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Scientists from the Western Balkans involved in more than 20 NATO Science for Peace and Security projects

Jens Stoltenberg meets with Serbian scientists who present technology developed in the context of SPS, November 2023; Photo: Flickr / NATO

During 2023, scientists from Serbia participated in a total of 14 projects under the auspices of the NATO Science for Peace and Security, while the scientists from North Macedonia are currently engaged in 6 projects. Bosnia and Herzegovina is taking part in 3, and Montenegro in 2 scientific projects funded by NATO.

The Science for Peace and Security (SPS) Programme was created within NATO in 1958, and today it provides funding for scientific projects in the security domain not only for NATO member states but also for partner countries.

In addition to NATO members from the Western Balkans, it is also, therefore, available to Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia, both of which have been part of the NATO Partnership for Peace initiative since 2006.

It is necessary for scientists from non-member countries to submit applications for the Science for Peace and Security Programme together with counterparts from NATO allies. Current multi-year projects involving countries from the Western Balkans are approved for a period of 24 or 36 months.

Protective gear and detectors of explosives among the current SPS projects

Projects which were recently carried out within the framework of Science for Peace and Security in the Western Balkans focused, among other areas, on the production of protective equipment, detectors of explosives and new energy storage. In 2023, a three-year project managed by the Vinča Institute of Nuclear Sciences, University of Belgrade, together with partners from the USA and Great Britain – “Optical Nose Grid for Large Indoor Area Explosives’ Vapours Monitoring” was finalized.

Vinča Institute of Nuclear Sciences is also part of a group of 11 institutions from 4 NATO countries and 4 partner countries that, in the past period, have been involved in projects of the DEXTER initiative – Detection of explosives and firearms to counter-terrorism, with a focus on integrating systems and tests in real scenarios in big cities. The detection of other types of threats, namely CBRN threats (chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear) is the subject of research which involves, among others, scientists from the Serbian University of Niš, in the period from 2022 to 2025.

A project to create super strong ceramics for protection in harsh environments and defense against terrorist attacks (SUSPENCE project) was also implemented, with the participation of the Institute of Technical Sciences of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts.

Other projects focus on energy. “Carbon-based Batteries and Supercapacitors” was launched in 2021 with the main goal of developing systems – batteries, and supercapacitors – for the storage of new generation energy, which will not contain lithium, and will be based on biomass. The joint work on the project by the scientists from the University of Belgrade and the University of Montenegro lasted until February 2024.

When it comes to Bosnia and Herzegovina, as of last year, its scientists are participating in three research projects financed through the SPS Programme. Through the project “Quantum Cybersecurity in 5G Networks” (QUANTUM5), in which the University of Sarajevo has been taking part since 2021, practical application of secure communication methods using quantum mechanics is demonstrated.

There is also an ongoing project, led by the Ministry of Security of Bosnia and Herzegovina, to enhance the Next-Generation Incident Command System (NICS) in the country. It is a command and control software developed at the American MIT University, which facilitates cooperation and coordination in the event of natural disasters and similar incidents.

Cooperation on projects between the Western Balkan countries

Scientists from Serbia and North Macedonia jointly participate in as many as 5 projects that were ongoing or were launched in 2023 under the auspices of the NATO Science for Peace and Security Programme.

Professors at the University of Niš and the Ss. Cyril and Methodius University in Skopje are part of a three-year NATO project to develop advanced imaging techniques for detecting explosives using miniature radar devices that can be attached to unmanned aerial vehicles.

Scientists from the International University of Sarajevo and the Mother Teresa University in Skopje also started new project in 2023 – “Innovative AI-framework to enable the detection, classification and tracking of killer-drones.”

From 2021, the project “Smart Patch for Life Support Systems” (SP4LIFE) has been implemented by scientists from the University of Belgrade and the Ss. Cyril and Methodius University. It deals with the design of a wearable device for monitoring vital parameters in real-time, as a medical countermeasure in the event of terrorist attacks or CBRN threats. The two universities are also simultaneously implementing the MULProTex project – the production of multi-protective military clothing.

The two newest projects that started in 2023 bring together scientists from the Faculty of Technical Sciences of the University of Novi Sad and the Ss. Cyril and Methodius University in Skopje. CONSENS, which was launched in May 2023 for 36 months, proposes to develop advanced sensor technology that will contribute to on-site rapid screening of the presence of pesticides in food, soil, or water.

Meanwhile, the project “Wearable smart patches for multimodal wound healing” (DRESWOUTRE), in which scientists from Italy and Ukraine also participate, is aimed at creating a multimodal wound dressing, which will address the early and middle stages of the wound healing process, with minimal medical intervention.

Scientists from the Serbian Vinča Institute of Nuclear Sciences and the University of Montenegro are also jointly involved in another new project in the Science for Peace and Security Programme from June 2023 – NO DEPENDENCE. The goal is the development of hydrogen compressors, which will enable the construction of hydrogen pumping stations in the region.

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