SFI launches research challenge to develop tech for Defence Forces

6 Jul 2021

Prof Mark Ferguson, director general of Science Foundation Ireland. Image: Jason Clarke Photography

Teams will compete for €2.4m in funding as part of a new challenge initiative from SFI and the Department of Defence.

A €2.4m innovation challenge from Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) will see researchers compete to develop solutions to key defence organisation challenges for use across the Irish Defence Forces.

There will be 10 research teams competing for this funding, focusing on five challenges identified by the Department of Defence.

These include: enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness of the fire extinguishing capability of rotary-wing aircraft; the recovery of rigid hull inflatable boats at sea; prevention and detection of water ingress to vessels; the creation of a cyber-physical system to assist or automate the manoeuvring of aircraft between a hangar and apron; and reducing the environmental impact of the Defence Forces.

The Department of Defence is also interested in disruptive ideas that incorporate the latest tech developments in fields such as AI, data analytics, robotics, virtual, augmented and mixed reality, uncrewed aerial vehicles and advanced communications.

“It is really encouraging to be able to launch this new innovation challenge that will support our Defence Forces,” said Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Defence Simon Coveney, TD.

“This initiative will result in new technologies that will support missions and capabilities aligned with national defence policy.”

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris, TD, added that Covid-19 has “taught us the value of research and just how important the work of our scientists is”. He said this new challenge is an opportunity to support both Irish research and the Defence Forces.

“We have almost 2,000 aircraft, land vehicles and vessels in our fleet – imagine the impact we could have by reducing their effects on the environment,” he gave as an example.

Challenged-based funding is a key focus for SFI, with programmes such as the Future Innovator Prize.

Prof Mark Ferguson, director general of the SFI and chief scientific adviser to the Government, said this type of funding is of “high strategic importance” to Ireland and can enable “talented teams to address significant national and global challenges”.

“Fostering collaboration between Government departments and agencies such as the Defence Forces, companies, researchers and entrepreneurs is of crucial importance if we are to ensure science plays its role in the development of our society and economy,” he added.

“I look forward to learning about the outcomes and to future challenge collaborations.”

Further information on the challenge, including details of how to apply, is available here.

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