Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris has today (Monday, 13 February) announced the first 26 teams to receive funding under the €65 million National Challenge Fund – a competition to find solutions to major environmental and societal issues. Funded by the EU’s Recovery and Resilience Facility, the teams are seeking to address Ireland’s drive towards climate neutrality by 2050, and the best use of disruptive digital technologies.

Some of the team ideas include:

  • improving thermal management of batteries in electric vehicles
  • mapping the way for decarbonising aviation in Ireland
  • renewable energy storage for mobile applications
  • using extended reality and artificial intelligence to allow for tele-rehabilitation of stroke patients
  • improving the accuracy of real-time public transport information

Speaking today, Minister Harris said:

"This is an exciting day for research and innovation in Ireland as a whole. We know that there is an urgent need to find solutions to big societal problems and to implement new ideas as quickly as we can.

"Putting research and innovation to work for the benefit of the people of Ireland is at the heart of our strategy, Impact 2030.

"All eight challenges in the National Challenge Fund are designed to find and promote solutions within this decade, and I look forward to seeing the results these teams produce. When encouraged and nurtured, ingenuity from Ireland can and will improve life here, and around the world."

The teams will begin their tasks by working with people directly affected by the problems they are trying to solve, and by learning more about how to build from research ideas to tangible solutions.

Science Foundation Ireland Director General Philip Nolan said:"Challenge-based funding in Ireland has already reaped rewards and we are working to make sure the best of Irish research benefits the people of this country as quickly as possible.

"I am looking forward to seeing these teams develop and progress their ideas and wish them good luck in doing so.

"For researchers, it’s not too late to get involved in the National Challenge Fund, as we have two more calls opening next week. These are great opportunities for the talent and dedication of the Irish research community to make a real change to the world around them."

Under the 2050 Challenge, addressing Ireland’s climate goals, the projects include ideas on reducing emissions, making greener energy cheaper and more easily available, more efficient energy storage, and mitigating the effects of climate change on communities.

The Future Digital Challenge features diverse ideas on the best uses of machine learning and artificial intelligence including automating industry, managing transport infrastructure, improving medicine production, modelling threats to our health and environment, testing data from wearable devices, and telemedicine, as well as social issues including employment and the quality of our connection with our local environment.

EU Commissioner for Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets, Mairead McGuiness said:

"I am delighted that EU funding, through the National Challenge Fund, is being used to future-proof our economy and society.

"The emphasis on research and innovation will support ongoing work on the green and digital transitions, and so it will help create a more sustainable future. I wish all the teams much success with their research that will bring benefits to the whole of the European Union. We are stronger together."

The National Challenge Fund was established under the government’s National Recovery and Resilience Plan (NRRP), funded by the EU’s Recovery and Resilience Facility. The fund is coordinated and administered by Science Foundation Ireland.