News & Events

Launch of Strategic Priority Support Mechanism 2024

Published: Monday, 19 February, 2024

Our seventh annual Strategic Priority call, which aims to identify short-term strategic priorities for the Earth Institute, is now open. The Strategic Priority Support Mechanism 2024 will continue to stimulate interdisciplinary environmental, climate and sustainability research activity across the Institute, the University and beyond, with funding of up to €10,000 awarded to each of 2-4 multidisciplinary teams per annum.  The scheme aims to fund the development of interdisciplinary research capacity as well as more external-facing activities such as policy, societal and public engagement.

Last year, two strategic priority projects were supported through the scheme: Irish Energy Narratives in the Transition (IE-NARR) led by Treasa de Loughry (UCD School of English, Drama and Film) with Tomas Buitendijk (UCD School of Earth Sciences/Business) and Patrick Brodie (UCD School of Information and Communication Studies) and SoilSphere - Connecting UCD soil researchers, led by Saoirse Tracy (UCD School of Agriculture and Food Science) with Sharon O’Rourke (UCD School of Biosystems and Food Engineering) and Tancredi Caruso (UCD School of Biology and Environmental Science).

Applications to the scheme are an opportunity to bring together an interdisciplinary team to address a topic of mutual interest and may involve external organisations. The scheme aims to fund activities that will establish or enhance applicants' profile in an emerging area or substantially progress an agenda, and will be fully supported by the institute. 

The scheme often covers the cost of events, travel and website development but recently projects have been using the budget to fund a short-term appointment to support the project delivery, which can be a very constructive use of funds. The scope of what can be funded is very open - a non-exhaustive list of eligible costs are included in the call document and we can provide clarification if needed.

Full details of the call, including eligibility, evaluation and the application process can be found here.  We are very happy to discuss ideas in early stages of development and may be able to help you find co-applicants.  Applicants should propose a project on a topic which could be considered strategically important, within one or more of the Institute’s cross-cutting dimensions and research themes.  The application deadline is 5pm on Wednesday 12 June.  If you have any questions please contact our Research Manager, Caitriona Devery

Some of our recent and previous awardees' experiences and insights can be found below:

"This scheme is proving to be an excellent mechanism to bring people together around soil research. The timing of Soilsphere is particularly relevant in the context of new EU legislation on soils being introduced this year; Directive on Soil Monitoring and Resilience (Soil Monitoring Law). The Strategic Priority funding has allowed us to mobilise a group of researchers across many UCD schools with the aim of building collaborations and sharing knowledge. To date, the work achieved includes a database of soil expertise and an inventory of equipment relevant to soils and a website is being finalised. A stakeholder engagement event with artists will follow later in the year. All of this has been enabled by the hiring of a project coordinator, Fiona Gannon, which has been invaluable. The funding is a great way of facilitating networking and capacity building across all career stages for researchers engaging in soils in UCD."

- Dr Sharon O'Rourke, Dr Saoirse Tracy and Dr Tancredi Caruso, SoilSphere (2023)

"We were awarded funding in autumn 2023 to explore Irish energy narratives at a crucial moment of transition. The Strategic Priority funding has given us the opportunity to develop collaborative work across interdisciplinary areas like just transitions, environmental narratives, and digital infrastructures, as well as community-based outreach through arts engagement, over two years. While the project is still in the early stages, the Earth Institute's support has been pivotal in helping us to engage with partners, develop ideas, and promote the project: support that will go a long way in confronting the complexities of energy transition narratives as they are developing across the island of Ireland"

- Dr Treasa de Loughry, Dr Tomas Buitendijk and Dr Patrick Brodie, Irish Energy Narratives in the Transition (IE-NARR) (2023)
"The SPSM funding provided an impetus and collective motivation to bring researchers across the university together, that are working on transportation-related topics, under one group/ hub for the purposes of engendering collaboration, identifying research opportunities and providing a focal point for UCD transport research. With the funding received via the SPSM, a website was established, a podcast was set up and an annual transport research symposium event was organised, which provided opportunities for industry and the public sector to learn about what research is currently being conducted in the university and to establish closer existing and new connections with researchers"

