Sinergia: 19 new interdisciplinary research projects

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Airborne technologies, treatment of chronic pain or groundwater contamination in Vietnam: the SNSF awards 48 million francs for interdisciplinary and pioneering research.

In November 2022, researchers submitted 74 project proposals to the Sinergia programme. The 19 best projects have been awarded a grant, corresponding to a success rate of 26 per cent. 68 researchers working in 41 different disciplines are taking part in the projects. On average, each project will receive 2.5 million francs from a total budget of 47.9 million francs. The SNSF's Sinergia programme supports joint projects of two to four scientists from different disciplines whose aim is to conduct groundbreaking research. Here are three examples of grant-winning projects:

The aerial spatial revolution

Airborne technologies, such as aviation, drones and satellites, have become powerful tools for the representation, planning, control and governance of space. However, the space revolution that started with aeronautics in the early 20th century has not yet been studied in its entirety and in all its implications. The aim of this project is to provide the first coherent and interdisciplinary study of the history and impact of the aerial spatial revolution, focusing on its material and imaginary effects on the city, architecture and territory, from the beginning of the 20th century to the present day. This project brings together experts in urban planning and architecture, aesthetics, visual media theory and political philosophy who are associated with SUPSI, the University of Fribourg and the University of Applied Sciences of Eastern Switzerland.

Chronic pain and virtual reality

Chronic pain is a huge problem, affecting about one in five people worldwide. In this pioneering project, researchers intend to study the synergy between virtual reality and psychoplastogens in order to evaluate their therapeutic potential for chronic pain and neuroplasticity, which in turn could help to develop new treatment options. The results will also benefit basic research and could serve as a basis in other clinical situations, such as stroke rehabilitation or treating depression. The project involves experts in virtual reality, body representation plasticity, psychoplastogens, neuroscience and chronic pain who are associated with the University of Zurich, University Hospital Zurich and the University of Constance.

Arsenic contamination of groundwater

The consumption of arsenic-contaminated groundwater poses a serious risk to human health, particularly in South and Southeast Asia. However, researchers are not yet able to accurately predict dynamic patterns of arsenic contamination, which is critically needed to determine safe and sustainable use of groundwater. To fill these gaps, this Sinergia project combines hydrogeology, geochemistry, remote sensing and data science to capture changes in the arsenic contamination patterns of the Red River and Mekong Delta in Vietnam. The consortium consists of Swiss experts affiliated with ETH Zurich/Eawag, the University of Neuchâtel and the University of Zurich, as well as international experts from Vietnam and the USA.

Integration of Sinergia into project funding

On 17 April 2023, researchers were able to submit applications for Sinergia grants for the last time. In June 2023, the SNSF will incorporate the Sinergia programme into project funding, its largest funding scheme. This will ensure even better support for collaborative and interdisciplinary projects.