7 teams shortlisted for SFI challenge on sustainable development goalsLeigh Mc Gowranon April 11, 2022 at 13:01 Silicon RepublicSilicon Republic


Seven teams have been shortlisted to compete in a Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) research challenge focused on sustainable development goals, in partnership with Irish Aid.

The announcement was made today (11 April) by Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris, TD, and Minister for Overseas Aid and Diaspora, Colm Brophy, TD.

The seven teams will receive €2.47m in funding develop solutions that contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) programme. The teams will compete for a prize of €1m to help advance their projects to deployment.

The specific focus of this SDG challenge – which was first announced last July – is to address challenges in countries where Irish Aid works. The seven projects represent international collaborations between research institutes in Ireland and four Irish Aid countries, which are Malawi, Uganda, South Africa, and Vietnam,

“SFI’s Challenge Funding Programmes seek to support Ireland’s best and brightest, to develop novel, potentially disruptive, technologies to address significant societal challenges.” Harris said. “Today it is about addressing development challenges under the UN SDGs in Irish Aid’s partner countries.”

Harris added that these challenge programmes seek to support Ireland’s best and brightest, to develop technologies to address significant societal challenges. In February, SFI shortlisted 10 research teams to develop solutions to key challenges for use across the Irish Defence Forces.

The shortlisted projects focus on a variety of issues such as improving surgical training through data science, treatments for vision loss, care pathways for back pain, diagnosis of pneumonia and addressing water sanitation.

“Having this level of talent compete in the SDG Challenge bodes well for the future of scientific research and I look forward to seeing the different solutions that develop throughout the programme,” SFI director general Prof Philip Nolan said.

University College Dublin

Three teams from University College Dublin (UCD) were shortlisted for the challenge. The first project called Backtrack will look at reducing the burden of low back pain using technology enabled care pathways. Backtrack is led by Cliona O’Sullivan, with support from UCD’s Brian Caulfield and Jerome Kabakyenga from Mbarara University of Science and Technology in Uganda.

The second team, Biotope, aims to reduce childhood mortality through the improved diagnosis of pneumonia. It is led by Joe Gallagher, with its co-leads being Chris Watson from UCD and  Balwani Mbakaya from Mzuzu University in Malawi.

UCD’s final team, SolarClean, will look at providing access to safe, clean water using sustainable solar technologies. SolarClean is led by Demetra Achilleos, with co-leads Séamus Fanning from UCD and Pieter Gouws from Stellenbosch University in South Africa.

National University of Ireland Galway

Two teams were shortlisted from the National University of Ireland Galway (NUIG). The first team is called Floating Treatment Wetland, led by Piet Lens. This team will look at a nature-based water treatment to reduce health risks from diffuse pollution. The team’s co-lead is Bui Xuan Thanh from Ho Chi Minh City University of Technology in Vietnam.

The second team is called SightSave, which will focus on preventing vision loss due to retinal diseases. It is led by Cormac Flynn, with co-leads Joanne O’Dwyer from NUIG and Daemon McClunan from the University of Cape Town in South Africa.

Maynooth University

The Neosepsis team from Maynooth aims to reduce neonatal and maternal mortality, through the rapid detection of sepsis in resource-limited environments. The team is led by Sean Doyle and is co-led by Nicola Mountford from Maynooth and Peter Waiswa from Uganda’s Makerere University.

Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland

A team from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland will investigate scaling surgical training using data science. The team – called Surgical Data Science – is led by Debbi Stanistreet and co-led by Wakisa Mulwafu from Kamuzu University of Health Sciences in Malawi.

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