11th May 2020: Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys, TD, today announced that twelve teams have been shortlisted to progress onto the next phase of the SFI Future Innovator Prize. Funded by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation through Science Foundation Ireland (SFI), this competition is part of an overall government plan to cultivate challenge-based funding in Ireland. The two Challenges, the Artificial Intelligence (AI) for Societal Good Challenge and the Zero Emissions Challenge are run in partnership with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
Minister Heather Humphreys, TD said: “I am delighted to announce that twelve teams will go forward to the next phase of the Future Innovator Prize competition. These teams are addressing key societal challenges Zero Emissions and Artificial Intelligence for Societal Good. I commend the researchers on their inspiring solution-focused ideas. Now more than ever, we need to ensure that ongoing significant national and global issues including climate change, disease diagnosis and treatment continue to be addressed. Programmes such as the Future Innovator Prize empower our innovators to deliver creative solutions to important issues where we as a society will benefit.”
Minister for International Development, Ciarán Cannon, TD added: “This important partnership between Irish Aid and Science Foundation Ireland enables innovative research into solutions for key global challenges, such as mitigating climate change. I am delighted that Irish Aid is co-funding four of the research projects that have reached Seed phase.”
Twenty-four teams have participated to date, six teams have been shortlisted from each Challenge and at the end of the 12-month programme two overall winners will be announced. The AI for Societal Good Challenge and Zero Emissions Challenge each have prizes of €2 million. The Zero Emissions Challenge has an additional bonus prize of €1 million for a team that develops a negative emissions technology, that is a technology that reduces levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
Minister for Training, Skills, Innovation, Research and Development, John Halligan continued: “It is a privilege to support the development of these great ideas, which are being co-created by interdisciplinary teams from leading institutes and organisations across the country spanning Galway, Cork, Limerick and Dublin. Best of luck to all the teams for the next phase of the competition.”
Dr Ruth Freeman, Director Science for Society, Science Foundation Ireland added her congratulations: “Well done to the twelve teams on their success, hard work and dedication. It is an achievement to progress this far in the Future Innovator Prize competition. The excellent standard of the projects illustrates the importance of continuing to embed competitive and challenge-based funding within the Irish ecosystem. Many of the projects here directly address UN sustainable development goals and can potentially help Ireland achieve these aims. I look forward to following the teams as they journey through this next phase of the programme.”
The twelve successful teams represent a diverse range of backgrounds and closely engage with societal and industry stakeholders to co-create their solutions. In the AI for Societal Good Challenge these solutions address societal concerns of both national and global significance that align with the UN Sustainable Development Goals, from detection of greenwashing, to tracking climate change adaptation, and lung cancer treatment to detection of preeclampsia or endometriosis and fetal monitoring.
In the Zero Emissions Challenge these solutions are focused on the Climate Action Plan and address challenges related to the development of carbon capture-enabling materials and devices, recycling of rare minerals in batteries, inefficiencies in solar cell deployments, reduction of agricultural carbon footprint, and reuse of biowastes in the circular economy. During the Seed Phase these teams will be expected to further validate and prototype their solutions to compete for the overall prize.