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Ministers Humphreys and Halligan announce six finalists competing for €1 million SFI Future Innovator Prize

Wednesday, 5 June, 2019

Congratulating the shortlisted teams, Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys TD, said: “On behalf of the Government, I want to congratulate the six teams who have made it to the second round of the Future Innovator Prize competition. We launched the initiative last year to encourage bright minds across the country to work together to identify major challenges facing Ireland’s society, and to propose creative solutions. It is very exciting to see so many innovative ideas coming through and I look forward to seeing their ideas develop further over the coming months.”

Minister of State for Training, Skills, Innovation, Research and Development, John Halligan TD, said: “It is heartening to see the excellent standard of the six teams who have progressed to the second round of the SFI Future Innovator Prize competition. Their passion for their fields reflects their dedication to improving Ireland’s economy and society through research, collaboration and inventiveness. I am confident that they will continue to impress us as the competition goes on.”

The challenge areas and issues to be addressed by the six finalists are as follows:

    Challenge Area: Reducing the Burden of Sepsis

Dr Elaine Spain (Analytical Chemistry, DCU); Dr Kellie Adamson (Diagnostics and Therapeutics and Biomaterials Science, DCU); Prof Gerald Curley, (Sepsis Lead, RCSI Network of Hospitals, Beaumont Hospital)

(opens in a new window)Project - SepTec: Improving Outcomes for Sepsis Patients.

    Challenge Area: Harnessing Gene Editing to Treat Rare Diseases such as Epidermolysis bullosa (EB)

Prof Wenxin Wang, Dr Irene-Lara Sáez and Mr Jonathan O’Keeffe-Ahern (Charles Institute of Dermatology, UCD); Dr Nan Zhang (Mechanical and Materials Engineering, UCD); Dr Sinead Hickey (Research Manager, DEBRA Ireland)

(opens in a new window)Project - A disruptive, non‐viral gene editing platform technology for treating genetic conditions.

    Challenge Area: Enabling Next Generation Biological Imaging

Prof Dominic Zerulla (Physics and Plasmonics, UCD); Dr Dimitri Scholz (Biology and Director of the Conway Imaging facilities, UCD); Peter Doyle (consulting the European Commission with the Brussels Photonics Team on strategic innovation and business development)

(opens in a new window)Project - Real‐time imaging of nanoscale biological processes via plasmonically enabled nanopixel arrays.

    Challenge Area: Enabling Better Breast Cancer Diagnosis

Dr Eric Moore (Analytical Chemistry, TNI/UCC); Mr. Martin O'Sullivan (Lead Surgeon, BreastCheck Southern Unit and UCC); Liosa O'Sullivan (Patient Advocate)

(opens in a new window)Project - Development of a technology for clinicians to improve the breast cancer diagnostic pathway through real time point of care detection of breast disease. 

    Challenge Area: Reducing the Burden of Chronic Pain

Dr Alison Liddy (Biomedical Engineer and Chemist, NUI Galway); Dr Martin O'Halloran (Senior Lecturer in Medical Electronics, NUI Galway); Dr Chris Maharaj (Consultant Anaesthetist & Pain Specialist, University Hospital Galway)

(opens in a new window)Project - A novel hydrogel to address chronic pain in Irish patients.

    Challenge Area: Minimising Hospital Waiting-lists and Optimising Healthcare Capacity

Prof Barry O'Sullivan and Helmut Simonis (School of Computer Science and Insight Centre for Data Analytics, University College Cork); Dr Jane Bourke (Economics, Technology Adoption and Health Care Innovation, University College Cork); Prof Martin Curley (Director, HSE Digital Academy)

(opens in a new window)Project - An artificial intelligence and data analytics system for minimising hospital waiting-lists and optimising healthcare capacity in Ireland.

The SFI Future Innovator Prize, funded by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation through Science Foundation Ireland, is part of an overall government plan to cultivate challenge-based funding in Ireland. Challenge-based funding is a solution focused approach to funding research that uses prizes and other incentives to direct innovation activities at specific problems. The SFI Future Innovator Prize challenges the country’s best and brightest unconventional thinkers and innovators to create novel, potentially disruptive technologies in collaboration with societal stakeholders and end-users.  

The programme aligns with the Government’s Future Jobs Ireland initiative, beginning to prepare for jobs of the future now through ensuring that our economy is well positioned to tackle obstacles and continue transforming for the better.

The competing teams are led by academic researchers and a “Societal Impact Champion” drawn from a range of disciplines and stakeholder groups such as industry and civil society in an effort to support convergent and collaborative problem-solving. Competing teams come from University College Dublin (UCD), Dublin City University (DCU), NUI Galway (NUI Galway), University College Cork (UCC), and Tyndall National Institute (TNI), with involvement of a number of national agencies, hospitals and world leading SFI Research Centres.

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