Note: the texts under all the headings, with the exception of 'Results achieved', describe the situation before the start of the project.
Development of tools to help the visually impaired
The project developed portable cell-phone-based apps for visual recognition. This tool shall help blind people in every-day life. An additional project component explored the possibility how to restore eyesight through optogenetic technologies in combination with bionic vision enhancement. Cooperating with the Swiss Institute of Molecular and Clinical Ophthalmology Basel, the research project gave opportunities for important scientific exchange.
Promoting economic growth and improving working conditions
Research and Development
- National State Institute North
- Institute on IT and bionices; Institute of Molecular and Clinical Ophthalmology Basel
According to the WHO, about 314 million people are visually impaired worldwide. This includes persons who are blind, as well as those who have a residual vision such as the capacity to tell light from dark and the general direction of a light source. Many visually impaired individuals could lead more autonomous lives with appropriate aides and could in the long term profit from fundamental research on retinal blindness.
Under a range of several research project proposals, the research approach of this project has been chosen for its relevance in clinical and basic research for visually impaired persons. The Hungarian Research Institute, in collaboration with the University of Szeged / Femtonics Ltd, has been considered the appropriate research partner due to its experience and recognition.
By developing visual recognition tools, the project contributed to the goal to provide devices to improve the quality of life for blind or visually impaired people. New instruments and research methods were developed within the framework of the project. In the long run, the project is expected to contribute to the research on restoring some visual function of people with visual impairment.
Visually impaired and blind people (VIABP), neuroscience research community, Hungarian high-tech industry
|Activities||The project developed technologies for the visually impaired to gain information about the visual world, e.g. an application for smartphones to recognize the value of bills (in Hungarian Forint and in Euro). In addition, optogenetic technologies in combination with bionic vision enhancement were tested in animal models. The novel 3D laser scanning microscope that had been developed under the project, is used more widely than planned originally.|
First, apps for cell phones have been developed that shall in future help to recognize paper money (so far, HUF and Euros can be recognized by the test version) or colours or other features that are important to guide blind people in their everyday life. Particular attention is given to the high precision which is very demanding from an IT perspective. Patent application is not done as too time consuming and expensive – the team rather counts on advantages in the market by high standard of the products. A second ‘tool’ that within the project is an optogenetic method for restoring vision for certain diseases (e.g. retinitis pigmentosa) has been developed. This part of the research includes the measurement of in-time brain activity which is possible thanks to an exceptional microscope method; this technological advancement is possible based on a partnership with the private enterprise Femtonics Ltd which provides a high speed and high resolution 3D microscope.
This project offered Swiss and Hungarian research institutions the opportunity to cooperate and build partnerships for mutual benefit. A peer review has confirmed the importance of this whole project.
|Directorate/federal office responsible||
Swiss Contribution to the enlarged EU
Foreign state institution
|Budget||Current phase Swiss budget CHF 1'239'052 Swiss disbursement to date CHF 1'070'768|
Phase 1 15.10.2010 - 30.10.2015 (Completed)
Bulgaria: Around 20 projects relating to ecological forestry, farming and waste management, social inequalities and regional disparities, innovative buildings and materials, and drug development.
Hungary: 6 projects relating to the environment, health, the disposal of special waste, energy conversion, and academic training. The six projects are already underway.
Lithuania: Around 25 projects relating to climate science and technology, healthcare and life sciences, as well as natural science.
Poland: Around 40 projects relating to information and communication technology, renewable energy, nanotechnology, healthcare, and the environment.
Romania: Around 30 projects relating to sustainable energy, economic growth, social inequality, plus the impact of litter and waste on the environment and climate.
Cooperation in Research
Thanks to the research programmes in Bulgaria, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Hungary, Swiss research institutes and institutions in the partner countries can carry out joint research projects. The total funds for research partnerships amount to just under CHF 60 million.
The new EU member states are making great efforts to strengthen their potential in research and development. However, these countries face several obstacles in trying to establish a knowledge-based economy. There is often a lack of infrastructure and equipment, or the institutional structures and international networking may be in need of improvement.
Swiss research programmes in Bulgaria, Hungary, Lithuania, Poland and Romania will help promote these countries as locations for research. They will also intensify relationships with Switzerland in the scientific arena and make research careers more attractive for young academics.
Support from Switzerland as a centre of research
As a research location with significant technology exports and knowledge transfer, Switzerland has a lot to offer. Under the auspices of these programmes, Swiss research institutions are cooperating with foreign partners on research projects, the results of which help strengthen the research centres in the respective countries and their cooperation with Switzerland.
In addition to developing projects together, the research programmes offer scientists from the respective countries a unique opportunity to share research findings, to identify possible avenues for closer international cooperation and to explore investment and business opportunities.
Targeted promotion of various research disciplines in the individual countries
In total Switzerland has committed some CHF 60 million to supporting research in the five countries. The number of planned projects varies from country to country. A total of around 120 projects will be supported, and their results will be published. The projects are assigned to various predefined categories agreed with the countries on the basis of criteria that will ensure optimum promotion as a research location. Joint research projects will be carried out in the following areas: