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The diverse research environment at USI performs well in the national competition

Media and Communication Service

The Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) has announced the winning projects of the competitive research funds in the second round of 2018. Sixteen projects submitted by USI and its affiliated or associated institutes were awarded research funding totalling CHF 7.6 million, with a success rate of 64%.

The USI Faculties of Economics and of Informatics take the lion’s share of this round, winning 5 grants each. Moreover, in the field of Informatics two additional grants were awarded to the Dalle Molle Institute for Artificial Intelligence (IDSIA). Three grants were awarded to the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB), and one to the Istituto Ricerche Solari Locarno (IRSOL, associated to USI).

From the study of tax havens to the investigations of the solar atmosphere, from behavioural analytics to the functioning of antibodies, the variety of topics of these recently funded projects wholly reflect the rich and diversified research landscape of USI, ranging from basic, theoretical research to a more applied one.

SNSF research grants enable academics to continue their research, either by building on their past studies or opening up new and unexplored research pathways, but they also allow them to consolidate and expand their research team. In fact, the Swiss National Science Foundation puts a strong emphasis on the promotion of young researchers. At USI, the awarded grants will be used also to financially support 24 doctoral students, 6 post-doc researchers and a few other research positions, thus significantly contributing to the advancement of academic careers of young academics.

Over the next few months, the following selection of projects in the fields of Economics and Informatics will be featured individually on the USI website and social media.

Tax havens and business organisations

Why does a municipality become a “tax haven”, while the neighbouring one does not? What are the conditions that contribute to their emergence? Through his project, Professor Raphaël Parchet of the Institute for Economic Research (IRE) and the Institute of Economics (IdEP) will try to shed light on these questions, investigating the infrastructural and institutional factors that condition the appearance (or disappearance) of tax havens in Switzerland.

The project led by Professor Giovanni Pica, Institute of Economics (IdEP), will focus on business organizational structures and on the factors that determine the shape of complex business organizations, addressing questions such as the differentiation between business groups and multidivisional firms and which are the drivers behind the choice between these different organizational structures.

Professors Nikolaus Beck and Dirk Martignoni at the Institute of Management and Organisation (IMO) will study how organisations learn from their own and other’s experience, both on the inter- and intra-organisational level. Their project will use a combination of empirical and formal methods of research.

Debugging, quantum physics and solar atmosphere

Is there a way to make debugging more time-efficient? With a project addressing the overarching problematic of programming mistakes – the abovementioned “debugging” –, the project conducted by Professor Carlo Furia at the Software Institute aims at increasing the applicability of automated program repair tools, thus increasing their effectiveness.

Professor Stefan Wolf at the Faculty of Informatics, who won a grant worth 1M Swiss francs for his study on the interconnections between physics, computation and information theory, is building on his previous research and with this new SNSF-funded project he will seek to dig deeper in the nature of this relationship, tackling aspects in quantum physics, cryptography, thermodynamics and relativity.

Finally, after its recent successful participation in a newly approved European project (SOLARNET), the Istituto Ricerche Solari Locarno (IRSOL, associated to USI), sees yet another project approved, adding up to the three other SNSF ongoing projects, confirming the high research value of the Institute: Dr. Oskar Steiner receives funding for his study focussing on the magnetohydrodynamic simulations of the solar atmosphere.