this project is to develop spatial, angular and temporal restoration techniques to improve the quality of the captured video light field.

Face Image Restoration using Deep learning (Deep-FIR)

Duration: 2018–2021

Grant: €200,000

Funding source: FUSION R&I Technology Development Programme

The Deep-FIR project aims to design and implement a face image restoration algorithm that is able to restore very low-resolution facial images captured by CCTV systems with unconstrained pose and orientation. Apart from improving the quality of the restored facial images, this project intends to reduce the complexity, and therefore the time needed to enhance an image or video frame. The developed algorithm will be tested on real-world CCTV videos and compared against existing video forensic tools used by forensic experts in their labs. Project Deep-FIR financed by the Malta Council of Science & Technology, for and on behalf of the Foundation of Science and Technology, through the FUSION: R&I Technology Development Programme.

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The ALICE Experiment @ CERN

The ALICE experiment at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN studies the quark gluon plasma thought to have existed at the start of the Big Bang. Due to the high interaction rate in the experiment resulting from the collisions of heavy-ion particles, particle tracks produced in ALICE's detectors are often characterised by high occupancy and high noise. Members of the Data Science Research Group (DSRG) collaborate with two such detectors. In the case of the Time Projection Chamber, the objective is to identify low-momentum (low radius) helices which are not useful for physics analyses. On the other hand, in the High Momentum Particle IDentification detector, the aim is to identify elliptical patters from which the Cherenkov angle can be calculated.




  • SAtellite TraIning and NETworking (SATINET)

    Duration:  2019-2020  

    Grant: €50,000 

    The Pléiades satellite is the first satellite that captures three consecutive high resolution images of the same region within a relatively short time-frame. This enables researchers to use computer vision techniques to estimate the elevation of objects from the land surface. Researchers at CNES have developed a processing pipeline that is able to generate a 3D reconstruction of scenes captured by the Pléiades satellite. This technology makes it possible to update the digital elevation models on a daily basis. Nevertheless, the 3D reconstruction method has an inherent error margin and can also introduce distortions in the models. The aim of the SATINET project is to use images captured by Synthetic Aperture Radar from Sentinel-1 and adopt more advanced computer vision techniques to improve the quality of the existing 3D reconstruction model. This project will also finance an M.Sc. by research project in collaboration with CNES within the Department of Communications and Computer Engineering at the University of Malta to work on Crop classification.

  •  Automated Segmentation of Microtomography Imaging (ASEMI)

    Duration: 2019–2020

    Grant: €100,000

    Funding source: ATTRACT project

    Microtomography is an X-ray imaging technique similar to the medical CT scanner, and can be used to visualize the internal structures of objects in a non-invasive and non-destructive way. However, microtomography uses synchrotron radiation, an extremely powerful source of X-rays. This allows scans at much higher resolution and quality. Thanks to the phase contrast effect, it can also be used to image soft tissues without the need for contrast agents. Our partners on this project at ESRF have been using two of the microtomography beamlines (ID19 and BM05) for applications in Egyptology, through the investigation of animal mummies. In this application, trained specialists manually segment the volume into textiles, organic tissues, balm resin, ceramics and bones. This process is very time consuming, typically taking several weeks for a small animal mummy. In the near future, thanks to the construction of a new beamline (BM18), the same process is expected to be applied to human mummies, which would take considerably longer. The main objective of our project is to develop and use artificial intelligence techniques to automatically perform this laborious process. Following the principles of “Open Innovation, Open Science, Open to the World”, the developed algorithms, data sets, and results will be made available to the general public. This project has received funding from the ATTRACT project funded by the EC under Grant Agreement 777222.

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  • SATellite data Fusion and Imaging Resolution Enhancement (SAT-FIRE)

    Duration: 2018–2020

    Grant: €150,000

    Funding source: Space Research Fund programme

    The main objectives of the SAT-FIRE project is to improve the spatial resolution challenges of the current Earth Observation (EO) Satellite systems by fusing complementary data from different spatial images from Sentinel-2 and Sentinel-3 data to improve both spatial and temporal resolution and quality of satellite images. This will allow for more accurate predictions of marine currents, aiding divers, search and rescue operations and coastal monitoring. This is an interdisciplinary research project which lies at the intersection of satellite image processing, remote sensing, data fusion and hydro-dynamical modelling. This project  is financed by the Space Research Fund programme of the Malta Council of Science and Technology and is supported by the European Space Agency (ESA).

