Virtual research environment empowers scientists

Researchers across south-east Europe and the eastern Mediterranean are benefitting from a powerful new e-infrastructure developed in an EU-funded project, which enables diverse scientific communities to conduct groundbreaking cross-border research spanning climatology, life sciences and cultural heritage.

Theme: Cultural Heritage Environment, Atmosphere Health & life sciences, Public health Information society 
Innovation, SMEs, Security 
Framework programme: Horizon 2020 
Countries involved in the project: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Egypt, Georgia, Greece, Hungary , Israel, Jordan, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia

With a population of 300 million, the Southeast Europe-Eastern Mediterranean region (SEEM) boasts a rich and diverse scientific tradition. However, a lack of resources in the past has been a key factor for many scientists opting to move elsewhere, especially Western Europe.

To tackle this challenge, the EU-funded VI-SEEM project sought to create the necessary infrastructure, training and user-support programmes to enhance the inclusion of countries across the region into the wider European Research Area.

The project’s unified virtual research environment integrates and enhances existing e-infrastructures across the region, which stretches from Hungary to Greece and from Albania to Jordan and Georgia. The partners are harnessing vastly expanded cloud computing, data storage and visualisation resources, as well as innovative services, models, software and tools developed by the project.

‘VI-SEEM is empowering and interconnecting scientific communities across the SEEM region, enabling them to carry out collaborative and innovative research to a very high standard,’ says project coordinator Ognjen Prnjat at the Greek Research and Technology Network.

‘VI-SEEM’s e-infrastructure strongly contributes to closing the existing technological and scientific gap, stimulating research and supporting equal opportunities that will consequently alleviate the brain drain in the SEEM region. Easing the digital divide between south-east Europe and the eastern Mediterranean and the rest of Europe not only empowers the citizens of the region, but contributes to the area’s stability, peace and economic development.’

Supporting diverse scientific communities
The project’s principal focus was on supporting scientific communities working in life sciences, climatology and digital cultural heritage – and cross-fertilising interdisciplinary research between them. Furthermore, ongoing work will enhance access to the virtual research environment for other user groups, including small and medium-sized businesses and researchers in other disciplines.

‘We built a virtual research environment that provides diverse user communities with the large-scale e-infrastructure support they need for the full life cycle of scientific research: from accessing relevant data for their projects, using it in combination with novel software and tools to conduct experiments and simulations, and producing new knowledge and data, which can be stored and shared within the same virtual environment,’ says Prnjat.

From air quality to medical images
To date, the virtual research environment has helped launch 88 applications, 72 from research teams and six from SMEs. Among these are many initiatives requiring powerful computational, storage and simulation resources capable of handling large volumes of data.

These applications include a Bulgarian-led project to assess the impact of transport fleet management on air quality; an Israeli initiative to analyse the effects of climate change on citrus farming; a project to digitise the antiquities collections of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina in Egypt; and processing, managing and storing medical images for a healthcare institute in Moldova.

‘VI-SEEM builds on the success of predecessor e-infrastructure projects that have been crucial for enabling high-quality research and ICT developments in both south eastern Europe and the eastern Mediterranean, and which have supported the European vision for inclusive and smart growth,’ Prnjat concludes.

Project details

Project acronym: VI-SEEM
Participants: Greece (Coordinator), Cyprus, Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary, Romania, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Moldova, Armenia, Georgia, Egypt, Israel, Jordan
Project N°: 675121
Total costs: € 3 300 000
EU contribution: € 3 300 000
Duration: October 2015 to September 2018

See also