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Earth Institute members receive funding for projects to address climate and environmental challenges

Published: Tuesday, 28 March, 2023

Earth Institute members have been awarded research funding to develop two projects under Science Foundation Ireland's SDG Challenge Call. Run in partnership between SFI and Irish Aid, the SDG Challenge is funding six collaborative teams based in Ireland and Irish Aid partner countries who will compete to develop innovative solutions to problems associated with climate, biodiversity and the environment, with a specific objective of addressing challenges in countries where Irish Aid works.  

Teams receive up to €300k and will work through a series of phases to develop their idea. An overall prize award of €1M will be awarded to the team that demonstrates the highest potential for transformative impact.

Three research teams from University College Dublin will share in €2.1 million of funding provided by the call. Earth Institute members are leading two of these projects, both working with partners in Tanzania.

Dr Tobi Eniolu Morakinyo, UCD School of Geography, and Professor Francesco Pilla, UCD School of Architecture, Planning and Environmental Policy are collaborating on a project called HEAT-ADAPT which will investigate green infrastructure in urban environments to reduce the impact of heat stress on human health. They will be working with Dr Elinorata Mbuya, Ardhi University Partner Country Team Lead and Mr Msololo Onditi, Forum on Climate Change (FORUMCC) as Societal Impact Champion. 

Dr Morakinyo said "Our project, HEAT-ADAPT is a grassroots climate action initiative aimed at tackling the issue of heat stress in informal settlements across Sub-Saharan Africa. The project achieves this by collaborating with stakeholders and beneficiaries to codevelop evidence-based, socially inclusive, cost-effective nature-based solutions fit for this particular urban setting"

Dr Liana Ricci, UCD School of Architecture, Planning and Environmental Policy, and Dr Fiachra O’Loughlin, UCD School of Civil Engineering are collaborating on a project called WECOAdapt  which will explore relationships between water and the ecosystem to improve management of drought and floods in sub-Saharan cities. They will be working with Gabriel Kassenga, ARDHI University as Partner Country Team Lead and Timothy Ndezi, Centre for Community Initiatives, Tanzania as Societal Impact Champion.  

Speaking about the project Dr Ricci said, "WECOAdapt addresses the increasing risk of flooding and water scarcity, in rapidly urbanizing sub-Saharan cities with high dependence on natural resources and ecosystems. It develops and integrates scientific knowledge, from the application of ecohydrology modelling, with community knowledge from participatory backcasting to co-develop adaptation pathways and a tailored decision support tool including sustainable adaptation finance mechanisms."

The third UCD project led by Dr Quan Le and Dr Anh Vu Vo (UCD School of Computer Science) will be working with partners in Vietnam to map the mangroves of Vietnam in high resolution to track changes and implement restoration. 

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris TD said, “The climate crisis and its consequences for life demand solutions that we can deploy as soon as possible,” 

“SFI’s Challenge Funding Programmes seek to support Ireland’s research community to accelerate the pace of innovation, developing novel, potentially disruptive, technologies to address significant societal challenges.

“These teams will work with researchers in Irish Aid’s partner countries to devise, refine and implement solutions to problems that threaten everyday life.

“This real-world impact is at the heart of the challenge-based funding supported by SFI and my department, which will utilise the best of research to make many lives better.”