News & Events

Earth Institute Members Awarded Funding through the SFI Frontiers for the Future Programme

Published: Wednesday, 04 November, 2020

Earlier this week, Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris, TD announced that 71 projects from 12 higher education institutions were awarded a total of €53 million to support frontiers research through the Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) Frontiers for the Future Programme. Among these grants are 14 University College Dublin projects, two of which are led by Deputy Director of the Earth Institute Professor Emma Teeling (School of Environmental Science and Biology) and Earth Institute member Associate Professor Shane Donohue (School of Civil Engineering).

The SFI Frontiers for the Future Programme provides opportunities for researchers to conduct highly innovative, collaborative research with the potential to deliver impact, while also providing opportunities for high-risk, high-reward research projects. There are two funding streams within the programme:

-Frontiers for the Future Projects provides funding for high-risk, high-reward research that facilitates highly innovative and novel approaches to research.

-Frontiers for the Future Awards provides larger scale funding for innovative, collaborative and excellent research programmes that have the potential to deliver economic and societal impact.

Professor Teeling is the lead researcher for LongHealth: The molecular basis and regulation of longer healthspan in mammals, a 5 year project which has secured €988,000 through the Frontiers for the Future Programme Award stream.

Commenting on LongHealth, Professor Teeling remarked that, ‘Ageing is the biggest threat to human-health globally, as people everywhere are living longer. As the cost of caring for the elderly threatens to overwhelm healthcare infrastructures and disrupt society, we must find solutions to our ageing problem. Bats have naturally evolved the longest healthspan in mammals, living >10 times longer than expected, showing little signs of ageing. LongHealth will uncover the molecular mechanisms that bats use to regulate their longer healthspan, by studying the ageing process in wild bat species, identifying which bat ‘anti-ageing’ process is most likely to extend human healthspan, providing novel solutions to our ageing problem.’

Associate Professor Shane Donohue is the lead researcher for a 4-year project entitled, Geophysical and Earth Observation Tools for Evaluating the Condition of Slopes (GEOTECS), which was awarded €475,000 through the Frontiers for the Future Programme Project stream.

In regards to his project, Associate Professor Donohue stated, ‘The world’s transportation arteries and flood defences are supported by a vast network of man-made slopes (e.g. embankments, dams). Recent extreme weather has highlighted their vulnerability, with the resulting landslides impacting users and operators, and the wider economy. The GEOTECS project aims to develop novel approaches that are capable of monitoring the condition of these slopes, so that repairs can be targeted, and failures avoided. These approaches will be capable of (1) identifying slope instability on a network scale, (2) analysing the internal causes of instability, and (3) monitoring the deterioration of this infrastructure, with respect to climate change.’

For more information on the SFI Frontiers for the Future Programme and a complete list of projects and awards, please visit the SFI website.