Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris, TD, and Minister of State for International Development and Diaspora Sean Fleming, TD, today announced funding of €2.1 million for six new research teams developing innovative solutions to climate action challenges.

Run in partnership between SFI and Irish Aid, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Challenge will see teams competing for an overall prize of €1 million as they tackle climate action issues on life below water and life on land.

The ideas being developed include:

  • Mapping mangroves in Vietnam and restoring them;
  • Evaluating solar disinfection technology in Malawi for water use in clinical settings;
  • Recycling heat from meat production in Zambia;
  • Investigating green infrastructure in urban environments in Tanzania;
  • Exploring relationships between water and the ecosystem to improve management of drought and floods in sub-Saharan cities;
  • Working with farmers to use data to co-design solutions to climate change in Uganda.

The ultimate winner will use their prize money to further advance their solution towards implementation.

Speaking today, Minister Harris said: “I am pleased to share the selection of these six teams for this SDG Challenge. The climate crisis and its consequences for life demand solutions that we can deploy as soon as possible. SFI’s Challenge Funding Programmes seek to support Ireland’s research community to accelerate the pace of innovation, developing novel, potentially disruptive, technologies to address significant societal challenges.

“These teams will work with researchers in Irish Aid’s partner countries to devise, refine and implement solutions to problems that threaten everyday life. This real-world impact is at the heart of the challenge-based funding supported by SFI and my department, which will utilise the best of research to make many lives better.” 

The focus of the SDG Challenge is for the development of develop innovative solutions relating to challenges associated with climate, biodiversity and the environment, with a specific objective of addressing challenges in countries where Irish Aid works.  

These projects represent international collaborations between research institutes in Ireland and groups in Irish Aid partner countries, in this case Tanzania, Zambia, Vietnam, Malawi and Uganda. 

Minister Fleming said: “This year’s SDG Challenge funding focuses on climate action and the environment. We have already seen how developing nations can be disproportionately affected by the climate crisis. By supporting researchers both in Ireland and in the countries where Irish Aid works, we will use innovative ideas and cutting-edge scientific research to help mitigate some of those effects.” 

Prof. Philip Nolan, Director General, Science Foundation Ireland said: “The award of this funding is an exciting moment for these teams, and we are looking forward very much to seeing how they use this opportunity to advance their research.

“These six teams are working on specific problems that are central to our response to the climate crisis and using their creativity and research skills to develop immediate solutions. Not only do they represent some of the best of Irish research, they are also driven by the hope that their solutions can change the world – a sentiment at the heart of challenge-based funding.” 

The SDG Challenge calls on research teams to develop innovative solutions that contribute to SDG 13: Climate Action, and related goals and targets.

Recognising the interconnectedness between climate, biodiversity and the environment, the challenge theme also encompasses SDG 14: Life below water and SDG 15: Life on land.

The projects submitted include concepts to conserve energy, protect water supplies, and work on local environmental problems affecting people and crop production.

Click here for further information about the teams and their projects.