How Ukrainian university creates aviation of future for EU grants

M.Y. Zhukovsky National Aerospace University “Kharkiv Institute of Aviation” (KIA) was founded in 1930. The university, which has 11,000 students from 50 countries of the world, designs unmanned aerial vehicles and is a renowned research center for aerodynamics, composites and engine technologies. KIA has designed AN-225 Mriya, the largest cargo aircraft in the world.

In addition, the university is the most successful participant of Horizon 2020 framework program in Ukraine. It has received over EUR 1.8 million in grant financing for its six projects. Five of these projects are devoted to aviation, and the other one to cybersecurity. AIN.UA Editorial Office about why KIA has managed to do it and how.

What KIA does

Today, KIA is working on development of five Horizon 2020 specialized projects simultaneously. There of them are aimed at popularization of Ukrainian aviation, exchange of experience and training of specialists. The other two are devoted to R&D per se.

AERO-UA project (134,000 euros) has the “supporting” status. According to Horizon 2020 classification, it means an initiative not directly envisaging research work but helping popularize it. KIA specialists promote the Ukrainian aircraft manufacturing industry among European partners by publishing specialized materials and organizing conferences.

Today, the aircraft manufacturing industry in Europe represents a “closed club” featuring a few members and headed by Germany, France and the United Kingdom. Still, Ukrainian aerospace manufacturers have a potential as well, and AERO-UA is aimed to make that potential known. The total of nine partners participate in this project, five of which are Ukrainian organizations.

DiCoMI project (130,000 euros) studies composites (multilayer carbon fiber structures) and their application in modern aviation. Despite the potential of composites, their advantages — lightness and strength — are, for the time being, negated by deficiencies. Composites are unstable, hard to make and hard to diagnose damages in them. KIA exchanges research fellows with European universities, studies 3D printing and new methods of using composites.

Another supporting project is RADIAN (115,000 euros). KIA researchers exchange experience with their colleagues from universities of France, Italy, Poland, Estonia and other countries. This work is coordinated by Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, a German research organization. The project features RADIAN website and ArcPort collaboration platform, and organizes specialized events in Belgium and Romania.

However, KIA’s main contribution to European science and aviation comes from two research projects: DENOX (988,000 euros) and AMBEC (316,000 euros). They are a part of Clean Sky 2, a global initiative creating the next generation of civil aviation. European airliners must become more eco-friendly and efficient, and that’s what Kharkiv scientists are working on.


How KIA helps European aviation

Air transport actively pollutes the ambient air: running jet engines emit gases containing carbon dioxide, water steam, nitrogen oxides and highly dispersed carbon black. At the same time, according to a study by Airbus, air traffic doubles every 15 years.

To avert an environmental disaster, the Flightpath 2050 program was developed in Europe. This is a set of objectives having the main purpose of reducing emissions by 75% per passenger-kilometer (the number of passengers multiplied by distance).

For that purpose, Clean Sky — a public-private partnership between the EU and representatives of the region’s aerospace industry – was created. The project was launched in 2008, and its second iteration (Clean Sky 2) went operational in 2014. KIA’s both research projects (DENOX and AMBEC) are a part of Clean Sky 2.

Under AMBEC project, KIA specialists study the behavior of an air-and-oil mixture in a combustion chamber. If the maximum temperature (approximately 200 degrees centigrade) is exceeded, oil coking begins and the oil loses its lubricating properties. It disrupts the performance of bearings, and the engine may start to malfunction.

KIA’s research efforts must produce a software instrument allowing to regulate temperature inside the combustion chamber. European manufacturers will use it to design bearing chambers in engines.

DENOX is a project of a different format. It is an attempt to “check” harmful elements of exhaust gases using physical processes. For that purpose, two concepts are going to be tested. One of them envisages the use of controlled micro-discharges in a combustion chamber to agitate and split the molecules of nitrogen oxides. These compounds make a substantial contribution to the greenhouse effect.

The other concept involves the use of an electromagnetic field on exhaust gases. The goal is the same: replacing nitrogen oxides with neutral compounds.

At this moment, both theories are being developed at the scientific level. In the final phase, the concept will be tested in real conditions on an experimental stand (a simplified prototype of a jet engine).

To achieve these results, KIA has developed a special structure of working with Horizon 2020. The cooperation is coordinated by the university’s international projects and programs section with the staff of two and Ihor Rybalchenko as the team leader. They helped KIA submit 40 applications for participation in Horizon 2020, six of which were successful.


How to receive financing

Financing under Horizon 2020 is provided on a competitive basis: the applicants apply for participation in open contests and undergo the same selection procedure. It is worth noting that any organization may be eligible for financing, not only a university or an R&D center.

An application consists of three parts:

  • Excellence: the first part devoted to the project’s scientific component.
  • Impact: an applicant must explain how their project would change the industry and help solve environmental or social problems. This is an evaluation of the project’s benefits.
  • Implementation: an applicant must explain how the funding will be spent and on what.

Horizon 2020 is a program with transparent structure and clear requirements. After applications were submitted, an automated system randomly selects three specialists from the pan-European database of experts, who will evaluate the applications.

These people are professionals specializing in the field of application, but they do not always have in-depth knowledge of the subject. Therefore, a successful application means the balance between details and general idea.

Every part of the application scores up to 5 points. All scores are summed up and then compared. An application with the highest score gets the funding.

However, this formulation does not take into account all nuances. Preparing an application is a very painstaking process. As they say at KIA’s international section, the success of their university in Horizon 2020 (15% of their applications were accepted) can be explained by a special work approach.

The project’s scientific and organizational parts are equally important. Without a brilliant idea a project won’t stand out among the competitors, but on the other hand, without a thoughtfully and carefully completed application form it also runs the risk of missing the chance to succeed.

KIA’s international section works with the university’s scientists who want to participate in Horizon 2020. They together prepare applications and make sure that all documents are compliant with European standards.

The section’s representatives say that in Ukraine, a substantial percentage of applications simply do not meet formal requirements. Scientists do not read them thoroughly enough, for they do not always have patience for that. That’s why such a scientific-administrative cooperation is efficient. And on top of that, there is a language barrier: everything must be submitted in English.


How to succeed in Horizon 2020

As they say at KIA’s international projects and programs section, initiative drives success. You have to monitor open contests and find suitable ones.

Then, it is important to find out what application completion criteria and deadlines are. It is worth remembering that the scientific part is only one component based on which the experts evaluate a project. Explaining the value of your idea and providing a financial plan are no less important.

If you weren’t lucky and your application was turned down, do not despair. You can improve and resubmit your project, or look for related contests. These efforts will definitely bear fruits.

To receive a consultation regarding participation in Horizon 2020 and application completion procedure, you may contact one of the National Contact Points (NCP). This is a structure created with the assistance of the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine to provide information support to Horizon 2020. The list and contact details of NCPs are available on this website.

This special project was prepared under Communication of Europe in Ukraine project of the EU Delegation to Ukraine

Author: Mykhaylo Sapiton

Source: AIN