10 May 2022, Dublin: Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris TD, has today announced 76 grants valued at €53.7 million to support frontiers research across ten Higher Education Institutions through Science Foundation Ireland (SFI).

The research supported will investigate areas such childhood ADHD, future coastal sea levels, new generation batteries, antiviral drugs to treat Covid-19 infections, safety critical software, the link between obesity and cancer and the futureproofing of crops to withstand flooding.

In line with SFI’s gender strategy, the programme seeks to provide opportunities to address gender imbalance and to provide support for investigators returning to research after a period of leave. 42% of the research grants supported will be led by female researchers and 32% by emerging investigators early in their research careers.

The programme is run in collaboration with Geological Survey Ireland  and the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) who are co-funding a number of the grants.

Commenting on the SFI Future Frontiers Programme, Minister Harris TD, said: “Congratulations to all the researchers who have received funding today as part of the SFI Frontiers for the Future Programme. I am delighted to support this programme which funds individual-led research, with an emphasis on fundamental research at the cutting edge of science and engineering which will help us build a better future for Ireland through discovery, innovation, and impact.“

“Not only will these grants support research in important areas for Irish society, they will also fund the support 216 people in varying research positions across 10 Higher Education Institutes to further develop their research careers. We are investing in talent. I would like to offer my thanks to the Higher Education Institutions for their support in delivering this programme again this year.”

Professor Philip Nolan, Director General of SFI said: “After the success of the first SFI Future Frontiers Programme in 2020, I am delighted to see 76 research grants awarded. The research programmes are wonderfully diverse, but they have one thing in common: they ask fundamental questions and will lead to important scientific breakthroughs, with important applications in areas such as climate action, biodiversity, human and animal health and digital transformation, with real and lasting benefits to our society and economy. The SFI Frontiers for the Future Programme is a key element of SFI’s new strategy – Shaping Our Future providing support for excellent research.“

“It is really encouraging to see that 42% of the research grants are led by female researchers for the second year running. SFI is committed to addressing the gender imbalance evident in areas of Irish research and this is another example of that commitment in action.”  

Projects supported included:

  • Dr Niamh Cahill at Maynooth University will develop state-of-the-art software to better understand and predict changes in Irish sea levels with a view to improve Ireland’s costal defence strategies and reduce the impact of extreme sea-level changes. Co-funded by Geological Survey Ireland.
  • Prof Valeria Nicolosi at Trinity College Dublin seeks to develop the next generation of batteries beyond lithium-ion technology. By using novel materials, this project may overcome the scarcity and distribution issues associated with the use of lithium and cobalt. Co-funded by SEAI.
  • Prof James O'Donnell, RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences, will investigate how the body controls the levels of a critical component involved in blood clotting. This research will guide the identification of more effective ways to treat people with inherited blood-clotting disorders.
  • Dr Robert Whelan and Prof Jane McGrath at Trinity College Dublin will research how to predict when standard treatments for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) might not be effective. It is hoped that this work will allow children with ADHD to access faster and better relief from symptoms. 
  • Dr Grace McCormack at NUI Galway will study a native honey-bee subspecies, which had previously been thought to be nearly extinct. This work seeks to understand how they have survived and adapted to the challenges caused by humans and will aid in their conservation. 
  • Prof Vivek Ranade, University of Limerick, will develop new insights, devices, and methods to enable on-demand, personalised manufacture in a compact ‘factory in a box’. 
  • Dr Suzanne Martin, Technological University Dublin, will develop new transparent materials, suitable for use with light-emitting diode (LED) displays, capable of efficiently reducing both light pollution and energy costs, while maintaining visibility.   
  • Prof Isabel Rozas, Trinity College Dublin, seeks to build upon existing knowledge of anti-viral drugs to develop new and better drug treatments for COVID-19. If successful, this work could provide better ways to improve the health and wellbeing of patients with COVID-19. 
  • Dr Rosemary Monahan and Prof Barak Pearlmutter at Maynooth University will develop new approaches to address the need for a scalable solution to ensure safety in A.I.-based automated devices, such as driverless cars. 
  • Dr Tancredi Caruso and Dr Jonathan Yearsley at University College Dublin will carry out research to better understand how microbes in the soil support the ability of plants to resist extreme weather events, with a view to improving the resilience of agriculturally important plants.  
  • Dr Alexey Lastovetsky at University College Dublin will develop software that can reduce the significant energy needs associated with the ubiquitous use of computing in daily life, without compromising functionality and performance. Co-funded by SEAI.
  • Dr Patrick Harrison at University College Cork will work to build on recent advances in the correction of errors in DNA, to expand its usefulness for treating a wider range of genetic disorders, including Cystic Fibrosis. 

The full list of awards and projects supported can be found here.

The SFI Frontiers for the Future programme comprise two funding streams:

  • Projects – 58 high-risk, high-reward research projects will receive approx. €32.3m to facilitate highly innovative and novel approaches to research.
  • Awards - 18 larger scale innovative, collaborative excellent research programmes that have the potential to deliver economic and societal impact will receive approx. €21.4m in funding.

The SFI Frontiers for the Future Programme supports the development of world class research capability and human capital in areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) that demonstrably support and underpin enterprise competitiveness and societal development in Ireland.

Working across ten Higher Education Institutes, 216 research positions will be funded including 93 Postdoctoral scientists, 105 PhD students and 18 Research Assistants/others across a variety of different areas.

46 industrial collaborators are engaging in the research programmes.

The research will be undertaken in the following Higher Education Institutions: RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences, University College Dublin, Maynooth University, Trinity College Dublin, University of Limerick, National University of Ireland, Galway, University College Cork, Technological University Dublin, Tyndall National Institute and Dublin City University.