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Minister Harris announces 15 teams set to compete for SFI Future Innovator Prizes of €2 million
Competitions focus on sustainable solutions in the area of food waste and plastics.
Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris, TD, today announced the 15 teams that have been shortlisted as part of the SFI Future Innovator Prize, including two teams collaborating with researchers from NUI Galway.
The two challenge-based prize programmes, with a prize fund of €2 million each, as part of the SFI Future Innovator Prize, are calling on the research teams to develop innovative solutions to food waste and plastics.
Five teams have been shortlisted under the SFI Food Challenge and 10 under the SFI Plastics Challenge. At the end of the 12-month programme two overall winners will be announced.
The two NUI Galway collaborations shortlisted under the SFI Plastics Challenge include:
- Turnkey, a project between NUI Galway researcher Corine Nzeteu, with Ramesh Babu Padamati (TCD), and Stephen Nolan (Green Generation). The team’s challenge will look at turning plastic and food waste into key value-added products;
- Green Lab Services (GLaS) team of Una FitzGerald (NUI Galway), Michael McCormack (Irish Manufacturing Research), and Sinéad Ní Mhainín (Connacht-Ulster Regional Waste Management Office) who will look at Ireland's lab plastic problem.
Congratulating the competing teams, Minister Harris said: “I am delighted to announce the fifteen teams who will go on to compete as part of the SFI Future Innovator Prize. The SFI Future Innovator Prize is a challenge- based prize funding programme that seeks to support Ireland’s best and brightest, to develop novel, potentially disruptive, technologies to address significant societal challenges. On this occasion, it is about tackling food and plastic waste. I am really excited to see the outcome of their work and the response to these key national challenges.”
The SFI Food Challenge will support the development of sustainable solutions to reduce food loss and waste across the full breadth of the food supply chain, addressing topics such as premature spoilage of fruit and vegetables; undernutrition and promoting healthy aging through optimisation of diet; the shelf-life salad leaves; valorising food waste into value added commodities and waste in the fishing industry.
The SFI Plastics Challenge will support the development of innovative STEM-led solutions that will enable the sustainable use of plastics in a circular economy, restore and preserve our oceans’ health, and maximise how we use the earth's finite resources. The projects aim to address problems across a number of strategic challenge areas including removing plastics from coastal areas; reducing reliance on single use plastics in laboratories; upcycling plastic waste and utilising plastic waste for sustainable battery technologies.
Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General, SFI and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland, said: “I would like to congratulate the fifteen teams who have been shortlisted as part of the SFI Future Innovator Prize competition. We have seen a fantastic calibre of innovative thinking and truly novel approaches as part of the submissions, and I look forward to seeing the different solutions that develop in the areas of food waste and enabling the sustainable use of plastics, as the competition continues. I would like to commend each team on their hard work and dedication, and to wish them every success in the rest of the competition.”
The SFI Future Innovator Prize, funded by the Department of Further and Higher Education, Innovation and Science through Science Foundation Ireland, is part of an overall government plan to cultivate challenge-based funding in Ireland.