17 February 2022: Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris TD and Minister for Defence and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney TD today  (Thursday) announced €2.4 million in funding to develop disruptive solutions to challenges facing the Irish Defence Forces.

Ten research teams have been shortlisted for the SFI-Defence Organisation Innovation Challenge. These teams will collaborate with the Defence Forces and compete for funding to develop disruptive solutions to a number of challenges identified by the Defence Organisation that are of broad relevance to society.

Ideas include a portable device that detects biological agents, AI technology to assist the Irish Air Corps fight wildfires, reducing the carbon footprint of its vehicle fleet to a novel prototype marine electric motor and a co-operative system that will allow a human controller and robot to work together to manoeuvre aircraft.

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Speaking today, Minister Harris said: “This is a really exciting announcement. Today’s announcement shows the value of a partnership between our research community and the Defence Forces. The innovation on display can help address existing and future challenges within our Defence Forces.

“There is a myriad of innovative ideas and expertise from machine learning and virtual reality to data analytics, engineering, and robotics. Today, the ten projects will be awarded funding to initiate their projects and one will secure €1 million in funding.”

Congratulating the shortlisted teams, Minister Coveney said: “From the time we launched this Challenge last July, I believed that it would confront emerging issues within the Defence Forces head-on, through the collaboration of leading researchers with the talented people behind our Defence Forces. At EU level, the role of innovation and disruptive technologies in delivering next generation military capability is already well recognised. I am looking forward to seeing the results that this synergy of innovators and practitioners under this challenge will undoubtedly generate for the Defence Forces going forward.”

Prof Philip Nolan, Director General, Science Foundation Ireland, said: “Challenge-based research funding empowers talented teams to address significant national and global challenges. This kind of collaboration between Government Departments, agencies such as the Defence Forces, companies, researchers, and entrepreneurs is just one of the ways science delivers real and tangible benefits for our society and economy.

“I want to commend each team on their hard work and dedication and wish them every success in the rest of the competition. Having this level of talent compete in this Challenge not only bodes well for this particular initiative but the future of scientific research more generally. I look forward to seeing the different solutions that develop as the competition continues.”