Six teams of scientists compete for €1m SFI sustainability challenge funding

13 Mar 2023

Image: © Nataly-Nete/

Countries in Africa and Asia could benefit from the climate action projects being developed by researchers in Irish universities.

As part of a challenge funding scheme run by Irish Aid and Science Foundation Ireland (SFI), six teams of researchers will compete for €1m in funding for their projects.

The funding scheme is called the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Challenge. It has been designed to address the UN’s SDGs and fund scientists working to improve global living conditions – especially in countries that are suffering the ill effects of the climate crisis. All of the researchers will be working directly with Irish Aid in these countries.

The Government has put a total of €2.1m in funding aside for the six teams.

“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,” said Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris, TD.

“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 first SDG challenge funding call was announced in 2021. It was inspired by a broader push by SFI to reward researchers working to solve societal problems with challenge funding.

Last year, seven teams of researchers were selected to compete for the €1m prize. The overall funding pot amounted to €2.47m.

University College Dublin

Three teams from University College Dublin have been selected as part of this year’s cohort. Dr Quan Le and Dr Anh Vu Vo’s project will map the mangroves of Vietnam to high resolution to track changes and implement restoration.

Dr Tobi Eniolu Morakinyo and Prof Francesco Pilla will investigate green infrastructure in urban environments in Tanzania to reduce the impact of heat stress on human health.

Dr Liana Ricci and Dr Fiachra O’Loughlin will explore the relationships between water and the ecosystem to improve management of drought and floods in sub-Saharan cities.


Prof Kevin McGuigan and Dr Jakub Gajewski will evaluate solar disinfection tech for water use in clinical settings in Malawi.

Trinity College Dublin

Prof Aonghus McNabola and Prof Pádraig Carmody will look at recycling heat from meat production to reduce costs and carbon footprint of food products. Their project is based in Zambia.

University of Limerick

Dr Annmarie Ryan and Dr Eoin O’Connell’s project will see them working with farmers in Uganda to use data to co-design solutions to climate change.

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Blathnaid O’Dea was a Careers reporter at Silicon Republic until 2024.