SFI reveals 12 teams competing for €1m prize to change Irish society

25 Feb 2019

One of the 12 Future Innovator Prize projects will aim to reduce hospital waiting lists using artificial intelligence. Image: © WavebreakmediaMicro/Stock.adobe.com

As part of its new Future Innovator Prize for societal issues, SFI is giving 12 teams of researchers a chance of winning €1m in funding.

Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) is hoping Ireland’s best and brightest unconventional thinkers and innovators can create novel, disruptive technologies to potentially impact the country’s society for the better.

As part of an announcement today (25 February), the organisation revealed a total of 12 teams looking to address 12 different issues, including reducing the impact of packaging as well as minimising mining emissions and the cost of electric vehicles.

In April of this year, SFI will create a shortlist of five teams that will get the chance to develop their ideas further, ahead of a single winner and recipient of €1m in funding being announced in December.

“I am pleased to congratulate the 12 teams who have made it to this stage of the SFI Future Innovator Prize competition,” said Prof Mark Ferguson, director general of SFI.

“Challenge-based funding is of strategic importance to Ireland, ensuring that publicly funded research can address significant national and global issues including environmental protection, disease diagnosis and treatment, optimal healthcare, and developing methods of sustainable manufacturing.”

Competing teams come from Trinity College Dublin (TCD), University College Dublin (UCD), Dublin City University (DCU), NUI Galway (NUIG), University College Cork (UCC), Institute of Technology Carlow (IT Carlow) and the Tyndall National Institute, as well as a number of SFI research centres.

The 12 winning teams and challenge areas are listed below.

Reducing the environmental impact of high-tech surfaces manufacturing

Team: Dr Eoin Flynn (UCC), Dr Paul Young (UCC) and Dr Keith Alden (AMBER, TCD)

Project: Designed environmentally sustainable thin films utilising renewable biopolymers (DESTURB)

Creating next-generation personalised orthopaedic implants

Team: Prof Rocco Lupoi (TCD), Prof David Hoey (TCD) and Patrick Byrnes (Croom Precision Medical)

Project: Genetic algorithm-aided optimisation of the mechanical structure of orthopaedic implants for revision‐free life cycles

Reducing the burden of sepsis

Team: Dr Elaine Spain (DCU), Dr Kellie Adamson (DCU) and Prof Gerald Curley (Beaumont Hospital)

Project: SepTec: Improving outcomes for sepsis patients

Harnessing gene editing to treat rare diseases such as Epidermolysis bullosa (EB)

Team: Prof Wenxin Wang, Dr Irene-Lara Sáez, Jonathan O’Keeffe-Ahern, Dr Nan Zhang (all UCD) and Dr Sinead Hickey (Debra Ireland)

Project: A disruptive, non‐viral gene-editing platform technology for treating genetic conditions

Reducing the environmental impact of packaging

Team: Dr Adriana Cunha Neves, Dr Brian Casey and Martina Moyne (all IT Carlow)

Project: Developing bioplastic packaging that improves user convenience using human‐centred design engineering processes

Enabling next-generation biological imaging

Team: Prof Dominic Zerulla (UCD), Dr Dimitri Scholz (UCD) and Peter Doyle (consulting the European Commission with the Brussels Photonics Team on strategic innovation and business development)

Project: Real‐time imaging of nanoscale biological processes via plasmonically enabled nanopixel arrays

Enabling better breast cancer diagnosis

Team: Dr Eric Moore (Tyndall/UCC), Martin O’Sullivan (UCC) and Liosa O’Sullivan (patient advocate)

Project: Development of a technology for clinicians to improve the breast cancer diagnostic pathway through real-time point-of-care detection of breast disease

Reducing the environmental impact of mining emissions

Team: Prof Igor Shvets (TCD), Sebastian Harenbrock (TCD) and John Guven (UCD)

Project: Reducing mining industry emissions through spectroscopic-based sorting of mineral ores and machine-learning algorithms

Creating eco-friendly and cost-effective super magnets for electric vehicles

Team: Dr Ansar Masood (Tyndall), Dr Paul McCloskey (Tyndall) and Wassim Derguech (Jaguar Land Rover)

Project: A novel, sustainable electric motor using high-grade permanent magnets based on common metallic elements

Reducing the burden of chronic pain

Team: Dr Alison Liddy (NUIG), Dr Martin O’Halloran (NUIG), Dr Chris Maharaj (University Hospital Galway), Dr Barry McDermott (NUIG) and Dr Conor Judge (Irish Clinical Academic Training)

Project: A novel hydrogel to address chronic pain in Irish patients

Minimising hospital waiting lists and optimising healthcare capacity

Team: Prof Barry O’Sullivan and Helmut Simonis (Insight Centre for Data Analytics, UCC), Dr Jane Bourke (UCC), and Prof Martin Curley (HSE Digital Academy)

Project: An artificial intelligence and data analytics system for minimising hospital waiting lists and optimising healthcare capacity in Ireland

Enhancing visual acuity through disruptive, customised IOL design

Team: Prof Fengzhou Fang (UCD), Dr Jufan Zhang (UCD) and Barry Walsh (Alcon)

Project: Disruptive, customised design and production of accommodative intraocular lenses (IOL)

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic