Do you have an idea for a solution that could help Ireland become an environmentally sustainable economy? 

The Sustainable Communities Challenge gives academic research teams a unique opportunity to contribute to Ireland’s transition to an environmentally sustainable and climate-neutral economy. Following successful review of applications, teams will receive funding of up to €250,000 and training to accelerate development of their idea. A number of teams will then be selected as finalists and receive up to €500,000 to further develop their idea before an overall winner is selected for the €2 million prize award. 

The National Challenge Fund is an agile, fast-paced programme that allows research teams to work with societal stakeholders to deliver tangible impact through their research. In addition to funding, teams are provided with training and mentoring to support acceleration of an idea and to demonstrate how it can solve real-world problems. Participation has the potential to open up significant career development and collaborative opportunities.


Applications are welcome from teams of academic researchers based at eligible Irish research bodies. Teams are strongly encouraged to consider including researchers from different and diverse disciplines, at all career stages.   

Applications should be submitted by two academic researchers who will act as team lead and co-lead. It is strongly recommended that applications also identify a Societal Impact Champion to act in a non-technical leadership role. Where a Societal Impact Champion is not identified at the time of application, teams successful in their applications will be expected to have the Societal Impact Champion in place soon after their award commences.

The Sustainable Communities Challenge consists of four phases: Concept, Seed, Grow and Prize Award. Participation in the challenge will involve teams progressing through the phases, each supporting further development of the challenge concept and solution, to compete for an overall prize award of €2 million. 


No. Teams

Duration (months)

Funding (€)













Prize Award




Call launch 20 February 2023
Application deadline 26 May 2023
Award decision June 2023
Concept phase 1 September 2023
Seed phase Q2 2024
Grow phase Q2 2025
Prize Phase Q2 2026

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 challenge provides researchers with the opportunity to explore solutions that will support a sustainable future for Ireland’s urban and rural populations. At the heart of the Green Transition and Digital Transformation is imagining how we will live in the future. As society is transformed, we must consider what innovations and improvements are needed and how research now can prepare us for the decades to come.      

Under this Challenge, applications would be considered in areas including but not limited to:  

  • Built environment – solutions that will address the impact of our built environment, for example, through construction materials, energy efficiency and enabling energy neutral or positive energy communities. 
  • Transport and mobility – solutions for clean transport in cities, towns and rural communities, in areas such as planning and modelling, novel modes of transport, driving modal shifts and enabling technologies. 
  • Resilient infrastructure – Solutions for sustainable provision of power, water, waste management, transport and other services to communities using new technologies or nature-based approaches. 

This broad thematic call is one of the final two calls under the National Challenge Fund that will seek solutions to support Ireland’s Green Transition. Applicants to this call are particularly encouraged to consider novel, forward-looking solutions that could contribute to meeting 2050 objectives.

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. 

Applications are open online and must be submitted through SFI’s Grants Management System SESAME. If accessing SESAME for the first time, researchers should contact their local Research Office to get access to the system.  

The deadline for submission of applications to this call will be May 26th 2023.   

Applicants should carefully review the call documentation below including eligibility information before preparing an application. Applicants must use the templates provided below and adhere to all guidelines. 

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National Challenge Fund webinar 30th March 2023