Ministers Harris and Foley announce funding for 38 projects to inspire STEM public engagement, including SBI's 'Let's Chat Medicine'

Written by: SFI & SBI staff
Written on: Wednesday, 28 February, 2024

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris TD, and Minister for Education, Norma Foley TD, have today announced a €5million investment in 38 projects which encourage understanding of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

The funding will create greater public awareness of the impact of STEM on society and everyday life, generate opportunities for dialogue and encouraging diversity in STEM-related disciplines.

In announcing the funding, Minister Harris TD said: “These initiatives, involving the general public and our communities across primary, secondary and third-level education, are essential to fostering curiosity about science, technology, engineering and maths.

“This investment will help to broaden participation in STEM – both geographically and amongst less represented voices – and inspire all generations to deepen their understanding of what learnings, studies and careers in these fields entails.

In turn, the next generation, in particular, will be better engaged and empowered to share their ideas and solutions to societal challenges.”

In relation to the projects co-funded by the Department of Education, Minister Foley said: “The Department of Education is delighted to collaborate once again with the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science through the SFI Discover Programme. STEM subjects encourage learners’ innate curiosity about how the world works, and I’m confident that support of these 38 initiatives will inspire the students involved to continue their studies in this area. I wish all of the project teams every success in their work over the coming months.”

Among the 38 projects supported through the SFI Discover Programme are:

  • Junior Engineer Development Initiative (JEDI) provides training for 6th class learners, developing their knowledge of engineering skills and careers and debunking engineer stereotypes.
  • Busting Gender Bias in Computer Science and Cyber Security blends STEM with the arts and humanities, utilising immersive technology alongside P4C (Philosophy for Children) and storytelling methods to bridge the gender gap in computer science and cyber security.
  • Cut from the Same Cloth: Engaging Minority Communities in STEM engages women and girls from minority communities in workshops centred around textiles and experiences of health research.
  • Town Scientist – Planting long term STEM initiatives in the community embeds STEM in the local community through a series of informal learning sessions with age action groups, parents’ groups and men’s and women’s groups in Louth County Library.
  • Try Five + (Biology, Engineering, Chemistry, Electronics, Rocketry + Coding) will deliver a co-created suite of workshops based on the theme of Space Science and Exploration intended to foster, increase and sustain levels of science aspiration in DEIS schools.
  • Debunking The Myths: The Science Behind Our Sexual Health provides clear and reliable information about sexual health through a series of interactive workshops and online engagement tools, encouraging open discussion and curiosity among teenagers, their parents, and teachers.

Welcoming the announcement, Dr Ruth Freeman, Director, Science for Society, Science Foundation Ireland, said: “SFI is very proud of the Discover Programme and we are delighted to support these 38 projects to expand the reach of STEM and broaden participation and engagement. This programme is a key part of our education and public engagement strategy. Increasing engagement among less represented voices in STEM is vital to providing the diverse talent needed to take on societal challenges and to shape our future in Ireland. SFI are passionate about removing barriers to participation in STEM and providing learners with opportunities to engage. I look forward to seeing the achievements of these projects over the coming months.”

Systems Biology Ireland at UCD is another one of the funded groups under this programme. "Let’s chat medicine: An innovative PEI cycle in health-related research" was awarded more than 110,000, and aims to bring young members of the public together with STEM researchers, artists and a broad spectrum of professionals to work inclusively and in partnership towards a common goal of enhancing public understanding of personalised medicine.

SBI Director, Professor Walter Kolch, said, "We are very enthusiastic about our new 'Let's chat medicine' initiative. The funding and support SFI has so generously provided here is a huge vote of confidence in the goals we hope to achieve with this project." Kolch is the lead investigator on the project and SBI Centre Manager Eadaoin McKiernan is co-lead. 


Background Information on the SFI Discover Programme:

In line with SFI’s 2025 Strategy – Shaping Our Future, the SFI Discover Programme Call aims to empower and inspire deep public engagement and the programme is a key part of the SFI Education and Public Engagement activity. The programme contributes to the themes of Top Talent, Tangible Benefits and A Cohesive Ecosystem.  Through its core objectives, the SFI Discover Programme will contribute to growing opportunities for engaged research, to enabling projects which have strong public purpose and value and, through engagement with community partners, draw on multiple sources to improve, understand or investigate an issue of societal interest or concern. SFI Discover will drive dialogue on science and aim to contribute towards improving diversity and inclusion, through its aims to broaden participation both geographically and amongst less represented voices.  Underpinning all of this is SFI’s ambition to empower participation, grow talent and be a beacon of best practice in STEM education and public engagement, while always endeavouring to achieve this through the spirit of inspiration and Collaboration.