• 5000 TY girls will participate in the STEM skills programme over the next two years
  • The funding is awarded jointly by Science Foundation Ireland, the Department of Education, and Microsoft Ireland.

Dublin, 15 December 2022: Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris TD, and Minister for Education Norma Foley TD, today announced €1.2 million in funding to extend the STEM Passport for Inclusion project. The project, led by Dr Katriona O’Sullivan at Maynooth University, addresses gender inequalities among female pupils in socially disadvantaged communities through an innovative programme of mentoring and education supports.

The €1.2 million project will be funded jointly by the Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) Discover Programme (€300k), the Department of Education (€300k), and Microsoft Ireland (€600k).

Speaking about the project, Minister Simon Harris said: “I am delighted to announce today that €1.2million has been awarded to the STEM Passport for Inclusion project.  This is a really worthy programme which aims to engage Transition Year girls with STEM, opening pathways to further and higher education. My Department is committed to increasing the number of women and girls studying and working in STEM subjects. I hope that initiatives like this one will help to inspire a new generation of female leadership in science, research, and innovation.”

Minister Foley said: “I would like to congratulate Katriona O’Sullivan and her team on this wonderful initiative. The Recommendations on Gender Balance in STEM Education launched earlier this year, illustrated the importance of encouraging female participation in STEM. In Ireland, out of almost 120,000 people working in STEM, just one-quarter are women. The STEM Passport for Inclusion project was included in the recommendations and is an excellent initiative which aims to make STEM subjects more accessible and attractive to female students across the country.”

The STEM Passport for Inclusion offers female secondary school students the opportunity to graduate with a university-accredited STEM skills module, and to develop a meaningful mentoring relationship with women in Industry. Recent research conducted by Maynooth University has shown that 16% of female students were not studying a science subject at Higher Level for the Leaving Certificate, while 6% of female students do not have the opportunity to study STEM subjects at Secondary level. The initiative provides a platform for girls to understand, participate and celebrate STEM, in order to increase STEM awareness and create pathways to further and higher education in STEM.

Dr Katriona O’Sullivan, Maynooth University said: “I am delighted that STEMp.inc has got the combined support of SFI, the Department of Education and Microsoft to expand nationally. We aim to ensure that every young woman, irrespective of socio-economic background, gets a chance to see where they fit in the STEM eco-system. I am looking forward to growing our partnerships with Atlantic Technological University, and Munster Technological University and other industry partners, as well as expanding our work with Microsoft’s Dream Space team as their vision and passion for STEM has ensured that the 1,250 young women we have worked with so far are motivated and ready to excel in the STEM workforce.  

The STEM Passport for Inclusion programme was co-designed by the education leads at Microsoft Ireland and Maynooth University and is delivered by Microsoft’s Dream Space team at its campus in Leopardstown, Dublin, and in the RDI Hub in Kerry. The national programme will empower 5,000 Transition Year girls from unrepresented communities to gain a Level 6 STEM qualification, which may not otherwise be available to them, and go on to apply for STEM courses at Maynooth University, Munster Technological University and Atlantic Technological University.

James O’Connor, Microsoft Ireland Site Leader and Vice President of Microsoft Business Operations International, said: “At Microsoft, we’re passionate about ensuring young people are given the opportunity to develop the essential skills that are required to fully participate in a digital economy and society. That’s why, over the last two years, the Microsoft Dream Space team has worked with Maynooth University to design, develop and deliver STEM Passport for Inclusion. Through this collaboration, we have been able to surpass the original ambition of engaging 1,000 girls in STEM.

“Today, we’re delighted to be building on this relationship by co-funding the national delivery of STEM Passport for Inclusion to girls right across the country. Dr. Katriona O’Sullivan, in collaboration with our own Dr. Kevin Marshall and the Microsoft Dream Space team, will ensure that STEM Passport for Inclusion will continue to have a positive impact on girls’ STEM capabilities, confidence, and aspirations. I’m hopeful that by helping to extend the reach of this project we can create new pathways for girls in STEM so they can play an active role in shaping our digital world.” 

Director General of SFI, Prof Philip Nolan said: “I am delighted that the STEM Passport for Inclusion project has been awarded funding under SFI’s Discover programme. In line with SFI’s 2025 Strategy – Shaping Our Future, the SFI Discover Programme Call aims to empower and inspire deep public engagement. It is wonderful to see how this initiative has already allowed underserved young women to see their place in STEM, and I look forward to seeing the programme extend its reach over the next two years.”

President of Maynooth University, Prof Eeva Leinonen said: “I’m delighted to congratulate Dr Katriona O’Sullivan on this achievement. I am especially appreciative of the contribution of Science Foundation Ireland, Department of Education and Microsoft Ireland. Extending this innovative project nationally will afford thousands of young female pupils with an important opportunity to gain a STEM qualification.”