The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) are engaging in a joint initiative to incentivize researchers in Ireland to address global challenges in achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), specifically focusing on delivering impact in countries where Ireland’s official development assistance (ODA) is directed. The goal of this partnership is to engender collaboration and knowledge exchange between communities of innovators in Ireland and in key partner countries to address major societal challenges.

To initiate this partnership, SFI would like to highlight two, currently open, challenge-funding opportunities, the AI for Societal Good Challenge and the Zero Emissions Challenge. These programmes support applications focused on delivering societal impact that will contribute to achieving the SDGs nationally and globally. DFAT will provide funding for up to two additional teams to participate in these challenges where the beneficiary of the societal impact is one of Ireland’s key partner countries (subject to the conditions outlined below).

Both challenges are run within the framework of the Future Innovator Prize programme, in which teams compete to progress through Concept and Seed Phases, and ultimately for a Prize Award. DFAT-funded teams will compete alongside SFI-funded teams through all phases of the challenge programme.

Notes for applicants

This initiative does not alter the application procedure for the SFI AI for Societal Good or Zero Emissions Challenges. However, we ask applicants to note the following:

  • applicants should indicate in the application form, where requested, if they fulfil the conditions below for funding by DFAT;
  • if, during the review process, more applications that fulfil these conditions are successful than DFAT have funding to support, these applications will also be eligible to be funded by SFI;
  • all applications will be processed and reviewed in the same way;

Applicants should consider the potential societal impact of their proposed solution to challenges in one or more of Ireland’s key partner countries and to include a relevant Societal Impact Champion (see conditions below).

With regard to eligible costs, applicants should refer to the SFI Grant Budget Policy, but a number of points are reiterated here that may be pertinent to applications that include a Societal Impact Champion that is not based in Ireland.

  • Funding may only be used for research activities administered through an SFI Eligible Research Body;
  • Funding may be used, if appropriately justified, for travel necessary for engagement within the challenge team. This may be for the Societal Impact Champion to travel to Ireland or other members of the challenge team to travel internationally;
  • Funding may be used for researchers based at an SFI Eligible Research Body to conduct fieldwork, field testing or workshops outside of the Republic of Ireland.

Conditions for receiving support from DFAT

DFAT may support additional challenge teams to progress from the application stage to the Concept Phase of either the SFI AI for Societal Good Challenge or the SFI Zero Emissions Challenge, if they meet the following conditions:

  • An application meets all criteria for consideration under these challenge calls, and is recommended for funding by the SFI international peer-review process;
  • The identified challenge is aligned with one or more of the four key priority areas highlighted in the Irish Government’s policy for international development, A Better World, and is of relevance to one or more of the following key partner countries: Ethiopia, Malawi, Zambia, Mozambique, Uganda, Tanzania, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Vietnam, South Africa. It is required that the Societal Impact Champion, whose role within the challenge team is to bring appropriate experience in areas relevant to the societal impact focus of the application, is either
  1. An individual based in one of the key partner countries listed above, with relevant knowledge and experience of the challenge being addressed in the application;
  2. A staff member of a non-governmental organisation (NGO) that directly engages with one of the key partner countries and has relevant knowledge and experience of the challenge being addressed in the application. 

Applicants should refer to the Application Handbook on the relevant challenge website for a full description of the role of Societal Impact Champion.

Please note that by submitting an application to the SFI Future Innovator Prize Programmes named above, applicants accept that SFI has the right to share information (including the application and any post-award reports submitted to SFI) with co-funding partners, on a confidential basis, without the need to obtain any further consents from such applicants.