- Dr Paraic Carroll, Transport Research Hub at UCD (TREAH) (2022)

“The Earth Institute’s Strategic Priority Support Mechanism (SPSM) fund has been a great support allowing the Cultural Landscapes and Social Spaces (CLaSS) project to engaged partners and grow capacity. Through this we are aiming to link national and international academics to the potential for studying organic, light-framed houses, while introducing them to a European network of Archaeological Open-Air Museums (AOAM), with extensive experience recreating these structures. The openness and advice from the Earth Institute team during the pre-application stage was a great help. Once awarded, the supports were invaluable and included access to their team’s experience and networks, development of a webpage, communications and marketing, and assistance with project administration. All of this allows projects to focus on growing and developing excellence.”

- Dr Brendan O’Neill, Cultural Landscapes and Social Spaces project  (2022)

“The SPSM 2022-2023 funds helped us create the Just Transition Research Group at UCD. This group aims to bring together researchers interested in the Just Transition concept and co-produce knowledge exploring how justice and equity principles can shape public policies for a sustainable low carbon future. Additionally, the continued support and resources provided by the UCD Earth Institute to our project are helping us achieve more than the scope of our project” 

- Dr Aparajita Banerjee and Dr Geertje Schuitema, Just Transition Research Group (2022)

“We were awarded funding last year. Initially we were unsure if we should apply since our project was a little different than those funded in previous years. However, the Earth Institute offered great encouragement and advice on how we could articulate our ideas into a clear and provocative proposal. Furthermore, since then, the Earth Institute has been super enthusiastic as we move forward to materialise our project, whether it’s organising an event, making connections to expand our team, or designing a website. Overall, the process has been very productive and a lot of fun! Everyone at the Institute wants to make the research have a real impact”

- Dr Mary Harty &  Dr Clare Lyster, Data Farms and Urban Farms: Alternative Energy Flows Within Data Storage Infrastructure (2022)

 "Interactions within Re-EcoNet have supported the key idea for an application to the SFI Frontier for the Future Programme. This 4-year project has been funded and is now supporting a post-doctoral researcher and a PhD fellow plus the costs of research on the response of plant-soil microbe network to extreme perturbations. Interactions within Re-EcoNet have also led to the draft of Literature Review paper on network methods with Tancredi Caruso, Matthias C Rillig and Diego Garlschelli as authors, currently under review. We launched our website at the end of 2021 which will be key to our dissemination strategy. Re-EcoNet also hosted a number of workshops and seminars in 2022."

- Dr Tancredi Caruso, Re-EcoNet (2020)

 "Over a 2-year period, the UCD Centre for Irish Towns (CfIT) will have evolved from an idea to an approved centre for research and training in UCD, all facilitated by the SPSM. The financial award has allowed us to develop communications tools and run events (pre-COVID!), and the direct supports from the Earth Institute, for example in terms of contacts, advice and human resources, have been invaluable. The SPSM scheme is really a leg-up, with the Earth Institute crew cheering you on. It has built momentum and given us confidence to progress and develop our idea". 

-  Dr Philip Crowe and Dr Orla Murphy, Centre for Irish Towns (2019)

"The Earth Institute’s Strategic Priority Support Mechanism (SPSM) call has been instrumental in facilitating practical work between academics, researchers and the community in the SDG Dashboard Project. Partnership is central for action research into sustainable development, but without funding support it is difficult to take forward the implementation of local actions, or the organising of community co-creation and capacity building events. The Earth Institute’s SPSM goes beyond financial support in enabling the implementation of such initiatives and associated activities. The team behind the SPSM has helped us coordinate efforts and disseminate the project and its findings, as well as facilitated networking connections and provided assistance as and when needed. I think the open focus is great and as a 'seed' funding it really works."