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At the Ploughing, the team visited the European Commission tent to share their project and heard Ireland’s Commissioner Mairéad McGuinness, who has responsibility for Financial services, financial stability and Capital Markets Union speak about the importance of the farming community in solving our long-term societal challenges. The National Challenge Fund was established under the National Recovery and Resilience Plan and funded by the EU’s Recovery and Resilience Facility.

Commissioner Mairéad McGuinness said: “In the aftermath of Covid, the European Union realised that we are stronger when we work together. The EU put a plan in place to ensure that Member States emerged stronger and more resilient following the huge impact of the pandemic. For the first time, the EU borrowed and used these funds to set-up the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) with the NextGenerationEU programme at its heart. The aim is to invest and help citizens and businesses recover. It’s fantastic for me to see the manifestation of this investment – because it’s not just spending, it’s investing.

“Our young farmers already realise that the future is about green and digital with fairness and competitiveness at its core. I think the word ‘fair’ is really important. We talk about a just transition in this move to a more sustainable and digital economy and society, and we have to be mindful not to leave anybody behind.

“I hope the work that we’re doing collectively between the Commission, the academics, the scientists and the Department will be fruitful so that we will better understand the condition of our habitats and know how we can improve them. This is a good opportunity to see Europe acting on the ground for people’s benefit.”

Dr Oisín Boydell, from CeADAR – Ireland’s Centre for Applied AI at University College Dublin, co-lead for the AI2Peat team explained: “AI2Peat is using AI technology to gather insights from remote sensing data – such as satellites and drones, as well as researchers on the ground who are out measuring these fragile habitats and taking all that data together to be able to map and monitor the peatlands in Ireland. About 20% of the land cover in Ireland is peatland. We really need to understand what condition it is in to be able to focus the restoration efforts that are ongoing.”

The team is one of more than 90 to be funded to take on challenges in the green transition and digital transformation. Dr Ruth Freeman, Director of Science for Society at Science Foundation Ireland said: “Since we started with the National Challenge Fund we have run eight funding calls, we have reviewed hundreds of applications, and we already have more than 90 teams working to come up with novel solutions to challenges that relate to green transition and digital transformation.”

Jim Deane, from the Department of Public Expenditure National Development Plan Delivery and Reform added: “Ireland has been allocated €915m under the Recovery and Resilience Fund to support our National Recovery and Resilience plan.  The Plan contributes to a sustainable, equitable green and digital recovery, complementing the Government’s broader recovery efforts.  This programme demonstrates EU solidarity with the citizens of the Union. As we celebrate our 50th year in the European Union, it’s really important to us to reflect where the country has come from since then. We’re really pleased to see this team here today showing the benefits of EU funding to people in Ireland.”

Find out more about the National Challenge Fund teams at