The Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris TD, has today (11 September 2023) welcomed the final teams joining the National Challenge Fund.

The fund sees researchers work on eight crucial topics aimed at helping Ireland prepare for its green transition and digital transformation.

Twenty-five teams have joined the final two challenges, the Sustainable Communities Challenge and the Future Food Systems Challenge.

Researchers must engage directly with the potential beneficiaries of their inventions and solutions to make sure they are responding to the needs of the community.

Ideas being worked on include:

  • Encouraging active transport, and enabling mobility for older people
  • Developing sustainable transport within communities
  • Sustainable ways of protecting food crops
  • Reusing agricultural waste for packaging, fertiliser or protein for animal feed.

Speaking today, Minister Harris said: “The National Challenge Fund is both a marathon and a sprint for these researchers.

“They are committing to solving long-term problems, but they need to develop their ideas quickly and validate their solutions to keep unlocking funding each year.

“This kind of solutions-driven research will help us to tackle the big societal changes we face as we become a green and digital country, and I am already looking forward to the years ahead as we see the projects advance.

“I am particularly pleased to see the diversity of researchers – coming from all career stages, and from across the higher education network, as we work to make our research community representative of modern Ireland.”

Three people behind a spinning bicycle wheel
Ciarán Ferrie from I Bike Dublin, Dr Anna Molter from UCD and Prof. Brian Caulfield from UCD make up the SHIFT Team

Director General of Science Foundation Ireland, Professor Philip Nolan said: “We know that sustainable living is important for our long-term stability and productivity as a nation.

“These projects will work to accelerate research towards implementation so that there will be better, less wasteful options for us to use in the future.

“It is really important that these solutions are developed with the people who are going to use them, and that they actually respond to their needs. I am delighted that so many researchers responded to the Challenges and that they are committed to working at such a pace to deliver real change in such diverse arenas.”

“By encouraging research and innovation, the National Challenge Fund will help Ireland become better prepared for the challenges and opportunities of the green and digital transitions,” said Barbara Nolan, Head of the European Commission Representation in Ireland.

“The National Challenge Fund is a key part of Ireland’s National Recovery and Resilience Plan, which is funded by the EU’s Recovery and Resilience Facility. Measures such as this help support sustainable and inclusive economic growth and contribute to making Ireland future ready.”

More than 70 other teams are competing for prize awards of €1 million or €2 million in continued funding.

The National Challenge Fund is a €65M challenge research fund under the Government’s National Recovery and Resilience Plan which aims to fund and accelerate research to address national challenges in the areas of Green Transition and Digital Transformation.

The National Challenge Fund is a key deliverable in the Government’s Research and Innovation Strategy Impact 2030. It is funded by the EU’s Recovery and Resilience Facility.