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    A Network of Assistive Technology for an Independent and Functional Life (NETIFLife)

    Duration: May 2018–2020

    Grant: €225,224

    Funding source: Interreg Italia-Malta

    The main objective of the project is the development of an innovative framework of assistive technology by a joint action between research, industrial, institutional and social sectors. Moreover, the project will reinforce two research centres, one at the University of Catania and the other at the University of Malta, with new equipment. Research will be carried out to develop disruptive solutions in the the area of assistive technologies representing a reference for enterprises.

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  • Next Generation Media over 4G+ Infrastructures (NEREUS)

    Duration: September 2016–2019

    Grant: €44,457

    Funding source: Erasmus+

    The main objective of this project is to offer a multidisciplinary programme for skills development, involving principles from Informatics and Internet technologies, Telecommunications and Network engineering, Social Media sciences and Security. Towards this direction, NEREUS elaborates on cutting-edge topics that are of major importance for societal, cultural and economic prosperity, and with strategic impact in Europe’s 2020 Agenda for sustainable growth and competitiveness both at national and regional levels, focusing onto:

    • Novel media coding and 'green' transport mechanisms
    • Open network architectures with service orchestration
    • QoS/QoE modelling & management
    • Next generation cloud-based services
    • Secure and trustworthy communications

    In this context, NEREUS aims to develop/offer educational material to final year Bachelor and 1st year M.Sc. students in the form of 5 courses and test/evaluate them through intensive courses (one week duration each), which will be summarised in a whole module of 10 ECTS.

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  • High Intensity Radiated Field Synthetic Environment (HIRF SE)

    Funding: EUR 152,272 (EUR 118,308 from EC)

    Duration:  4 years

    Funding source: EU Seventh Framework Programme (FP7)

    Start date:  December 2008

    The HIRF Synthetic Environment research project has the goal to provide to the aeronautic industry a numerical modelling computer framework which can be used during the development phase (including upgrade), in order to ensure adequate EM performance, but also in addition and in a considerable reduction to certification/qualification testing phase on air vehicle.

