FAST's pioneering collaboration with universities and research institutes in advancing Armenian science

October 19, 2023  15:53

Under the ADVANCE research grant program, dedicated to advancing scientific development in Armenia, the Foundation for Armenian Science and Technology (FAST) has established collaborative partnerships with six higher education and research institutions.

Designed by FAST, the ADVANCE program plays a pivotal role in fostering connections between the Armenian and global scientific communities and promoting the engagement of local researchers in internationally competitive research. One distinctive feature of ADVANCE is its ability to bring together diverse scientific disciplines and researchers under the umbrella of a single research project.

Dr. Armen Orujyan, the Founding CEO of the FAST, inviting the representatives of partner institutions to sign the cooperation document, noted: “It is the reservoir of knowledge that propels a nation toward modernity, strength, and prosperity. To stand at the forefront of progress, we must continually push the boundaries of knowledge and innovation. This is precisely why ADVANCE isn't just important; it is a pioneering vehicle that could help carry our nation into a bold future of unprecedented achievement.”

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Nine PIs, both from the Armenian diaspora and abroad, are leading the research projects, with the participation of the 60 local and international researchers. These projects encompass a wide range of scientific domains, including biotechnology, machine learning, computer vision, material science, bioinformatics, drug discovery, data science, radiobiology, and mathematical analysis.

Within this initiative, great importance is placed on collaborating with universities and scientific centers. Each project receives essential support from partner institutions, including Yerevan State University, American University of Armenia, Institute of Molecular Biology of the National Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Armenia, Institute for Physical Research of the National Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Armenia, L. A. Orbeli Institute of Physiology NAS RA and Armenian Bioinformatics Institute.

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Yerevan State University serves as the first partner institution in this collaborative project, concurrently assuming the role of a co-financier. Notably, in two out of the four jointly executed projects, YSU has committed to providing fifty percent of the project's financing.

"These projects that are being carried out in two fields - machine learning and biotechnology, open up new opportunities for our scientists, providing them with an inspiring environment to conduct innovative and internationally competitive research, leading to the generation of novel and significant outcomes", said YSU Rector Hovhannes Hovhannisyan. He believes in the transformative potential of a robust collaboration between universities, the business sector, and private organizations, viewing it as the key driver for advancing education and science in Armenia.

This collaboration enables higher education institutions and research centers to offer their resources and expertise to research teams, while simultaneously gaining access to international cooperation, new grant opportunities, co-authored publications in scientific journals with the highest impact factor, and more. Some partner institutions also provide financial contributions to the projects, effectively acting as co-financiers alongside FAST.

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So far, the project has seen an investment of $630,000, which has been allocated towards the salaries of local researchers, laboratory materials, publication of research articles in scientific journals, participation in international conferences, involvement in collaborative research initiatives abroad, travel expenses for international scientists leading the teams, and their visits to Armenia. Additionally, patent-related expenses are covered when necessary.

One of the important components of the program is the active involvement of prominent scientists in the teaching process to convey the leading experience to the young generation. During three years, PIs conducted thematic lectures and workshops, drawing in more than 550 participants.

During the meet-up, representatives from the research projects showcased the progress made by their respective teams and the noteworthy results they have achieved. The teams had a chance to network and learn more about each other’s research.

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The ADVANCE Research Program was designed in 2020, having provided funding for 60 researchers thus far, and has welcomed foreign scientific leaders from the United States, Germany, France, and Chile. Research projects typically span 3-4 years, with each project receiving annual grant funding of up to $125,000. FAST’s inaugural fundraiser Advance Armenia Gala 2022 was held in Los Angeles, USA, to attract additional resources for scaling the ADVANCE STEM Research grant program.

FAST was founded in 2017 by aiming to support Armenia's transformation into a science-driven, innovative country by 2041 through scientific discovery and innovation. To reach this milestone, FAST has designed and structured numerous programs and initiatives to become independent parts of the STI ecosystem, ensuring continuous sustainability. FAST has implemented 25 programs impacting more than 10,000 beneficiaries in the last six years.

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