Minister for Further and Higher Education, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris, TD, has today announced two new competitions, with a prize fund of €2 million each, as part of the SFI Future Innovator Prize.

  • The SFI Food Challenge will support 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”.
  • The SFI Plastics Challenge will support the development of innovative STEM-led solutions that will enable the sustainable use of plastics in a circular economy, restore and preserve our oceans’ health, and maximise how we use the Earth's finite resources.

Announcing the new Challenges Minister Harris said: “We have seen how innovative, disruptive thinking has delivered solutions in the fight against Covid-19, so I am delighted today to announce two new Challenges as part of the SFI Future Innovator Prize, which seeks to bring the same new and fresh way of thinking to some of the broader issues Ireland is facing. SFI is seeking research teams to develop innovative solutions in the areas of reducing food loss and waste, and enabling the sustainable use of plastics in a circular economy. Both of these issues have the potential to have a significant impact on our shared future and I would call on Ireland’s brightest talent to get involved in building a more sustainable Ireland with research and innovation at its core.”

Commenting on the funding calls, Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General, SFI and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland, said: “Challenge‐based funding is of high strategic importance to Ireland, enabling publicly‐funded research to be applied to address significant national and global societal challenges. We have seen a fantastic calibre of innovative thinking and truly novel approaches as part of the submissions for previous SFI Future Innovator Prize competitions, and I look forward to seeing the different solutions that present in the areas of food waste and enabling the sustainable use of plastics in a circular economy.”

The SFI Future Innovator Prize seeks to challenge the country’s best and brightest unconventional thinkers and innovators to create novel, potentially disruptive technologies in collaboration with societal stakeholders and end-users to help us as a nation address significant societal issues.

The SFI Future Innovator Prize has a strong team focus with each member bringing necessary expertise to advance the project. Teams work to tight deadlines, with the necessary supports and flexibility, in order to accelerate progression towards their proposed solutions.

Through a partnership with the Department of Foreign Affairs, projects may be funded that focus on delivering impact in countries where Ireland’s official development assistance is directed.

For research teams interested in the funding call in the area of food waste, the challenge is for cutting-edge solutions to challenges across areas, that are not limited, to but could include:

  • sustainable and efficient production of food in marine, land and non-soil systems
  • supply chain innovation to minimise food loss and waste
  • creation of circular bioeconomic opportunities from food waste
  • functional foods

For those interested in solutions that will enable the sustainable use of plastics in a circular economy, it is expected that applications will address challenges in the following areas:

  • Remove: challenges associated with removing polluting plastics from value chains, waste streams or the environment;
  • Replace: challenges associated with making plastic usage sustainable, such as novel feedstocks or alternative materials;
  • Recover: challenges associated with recovering value from end-of-life plastics, such as depolymerization, upcycling or recycling

More information on both funding calls visit