  • Algorithm development for Antenna Intelligent Design Aids
    Funding:  EUR 3000
    Duration:  2 years
    Funding source:  University
    Start date:  October 2007
    Antenna intelligent design aids (AIDA) have so far been restricted to the application of efficient search algorithms such as the Genetic Algorithm and Simulated Annealing Algorithm. One can therefore comment that antenna CAD is somewhat lagging in this area when compared to CAD in other disciplines. This lack of development can be attributed to various reasons such as technical difficulties in the characterisation and classification of antenna design knowledge, lack of fast rigorous models for EM analysis and the lack of trust and conviction in having these design aids working in an effective way. In the longer term, however, this area of research can result in higher pay offs by helping in the timely design of terminal antennas at the right cost. This research project will focus on developing algorithms suitable for AIDA.
  • Electronically enabled Cabin and Associated Logistics for Improved Passenger Services and Operational Efficiency (ECab)
    Funding:  EUR 93,850
    Duration:  3 years
    Funding source: EU Sixth Framework Programme (FP6)
    Start date: July 2006
    E-Cab (Electronically enabled Cabin and Associated Logistics for Improved Passenger Services and Operational Efficiency) proposes solutions to improve the end­to­end process of air traveling in a holistic approach. The project encompasses the whole logistic chain from journey planning at home, through the airport, flying, up to the final destination.
  • FPGA Implementation of a Speech Recognizer
    Funding: EUR 12,000
    Duration: 3 years
    Funding source: University
    Start date: February 2006
    The aim of the project is to develop a speech recognizer for the Maltese language in digital hardware. Various possible implementations will be studied and compared. Once simulation results are satisfactory the algorithm will be implemented on a Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) and a Digital Signal Processor (DSP). A comparison between the FPGA and DSP solutions will be done in an attempt to determine whether the best solution lies in an FPGA implementation, a DSP or a hybrid.
  • Tunable Antennas for Mobile RF Terminals
    Funding:  EUR 22,904
    Duration:  2 years
    Funding source:  University
    Start date:  September 2006
    New antenna structures that exhibit multi-band and multi-function characteristics are required to sustain and increase the widespread use of wireless communication systems. Antenna bandwidth is a function of volume and usually mobile devices operate on narrowband channels rather than a single wide-band channel. This is very true of GSM as well as UMTS. Given this condition one can use a very small tunable antenna that switches frequencies in real time. This study will research into new structures to obtain tunable elements suitable for a number of different protocols, such as UMTS, WiFi and GSM.
  • Content Based Multimedia Retrieval with Ordered Relevance Feedback
    Funding:  EUR 30,700
    Duration:  2 years
    Funding source: RTDI
    Start date:  December 2005
    Searching the Internet for information using keywords is something that everybody practices and is an efficient way how to retrieve information from an otherwise chaotic repository. This project extends this searching capability to multimedia objects. This is a hard problem since no known technique yet exists that enables a computer to extract the semantics of a video clip, image etc. This project therefore proposes to use ordered relevance feedback from the users to improve the performance of the multimedia search system.
  • Dr Victor Buttigieg obtained a research grant of Lm 13,200 (EUR 30,748) from the RTDI under MCST for a period of two years for work on Content Based Multimedia Retrieval
  • Dr Adrian Muscat and Dr Carl J. Debono obtained a research grant of Lm 1250 (EUR 2912) from the University of Malta for the development of WLAN antennas.
  • Ing. P. P. Debono, Dr Edward Gatt and Dr Carl J. Debono obtained a research grant of Lm 5250 (EUR 12,229) from the University for work on the development of an FPGA implementation of a speech recognizer.
  • Dr David Zammit Mangion and Dr Carl J. Debono are participating in the EU program START. The funding is EUR 25,534.
  • Dr Adrian Muscat and Dr Carl J. Debono are participating in the EU program ALIPRO. The funding is EUR 20,140.
  • Prof. Paul Micallef and Dr Carl J. Debono are participating in a VIth Framework IST Project with acronym TWISTER. The project runs from 2004–2007.
  • The local contribution is to setup, test and evaluate a high speed satellite link between the department and UGC, Gozo that is being used for a virtual classroom. Additionally a research work on modelling the channel bandwidth usage is also being conducted. The funding is for EUR 159,000
  • Dr Carl J. Debono and Dr Adrian Muscat obtained a research grant of EUR 24,000 from ST Microelectronics, Catania for the development of WLAN and UWB antennas.
  • Dr V. Buttigieg obtained a grant of Lm 23,000 (EUR 53,576) over a three year period from the University for the development of Multimedia Indexing.
  • Ing. P.P. Debono obtained a grant of Lm 8300 (EUR 19,334) over a two year period from the University for the development of the microcontroller laboratory.
  • Prof. Paul Micallef participated in a Vth Framework INCOMED Project with acronym CAHRISMA. The project runs from 2000 - 2003. The local contribution is to the acoustic analysis of single voice chant and to relate it to the space architecture. The funding is for EUR 58,000.
  • Dr Victor Buttigieg received a University research grant of Lm 3500 (EUR 8153) for his work on multirate coding.
  • Dr Paul Micallef received a University research grant of Lm 4500 for the ongoing work on DSP applications to speech synthesis.
  • Mr Adrian Muscat and Mr Johann Briffa received a University Research grant of Lm 5000 for research on parallel computing in high frequency applications.
  • In addition the department obtained Lm 100,000 (EUR 232,937) funds under the Maltese-Italian financial protocol and is currently using some of these funds for its research work in conjunction with Prof. M. DeBlasi's group at the University of Lecce.
The multimedia research group led by Dr Saviour Zammit received a research grant of Lm 11,500 (EUR 26,788) to research Digital Video Conferencing Systems.
Dr Paul Micallef received Lm 2000 (EUR 4659) to do research in speech synthesis.