The 24 teams come from a diverse range of backgrounds and are competing to develop novel, potentially disruptive solutions that address key societal concerns. A central feature of these challenges is their solution focus which means these interdisciplinary teams will work collaboratively with societal stakeholders and technology end-users to co-create solutions. The societal challenges being tackled are relevant to national priorities but also have global relevance and align with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Dr Ruth Freeman, Director of Science for Society, Science Foundation Ireland said: “We are delighted to be funding 24 new teams under the SFI Future Innovator Prize. They are tackling important challenges under the themes Artificial Intelligence for Societal Good and Zero Emissions. These teams have been selected from Ireland’s best and brightest, and their projects span health and well-being, transportation, the circular economy, greenhouse gases, agriculture and advanced manufacturing, amongst others. We look forward to following the teams on their journey and benefiting from the solutions they develop.”
This year SFI have partnered with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) to co-fund four of the 24 projects with the goals of incentivising researchers in Ireland to address global challenges and facilitating collaboration and exchange between communities of innovators in Ireland and key partner countries in receipt of Irish Overseas Development Assistance (Ethiopia, Malawi, Zambia, Mozambique, Uganda, Tanzania, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Vietnam, South Africa).
The nature of these challenge programmes is highly competitive which means that after an initial period of 3 months, approximately half of the teams will be selected to progress to the next phase, an intense period of technical development, at the end of which the winning team in each challenge will be selected by a panel of international experts. The AI for Societal Good Challenge and Zero Emissions Challenge each have prizes of €2 million. The Zero Emissions Challenge has an additional bonus prize of €1 million for a team that develops a negative emissions technology, that is a technology that reduces levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere.
The awards will be used by the winning teams to further develop their solutions. Each team is led by two academic researchers and a Societal Impact Champion. The Societal Impact Champion is intended to bring non-technical leadership to the team and can come from a range of relevant sectors e.g. government, industry, civil society. The Societal Impact Champion is key to supporting stakeholder engagement and solution co-creation which is critical for the successful deployment of these solutions.
See full list of teams here