30th May 2023 - Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris, TD, has today announced 62 grants valued at €42 million to support research across 13 Higher Education Institutions through Science Foundation Ireland’s Frontiers for the Future Programme.

Minister Harris commented on the programme: “These awards, supported under the SFI Frontiers for the Future programme, will enable research ideas to contribute new knowledge, solving problems faced by our society, while also providing a continuum of support from early career to established researchers, thus growing and retaining top talent in Ireland. The SFI Frontiers for the Future programme takes important steps to address gender imbalance and to provide support and opportunity for emerging investigators who are returning to their research after a period of leave.”

Some of the awards focus on:

  • A simple, low-cost imaging system for identifying varieties of microplastics
  • Methods to assess past climate change impacts in the Arctic to resolve our current global climate
  • Determining health outcomes in children born to mothers who use e-cigarettes during pregnancy
  • Investigating inflammatory bowel disease during its earliest phase
  • Impacts of intestinal infection in premature babies

Professor Philip Nolan, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland, said: “I am delighted that we are funding 62 new research grants through the SFI Frontiers for the Future programme. A key action of SFI’s strategy is to deliver 140 investigator grants every year to support excellent research and to attract top talent. The Frontiers for the Future programme is the primary mechanism to achieve this goal. It is vital that we invest in excellent and innovative research in Ireland. I would like to thank the Children’s Health Foundation and Geological Survey Ireland for collaborating on this programme with SFI, allowing us to fund projects which will have a significant impact in key areas.”

This programme was funded in collaboration with the Children’s Health Foundation and Geological Survey Ireland.

Commenting on the announcement, Hugh Kane, Interim Chief Executive, Children’s Health Foundation said: “Children’s Health Foundation is a proud partner of the Frontiers for the Future programme and is delighted to co-fund paediatric research projects that will benefit sick children throughout Ireland. Working with SFI, we are able to leverage the funds we raise to deliver larger grants for research into childhood diseases and to develop kinder and more gentle treatments for sick children. Frontiers for the Future Programme plays a key role in enabling us to fund paediatric researchers in a highly innovative, collaborative manner with the potential to deliver impact whilst also providing opportunities for high-risk, high-reward research projects.”

Commenting on the announcement Koen Verbruggen, Director, Geological Survey Ireland, said: “Geological Survey Ireland, a division of the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications, has partnered with SFI for several years, and we are very pleased to again support geoscience researchers through the Frontiers programme. Both SFI-GSI projects funded this year will improve our understanding of the impacts of climate change in the past and what this might mean for our future.”

197 research positions will be supported, including 68 postdoctoral positions, 87 PhD students and 37 Research Assistants and other positions.

The research will be undertaken in the following 13 research bodies: Children’s Health Ireland (CHI), Dublin City University (DCU), Maynooth University, Munster Technological University (MTU), RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences, Technological University Dublin (TU Dublin), National Institute for Bioprocessing Research and Training (NIBRT), Trinity College Dublin (TCD), Tyndall National Institute (TNI), University College Cork (UCC), University College Dublin (UCD), University of Galway, University of Limerick (UL).

Further examples of the SFI Frontiers for the Future Awards and Projects:

  • Sheila McBreen, University College Dublin, aims to build and launch a new Irish satellite to detect gamma-ray bursts, advancing the field of astrophysics, as well as building research capacity in the Irish space sector. Collaborators on this grant will include the European Space Agency and NASA Goddard Space Flight Centre. 
  • Ruth Massey, University College Cork, will use innovative approaches to find out more about how viruses and bacteria cause disease in order to address the pressing global need for resistance-proof therapeutics. 
  • Robert Forster, Dublin City University, aims to create wire-free technology to treat conditions such as Parkinson’s, chronic pain and epilepsy. Current technology used to treat such conditions must be connected by wires to a power supply making the devices large and requiring regular charging, so removing the wires will lead to improved treatment options for patients.  
  • Gordon Bromley, University of Galway, aims to improve future climate projections by investigating the impact of historic oceanic shifts in Ireland. This project is co-funded by Geological Survey Ireland.
  • Melinda Halasz, University College Dublin, and Cormac Owens, Children’s Health Ireland, will examine the development of neuroblastoma in children, one of the deadliest childhood cancers, with the aim of developing more effective approaches to treat children with an aggressive form of this cancer. This project is funded by the Children’s Health Foundation.
  • Michael McAuliffe, Munster Technological University, aims to develop a low-cost, easy-to-use imaging system for identifying different types of microplastics. The hope is that the device will allow simpler and more widespread monitoring of microplastics which present a growing threat to marine life and human health. 
  • Audrey Morley, University of Galway, will pioneer a new approach to assess past climate change effects in the Arctic, providing a basis to resolve current climate debates on the stability of our global climate. This project is co-funded by Geological Survey Ireland.
  • Desmond Cox (Children’s Health Ireland and UCD), and Carmen Regan (Coombe Hospital and RCSI), will determine the long-term health outcomes in children born to mothers who use e-cigarettes during pregnancy. This project is co-funded by the Children’s Health Foundation.
  • Patrick Walsh, Trinity College Dublin, and Séamus Hussey, Children’s Health Ireland, will investigate how inflammatory bowel disease develops during its earliest phase when treatments will likely be the most beneficial for the patient. This project is co-funded by the Children’s Health Foundation.
  • Eleanor Molloy, Trinity College Dublin, aims to tackle the significant impacts of intestinal infection in premature babies by developing new tests to help predict their responses to treatment. This project is fully funded by the Children’s Health Foundation.