News & Events

SFI National Challenge funding success for Earth Institute members

Published: Tuesday, 12 September, 2023

Ten Institute members across eight diverse and exciting projects are funded within the twenty-five teams selected for the final two Science Foundation Ireland National Challenge Fund calls: the Sustainable Communities Challenge and the Future Food Systems Challenge.  Congratulations to all!

SFI's National Challenge Fund is a €65M research fund that consists of eight challenges. It aims to fund approximately 90 research teams up to €250k over 18 months to develop their ideas. 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.

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. 

Researchers must engage directly with the potential beneficiaries of their inventions and solutions to make sure they are responding to the needs of the community.

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris TD this week announced the twenty five teams competing in the final two challenges, the Sustainable Communities Challenge and the Future Food Systems Challenge.  

The Sustainable Communities Challenge focuses on creating sustainable and inclusive ways for all people to live, be productive and creative, and to thrive in balance with nature, the environment, and our planet. The Future Food Systems Challenge seeks solutions for sustainable, productive and resilient food systems.

Earth Institute members are very well represented within the list of participating teams and projects, which are listed below:

Dr Shane Donohue (Civil Engineering) and Dr Soumyabrata Dev  (Computer Science) - GEOMETRIC: GEOphysics and Machine learning for Evaluating Transportation Infrastructure Condition.

Dr Oliver Kinnane (Architecture, Planning & Environmental Policy) and Dr Samar Raffoul (Civil Engineering) - Decision support platform for optimum and sustainable Modern Methods of Construction rollout to alleviate the housing crisis. 

Dr Anna Molter (Architecture, Planning & Environmental Policy) and Prof. Brian Caulfield (Public Health, Physiotherapy and Sports Science) - SHIFT: Sustainable and Healthy InFrastructure by reducing stress during active Travel.

Prof. Niamh Moore-Cherry  (Geography) and Prof. Brian Caulfield (Trinity College Dublin) - CONUNDRUM: Co-Creating sustainable and shared community mobility, with a test community in Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford

Prof. Fiona Doohan (Biology & Environmental Science) and Prof. Lorraine Brennan (Agriculture and Food Science) - FungiTech: crop residues as a substrate for producing filamentous mycoprotein. 

Dr Kirill Niktin (Chemistry) and Dr Simon Hodge (Agriculture and Food Science) - Non-aqueous Generation of Soluble Phosphate Fertiliser from Solid Agricultural Biowaste for Sustainable Agrifood Systems.

Dr Jennifer Attard (Munster Technological University) and Dr Tamara Hochstrasser (Biology & Environmental Science)- FRED - Food Resource Efficiency Decision Support.

Dr Richard Nair (Trinity College Dublin) and Dr Saoirse Tracy (Agriculture and Food Science) - RootCheck: Image-Based Root Health Assessment Tools for Sustainable Agriculture.

Announcing the calls, Minister Harris said "The National Challenge Fund is both a marathon and a sprint for these researchers.

“They are committing to solving long-term problems, but they need to develop their ideas quickly and validate their solutions to keep unlocking funding each year.

“This kind of solutions-driven research will help us to tackle the big societal changes we face as we become a green and digital country, and I am already looking forward to the years ahead as we see the projects advance.

“I am particularly pleased to see the diversity of researchers – coming from all career stages, and from across the higher education network, as we work to make our research community representative of modern Ireland.”

Read SFI's announcement about the full set of awards.