New SFI prize challenges researchers to solve major societal problems

18 Sep 2018

Prof Mark Ferguson, SFI director general, with Minister Heather Humphreys, TD. Image: Lorraine Teevan

The SFI Future Innovator Prize wants researchers to develop novel solutions to Ireland’s biggest societal challenges.

Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation Heather Humphreys, TD, today (18 September) launched the Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) Future Innovator Prize. This is a new, challenge-based programme calling on Ireland’s brightest researchers and innovators to develop technologies to address significant social issues.

The prize has an award of €1m and is funded by Humphreys’ department through SFI.

Using STEM to solve societal issues

The programme was created in an effort to accelerate societal impact from public research and support the formation of interdisciplinary teams, with collaboration with societal stakeholders and key end-users a major element.

During the course of 2019, teams will participate in a competitive phased process that will culminate in one winning team walking away with €1m. This prize will provide researchers with the chance to apply their knowledge and potentially make a positive impact on Irish society, which will contribute to innovative solutions within a two- to three-year timeframe.

Humphreys said: “The Future Innovator Prize is a great opportunity to apply the highest-quality science and engineering to societal challenges and deliver real impacts. The initiative aligns with our plan for Ireland for the next 20 years, Project 2040, and strongly complements our €500m Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund.

“Innovative solutions will be central to how we address global challenges and will reinforce Ireland’s position as an innovation hub.”

Developing solutions through publicly funded research

Director general of SFI, Prof Mark Ferguson, explained that SFI places great importance on challenge-based funding, as it enables publicly funded research to be applied to significant national and global societal changes.

He said: “The SFI Future Innovator Prize will empower innovators to identify challenges and to develop solutions in new, unconventional ways. I would encourage highly motivated teams with diverse backgrounds to apply for this exciting prize.”

Researchers across the country are invited to compete for the prize and pioneer new ideas, which could end up improving the country and the world in vital ways. The deadline for applications is 9 November.

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects