26 April 2021: Funded by the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science through SFI, this competition is part of an overall government plan to cultivate challenge-based funding in Ireland and to contribute towards achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

The SFI Food Challenge supports the development of novel, potentially disruptive, sustainable solutions to reduce food loss and waste across the full breadth of the food supply chain from “farm to fork” addressing topics such as premature spoilage of fruit and vegetables; undernutrition and promoting healthy aging through optimisation of diet; extending the shelf-life of salad leaves as well as valorising food waste into value added commodities. 

The SFI Plastics Challenge supports the development of innovative STEM-led solutions that will enable the sustainable use of plastics in a circular economy. The topics addressed by teams funded under this challenge include removing plastics from coastal areas; reducing reliance on single use plastics in laboratories; minimising the release of micro- and nano-plastics from plastic products and removing plastic from food and beverage packaging. 

Fifteen teams have participated to date under the Food and Plastics Challenges. Eight teams, four from each challenge, are progressing to the Seed Phase of these challenges where they will be expected to further validate and prototype their solutions to compete for the overall prize. At the end of the 12-month programme, two overall winners will be announced. The Food Challenge and Plastics Challenge each have prizes of €2 million.  

Dr Ruth Freeman, Director Science for Society, Science Foundation Ireland added her congratulations: “It is a significant achievement to progress this far in the SFI Future Innovator Prize competition. All of these innovative projects align directly with UN sustainable development goals and the teams are working to develop meaningful solutions to global societal issues. Science Foundation Ireland is delighted to support this important work through our challenge-based funding model.  Well done to the eight teams on their success, hard work and dedication. I look forward to following them as they journey through this next phase of the programme.”

The eight successful teams represent a diverse range of backgrounds and closely engage with societal and industry stakeholders to co-create their solutions. Learn more about these successful teams: SFI Food Challenge and SFI Plastics Challenge