News & Events

SFI National Challenge funding success for Earth Institute members

Published: Friday, 16 June, 2023

Challenge Funding is a solution-focused approach to research funding that uses prizes, phases, defined timelines, teamwork, mentorship, and competition to direct research activity towards addressing pressing societal and economic problems.

Science Foundation Ireland’s National Challenge Fund is a €65M research fund that consists of eight challenges. It will fund approximately 90 research teams with up to €250k over 18 months to develop their ideas.

Under each challenge stream, a number of teams are awarded follow-on funding of up to €500k before going on to compete for prizes between €1-€2m. The calls ask researchers to identify problems related to Ireland’s Green Transition and Digital Transformation and work with those directly affected to solve them.

The current set of teams announced as funded are addressing the following Challenges:

  • Digital for Resilience – a challenge to gain deeper insights and better understanding of the origins and potential impacts of future environmental, social or economic scenarios, and prepare for future shock events;
  • OurTech – a challenge to strengthen the connections between people, their communities and with government;
  • Energy Innovation – a challenge to develop solutions that will accelerate Ireland’s transition to a clean and secure energy system;
  • A Healthy Environment for All – a challenge to restore and maintain a resilient environment that ensures clean and healthy air, water and soil for humans, animals and plants.

Forty seven new teams across Ireland were welcomed to compete in these four Challenge calls this week by Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris TD. These teams will receive initial funding totalling more than €13 million.

A number of Earth Institute members have been successful in this most recent set of Challenge calls. Congratulations to all. These include:

Dr Rui Teixeira and Dr Beatriz Martinez-Pastor: CAPABLE – Creating a digitAl Platform to Assess community capability Based resilience

Prof. Alojz Ivankovic and Dr Luke Kelleher: Aerodynamic Design and CFD analysis of drag reducing appendable devices for large ground vehicles

Dr Tony Keene and Prof. Kevin McDonnell: BioCarbon – Turning Waste into Energy Storage

Dr Chiara Cocco and Dr Gabriela Martinez Sainz: CRAFT-MY-STREET – Capacity building of local government for youth engagement in decision-making through geospatial data in Minecraft

Dr Philip Crowe and Dr Gavin McArdle: Vacancy Map Ireland (VMI): Development of an open geospatial data model for vacancy using proxy datasets, GIS and AI

Dr Payam Sajadi and Dr Di Nguyen: Domestic Gardens Identification and Modification: A nature-based solution for flood risk mitigation

Dr. Jeremy Auerbach and Dr Suzanne Linnane, Dundalk Institute of Technology: Unleading Water: Community science and environmental justice for health Irish homes

A full list of awardees including others at UCD can be found on SFI’s announcement page.

Announcing the teams selected to participate in the Challenge calls, Minister Harris said:

“These teams have presented ingenious ideas and committed their talents to working for the benefit of the people of Ireland.

“We see examples in the news most days of why Ireland needs to work at the green transition and digital transformation and ensure that our innovation and research prepare the country for the future.

“In fact, the solutions being worked on in all eight challenges in the National Challenge Fund have the potential not just to improve life here in Ireland, but across Europe and around the world.”

Science Foundation Ireland Director General Philip Nolan said: “SFI is very pleased with the response to the National Challenge Fund calls and we are happy to be supporting these teams as they embark on an intense period of engaged research, refining and validating their solutions. We have learnt from our previous challenge-based funding that teams can make huge strides in very short periods of time.

“The individual problems these teams have identified tally closely with some of the submissions we received from the public during the Creating Our Future campaign, so I look forward to seeing these ideas developed in ways that can improve everyday life in Ireland.”

The National Challenge Fund was established under the government’s National Recovery and Resilience Plan (NRRP), funded by the EU’s Recovery and Resilience Facility. The fund is coordinated and administered by Science Foundation Ireland.