Minister Harris welcomes two TU Dublin teams to the SFI National Challenge Fund

Published: 12 Sep, 2023

On Monday, the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris TD, welcomed two TU Dublin teams to the National Challenge Fund. The fund sees researchers work on eight crucial topics aimed at helping Ireland prepare for its green transition and digital transformation.

Researchers must engage directly with the potential beneficiaries of their inventions and solutions to make sure they are responding to the needs of the community. The projects joining the National Challenge Fund from TU Dublin are:

Challenge – Sustainable Communities Challenge Dr Lorraine D'Arcy and Dr Eoin McGillicuddy (TU Dublin)

CRAWL – A Campus Role as Actors in Walkable & Liveable Communities

Since the 1960s, development patterns changed to a more suburban car-based approach for street and neighbourhood design; as we moved to this more suburban design, our university campuses followed suit, and now we have challenges which include the social health of students and transport poverty (financial costs and time costs) due to long commute times and limited public transport options for commuting to campuses. Using TU Dublin's three campus locations, this transdisciplinary project will draw on an existing network of Irish stakeholders on walkability and liveability, the three local authorities, the university community and surrounding communities to co-create a programme of action to improve the walkability of the campuses and their surrounds.

Gender, sexual orientation, ability and ethnicity also affect how safe and secure people feel when using various transport modes or spending time in places so an intersectional approach will be taken. Finding opportunities to improve suburban campuses can allow the transferability of good practice to other campus settings, improving access to employment and healthcare. A citizen science air quality study will run across all locations alongside the co-creation of actions for each campus location. Physical, mental, social and planetary health are all considered.

Challenge – Future Food Systems - Dr Swarna Jaiswal (TU Dublin) and Prof. Joe Kerry (University College Cork)

BioFreshPack: Sustainable Biodegradable Food Packaging System for Ready-to-Eat Products using Unutilised Agri-Food Waste.

The 'BioFreshPack' is designed to advance food packaging by using natural freshness indicators from fresh produce waste and biodegradable materials from unutilized agricultural waste. It uses these components to create an intelligent, biodegradable packaging material, and a natural colour indicator enclosed within the packaging provides a visual representation of the freshness and quality of ready-to-eat (RTE) food products (particularly meat-based RTE Foods).

The ‘BioFreshPack’ challenges traditional expiry date labelling, which may not accurately reflect product freshness, potentially reducing premature disposal and food waste. This intelligent packaging system not only addresses the environmental impacts of non-biodegradable waste but also empowers consumers to make informed decisions about the product's actual condition. By leveraging this approach, ‘BioFreshPack’ offers an excellent solution to overcome challenges in food waste management and consumer safety, significantly enhancing the performance and sustainability of food packaging and contributing to a more efficient and sustainable food system.

Speaking today, Minister Harris said: “

The National Challenge Fund is both a marathon and a sprint for these researchers.
They are committing to solving long-term problems, but they need to develop their ideas quickly and validate their solutions to keep unlocking funding each year. This kind of solutions-driven research will help us to tackle the big societal changes we face as we become a green and digital country, and I am already looking forward to the years ahead as we see the projects advance. I am particularly pleased to see the diversity of researchers – coming from all career stages, and from across the higher education network, as we work to make our research community representative of modern Ireland

Director General of Science Foundation Ireland, Professor Philip Nolan, said: “

We know that sustainable living is important for our long-term stability and productivity as a nation.
These projects will work to accelerate research towards implementation so that there will be better, less wasteful options for us to use in the future.
It is really important that these solutions are developed with the people who are going to use them, and that they actually respond to their needs. I am delighted that so many researchers responded to the Challenges and that they are committed to working at such a pace to deliver real change in such diverse arenas.
By encouraging research and innovation, the National Challenge Fund will help Ireland become better prepared for the challenges and opportunities of the green and digital transitions,” said Barbara Nolan, Head of the European Commission Representation in Ireland.
The National Challenge Fund is a key part of Ireland’s National Recovery and Resilience Plan, which is funded by the EU’s Recovery and Resilience Facility. Measures such as this help support sustainable and inclusive economic growth and contribute to making Ireland future ready

Read more about the National Challenge Fund on the SFI website.