Research News

Minister Harris and Commissioner McGuinness announce first recipients of €65M National Challenge Fund

  • 14 February, 2023


Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris has announced the first 26 teams to receive funding under the €65 million National Challenge Fund. 

The competition invites researchers to find solutions to major environmental and societal issues. Funded by the EU’s Recovery and Resilience Facility, the teams are seeking to address Ireland’s drive towards climate neutrality by 2050, and the best use of disruptive digital technologies. 

Ten of the 26 successful teams are from UCD. Project ideas include using artificial intelligence to allow for tele-rehabilitation for stroke patients, and improving the accuracy of real-time public transport information.

Minister Harris said: "This is an exciting day for research and innovation in Ireland as a whole. We know that there is an urgent need to find solutions to big societal problems and to implement new ideas as quickly as we can. Putting research and innovation to work for the benefit of the people of Ireland is at the heart of our strategy, Impact 2030. All eight challenges in the National Challenge Fund are designed to find and promote solutions within this decade, and I look forward to seeing the results these teams produce. When encouraged and nurtured, ingenuity from Ireland can and will improve life here, and around the world.”

Science Foundation Ireland Director General Philip Nolan said: "Challenge-based funding in Ireland has already reaped rewards and we are working to make sure the best of Irish research benefits the people of this country as quickly as possible. I am looking forward to seeing these teams develop and progress their ideas and wish them good luck in doing so. For researchers, it’s not too late to get involved in the National Challenge Fund, as we have two more calls opening next week. These are great opportunities for the talent and dedication of the Irish research community to make a real change to the world around them."

EU Commissioner for Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets, Mairead McGuiness said: "I am delighted that EU funding, through the National Challenge Fund, is being used to future-proof our economy and society. The emphasis on research and innovation will support ongoing work on the green and digital transitions, and so it will help create a more sustainable future. I wish all the teams much success with their research that will bring benefits to the whole of the European Union. We are stronger together."

The teams will begin their tasks by working with people directly affected by the problems they are trying to solve, and by learning more about how to build from research ideas to tangible solutions. They will have the chance to grow and scale their activities with opportunities for follow on funding in future phases ranging from €500,000 to €2 million for the most competitive teams. The next teams to join the Challenges will be announced in June.

The 2050 Challenge seeks transformative, forward-looking solutions to Ireland becoming climate neutral and resilient by 2050. The successful UCD teams are:

Dr Thomas Hooper, UCD School of Chemistry, co-lead Dr Ioscani Jimemez de ValUCD School of Chemical and Bioprocess Engineering
Fluorocapture - reducing fluorinated gas emission by converting fluorinated gases to chemical building blocks for industry.

Dr Andrew Phillips, UCD School of Chemistry, co-lead Dr James Carton Dublin City University
RSER - renewable energy storage for mobile applications.

The Future Digital Challenge invites transformational societal and economic impact from disruptive digital technologies. The succesful UCD teams are:

Dr Oisín Boydell, UCD School of Computer Science, co-lead Dr Eoghan Holohan, UCD School of Earth Sciences
AI2Peat - combining artificial and human intelligence for peatland monitoring.

Dr Cailbhe Doherty, UCD School of Public Health, Physiotherapy and Sports Science, co-lead Dr Rob Argent, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland 
Cerberus - acting as a watchdog for consumers of wearable devices for health and fitness.

Dr Ibrahim Khalil, UCD School of Agriculture and Food Science, co-lead Dr Anca Delia Jurcuti, UCD School of Computer Science
HOLOS-IE -digital tool to assess Irish agricultural land use and management to reduce pollution.

Prof Eleni Mangina, co-lead Dr Abraham Campbell, UCD School of Computer Science
STROHAB - using extended reality and artificial intelligence to allow for tele-rehabilitation for stroke patients.

Dr Di Nguyen, co-lead Dr Vincent Hargaden, UCD School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering
ReApt - improving the accuracy of real-time public transport information to support passengers and those allocating resources in the system.

Dr Vikram Pakrashi, UCD School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, co-lead Dr Michelle Carey, UCD School of Mathematics and Statistics
TRaIn - sensors to allow trains in motion to inspect the tracks they run on for signs of degradation. 

Dr Stephen Redmond, UCD School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, co-lead Dr David McKeown, UCD School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering
Light Touch Robotics - developing a sense of touch for robotic grippers to enable them to do more tasks in industry.

Dr Nan Zhang, UCD School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, Prof Wenxin Wang, UCD School of Medicine
AI-Form - using artificial intelligence to accelerate nanomedicine development.

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. 

Information on all 26 winners annnounced can be found here.