University of Tartu invests nearly half a million euros in experimental development

This year, the university decided to finance 15 experimental development projects with the total amount of 462,350 euros. For 2021, the university’s development fund received experimental development grant applications for 34 projects in the amount of approximately 1.2 million euros.

“This year we made a separate category for the projects of social sciences and the humanities. The results were surprisingly good and dispelled the belief as if there are few application possibilities in these fields,” said Vice Rector for Development Erik Puura about the changes in the 2021 application round. “Seeing how quickly the projects we funded in previous years have progressed makes us confident that we are able to give increasingly stronger and more durable kick-starts to new ideas,” he added.

This year the experimental development fund supported, for example, the development of a mobile app for Estonian pronunciation training; developing an interactive digital intervention method to facilitate children’s coping with stress; creating digital infographics based on data from sexual violence crisis centres; and creating a method and device for non-invasive measurement of the status and the biomechanical parameters of the properties of soft biological tissue. A list of all projects that received funding in 2021 is available on the website of the University of Tartu Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.

It is crucial to find the contact between science and everyday life

The cooperation between the University of Tartu microbiologists and the cosmetics manufacturer Perfect Cosmetics OÜ (owner of LUMI brand), for example, grew out of the first application round. The method created with the help of the experimental development grant enables to produce a specific prebiotic, levan. Its beneficial effect on the human skin microbiome was proved earlier already, but due to the complex manufacturing process the substance had not been widely used so far. Associate Professor in Microbiology Triinu Visnapuu sees many more uses for levan, from surface coating to pharmacy.

Also the idea by Madis Kiisk, Associate Professor of the Institute of Physics, to create a natural radiation-based scanner received a grant in last year’s application round. Within a year, scientists managed to build a prototype of the scanner, which enabled them to get funding already at the beginning of 2021 to build a life-size scanner for the Estonian Tax and Customs Board. The scanner makes it possible to scan large objects, for example, whole vehicles or shipping containers, without an additional source of radiation.

An exciting example comes from the Faculty of Arts and Humanities: a training programme created by Professor of Estonian Language Tiit Hennoste and his team which helps, through more precise wording of the questions, employees of the Emergency Response Centre to send assistance more quickly to those in need. In the future, this solution could save the lives of many people in Estonia.

A small support to save the world or start a new research field

Implementation of experimental development projects with the support of the university’s development fund is a good preparation to reach the next level with larger development projects, for example, with funding from the ETAg development grant, Enterprise Estonia’s applied research programme or the European Union. Several applicants have already used these opportunities. The experimental development grant allows to reduce the development risks for both public and private funders, and accelerates the reaching of the solutions to the market and to the disposal of society.

The University of Tartu issued first experimental development grants in 2019, when a pilot application round was organised for researchers of the Faculty of Science and Technology only. For the second year already, the researchers of all faculties have been able to apply for the experimental development grants.

The experimental development fund is financed from the University of Tartu development fund.  The Faculty of Science and Technology gives additional support to their faculty’s projects every year.

Further information: Jane Luht, Technology Transfer Manager, University of Tartu, 529 7956, jane.luht [ät] ut.ee

Sandra Sommer
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