Minister Harris announces funding to TU Dublin researchers joining National Challenge Fund

Published: 16 Jun, 2023


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On Monday, Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris TD welcomed 47 new teams to compete in the €65 million National Challenge Fund – receiving initial funding totalling more than €13 million to work on solutions to major environmental and societal issues.

Funded by the EU's Recovery and Resilience Facility, the Fund calls on researchers to identify problems related to Ireland's Green Transition and Digital Transformation and work with those directly affected to solve them.

The teams will spend an initial six months working to refine their ideas, including areas such as:

  • Improving cyber security for national databases and for children, older citizens and small businesses,
  • supporting health services through mapping and modelling diseases in the population, preventing medicine shortages, or controlling superbugs,
  • efficient energy use - from renewable sources through to reducing the fuel lorries need.

Speaking on Monday, Minister Harris said:

These teams have presented ingenious ideas and committed their talents to work for the benefit of the people of Ireland.
We see examples in the news most days of why Ireland needs to work at the green transition and digital transformation and ensure that our innovation and research prepare the country for the future.
In fact, the solutions being worked on in all eight challenges in the National Challenge Fund have the potential not just to improve life here in Ireland, but across Europe and worldwide

The TU Dublin projects that received funding are:

Intelligent pavement condition rating systems for cycle routes and greenways (iPSRS)

This project aims to improve the condition and safety of cycle tracks and footpaths using smart technology. The goal is to make walking and cycling more enjoyable and secure for people like you and me. The project involves developing a special device that can be attached to bicycles. This device will collect important data about the condition of the paths we use for cycling and walking. We can identify areas needing maintenance or improvement by analysing this data.

One exciting aspect of this project is that it includes the participation of volunteers or freelancers who are active travellers, like cyclists. They will help install the devices on their bicycles and collect data while doing their usual activities. This way, we can gather valuable information from people who frequently use these paths. The collected data will be used by local authorities to plan and budget for the maintenance of cycle tracks and footpaths. This means the pathways we rely on will be well-maintained and safer for everyone. It will also help the government decide which areas need immediate attention.

Project Team

Dr Waqar Shahid Qureshi, TU Dublin

Dr Ihsan Ullah, University of Galway

CODESIGN - Co-creating DEmentia Support for InteGrated care, a Novel platform approach

It is estimated that close to 55 million people globally are living with dementia and that each year there are almost 10 million new cases of dementia worldwide. According to research by the Alzheimer Society of Ireland, an estimated 64,000 people live with dementia in Ireland. Increasing age remains the strongest risk factor for dementia, and the number of people in Ireland with the condition will more than double in the next 25 years to over 150,000, representing 2.5% of the population. 

There is an acute need, which digital health technologies can potentially fulfil, to provide proactive support for persons living with dementia and their carers. However, there is limited involvement of people with dementia in the design of technology that could be used to support their plans for independent living at home. The CODESIGN team strongly advocates that persons living with dementia should be at the centre of decision-making regarding care, with a shift towards active and empowered self-management facilitated by appropriately designed technology. 

To that end, the CODESIGN project brings together a transdisciplinary team to co-design and co-create a new holistic digital health and wellbeing platform for integrated dementia self-management support. The platform will integrate personalised goal planning for persons living with dementia with wider dementia supports and services from the Department of Health as well as those provided by charities and support groups. The visual front end of the platform will specifically consider interaction and accessibility issues for persons living with dementia and will facilitate enhanced communication, engagement and shared decision-making among persons living with dementia and their formal and informal carers. 

Project Team

Principal Investigator, Dr Dympna O Sullivan (TU Dublin)

Co-Principal Investigator, Dr Julie Doyle (NetwellCASALA, Dundalk Institute of Technology)

Societal Impact Champion, Siobhan O'Neill (Clinical Specialist, Occupational Therapist, Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda)

Extended Team External, Laura O'Philbin, Alzheimer Society of Ireland

Extended Team TU Dublin, Dr Emma Murphy and Dr Damon Berry

Project website:

Twitter: @Co_Design_dem

GroSafe: A technology-enabled solution for building societal resilience against grooming

Children being targeted and manipulated for different kinds of abuse and exploitation, like sexual abuse, drug dealing, and terrorism, often go unreported. Because of this, we don't fully understand the extent of the problem in our communities and how these crimes are carried out. As a result, there isn't enough support and laws in place to address the issue properly.

Unfortunately, grooming can happen both in person and online. With new digital privacy laws and end-to-end encryption, it's becoming even harder for technology companies to detect online grooming. That's why it's crucial to encourage children and their families to report any crimes or harmful activities they see or experience. This information can help us inform children and their guardians about current threats, improve law enforcement efforts, create new policies and laws, run educational campaigns, and develop AI-based solutions and other data-driven responses.

We propose building a solution that overcomes the existing obstacles to increase reporting rates in our communities. This way, we can allocate resources more effectively and ultimately reduce harm to children.

Project Team

TU Dublin team: Dr Christina Thorpe, Dr Matt Bowden, Dr Susan McKeever, and Dr Brian Barry.

ISPCC: Fiona Jennings

Science Foundation Ireland Director General Philip Nolan said: "SFI is very pleased with the response to the National Challenge Fund calls, and we are happy to be supporting these teams as they embark on an intense period of engaged research, refining and validating their solutions. We have learnt from our previous challenge-based funding that teams can make huge strides in very short periods of time.

"The individual problems these teams have identified tally closely with some of the submissions we received from the public during the Creating Our Future campaign, so I look forward to seeing these ideas developed in ways that can improve everyday life in Ireland."

Read the full announcement here.