Research into food waste and plastics backed by €4m in SFI funding

9 Jul 2020

Image: © imray/

SFI has launched two new competitions worth €2m each to fund innovations in food waste and plastic under the Future Innovator Prize.

The scope of Science Foundation Ireland’s Future Innovator Prize is set to grow with the addition of two new competitions.

The Minister for Further and Higher Education, Innovation and Science Simon Harris, TD, announced that the competitions, with a prize fund of €2m each, will include the Food Challenge and the Plastics Challenge.

The Future Innovator Prize aims to challenge the country’s best and brightest unconventional thinkers and innovators to create novel, potentially disruptive technologies in collaboration with societal stakeholders and those who could benefit from them.

The Food Challenge will support the development of sustainable solutions to reduce food loss and waste across the entire food supply chain.

The Plastics Challenge will support the development of innovative STEM-led solutions for a sustainable, circular plastics economy with an emphasis on limiting waste plastic in oceans.

Call for ‘Ireland’s brightest talent’

Some of the suggested research focuses for this challenge could include making plastic usage sustainable – such as through novel feedstocks or alternative materials – or addressing challenges such as the depolymerisation of waste plastic.

Also, through a partnership with the Department of Foreign Affairs, projects can be funded if they are based in countries where Ireland provides State-supported foreign aid.

“Both of these issues have the potential to have a significant impact on our shared future and I would call on Ireland’s brightest talent to get involved in building a more sustainable Ireland with research and innovation at its core,” Harris said.

SFI director general Prof Mark Ferguson added that this type of funding is “of high strategic importance to Ireland”.

“We have seen a fantastic calibre of innovative thinking and truly novel approaches as part of the submissions for previous SFI Future Innovator Prize competitions, and I look forward to seeing the different solutions that present in the areas of food waste and enabling the sustainable use of plastics in a circular economy,” he said.

In May, Dr Alison Liddy and her Hydrobloc team at NUI Galway were awarded €1m as part of the SFI prize. This project has led to the development of Hydrobloc nanogel, which aims to provide drug-free pain relief to chronic neuropathic pain patients without the severe side effects of prescription medications.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic