BRIDGE Discovery supports innovative and sustainable projects

For the seventh time, the SNSF and Innosuisse are funding outstanding and sustainable projects with great economic and social potential.

Experts in applied research and the implementation of research results evaluated 101 applications in a two-stage process as part of the BRIDGE Discovery 2023 call. Researchers from 24 consortia were invited to present their project and take part in an interview. Based on the evaluation, the SNSF and Innosuisse will now fund 17 outstanding projects with an overall budget of 21.6 million francs. This corresponds to a success rate of 17 per cent.

Wide range of disciplines and awareness of sustainable development

Last year's BRIDGE Discovery call was again open to all types of innovation. In addition to technology projects, researchers submitted ten projects with strong links to social innovation and to the humanities and social sciences. Two of them were awarded a grant. 15 of the funded projects address at least one of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development GoalsExternal Link Icon. Similar to last year, 65 per cent of the projects were submitted by two or three applicants working at different research institutes. This is also reflected in the supported projects: 10 of the 17 funded projects are consortia. Hence, the goal of funding inter- and transdisciplinary collaboration was again achieved with this call.

Culture becomes sustainable

Cultural institutions such as museums and theatres can play a major role in providing inspiration for new ideas and actions. Often, they even serve as role models. The topic of sustainability has increasingly gained traction in the cultural domain in recent years. However, previous measures were fragmented and focused only marginally on the framework in which cultural institutions operate. The project team led by Martin Müller (University of Lausanne) and Leticia Labaronne (ZHAW) have set out to change this. The researchers are developing a management system for sustainability that can be used to measure, monitor and manage progress in a cultural institution. A new quality label and a teaching and qualification programme will help to generate visibility and build the necessary capacities and international partnerships. The long-term goal is to create a global alliance in the area of culture and sustainability that brings together cultural institutions, political decision-makers, donors and associations.

More efficient use of water as a resource

Philip Brunner (University of Neuchâtel), Oliver Schilling (University of Basel) and Rolf Kipfer (EAWAG) want to model and predict water consumption in Switzerland more precisely. Due to the frequent droughts caused by climate change, the demand for irrigation has risen sharply. Groundwater plays a central role here – 80 per cent of Switzerland's drinking water is obtained from this source. New political decisions to protect groundwater mean that catchment zones for many springs need to be redesigned and rivers renaturalised. With the help of a novel marking method, the project team plans to model water on the surface and in the subsurface more accurately and in real time. This allows water to be used more efficiently and simplifies the decision-making process in water resource utilisation projects.

Sustainable chemical production thanks to E. coli bacteria

The chemical industry is largely dependent on fossil fuels as raw materials for the production of chemicals. Professor Julia Vorholt from ETH Zurich and her team are investigating one possible option for reducing this dependency: in recent years, she has succeeded in modifying E. coli bacteria such that they can feed entirely on carbon compounds with one carbon atom, such as methanol. Bacteria with this ability are known as methylotrophs. With the availability of green methanol on an industrial scale (produced from low-carbon sources such as hydrogen or biomass), methylotrophs can be used to produce carbon-neutral or even carbon-negative chemicals. As part of the BRIDGE project, Julia Vorholt now wants to genetically modify E. coli bacteria in such a way that they convert the green methanol into other products as efficiently as possible. The aim is to make this bioprocess more interesting for industry.

Call for proposals 2024 open

The 2024 call for BRIDGE Discovery was launched in January 2024 for researchers from all disciplines. Researchers can submit a letter of intent by 28 February 2024, and a project proposal by 13 May 2024. Letters of intent are a precondition for submitting proposals.