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Four University College Dublin Teams Shortlisted to Compete for Science Foundation Ireland Future Innovator Prizes of €5 million

Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphrey TD, today announced the twelve (12) teams from across Ireland which have been shortlisted to progress onto the next phase of the SFI Future Innovator Prize, including four (4) University College Dublin (UCD) teams.

Funded by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation through Science Foundation Ireland (SFI), this competition is part of an overall government plan to cultivate challenge-based funding in Ireland. The two Challenges, the Artificial Intelligence (AI) for Societal Good Challenge and the Zero Emissions Challenge, are run in partnership with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Six teams have been shortlisted from each Challenge and at the end of a 12-month programme two (2) overall winners will be announced.

The AI for Societal Good Challenge and Zero Emissions Challenge each have prizes of €2 million. The Zero Emissions Challenge has an additional bonus prize of €1 million for a team that develops a negative emissions technology, that is a technology that reduces levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Two UCD teams, AI_PREMie and Greenwatch, have been shortlisted for the AI for Societal Good Challenge.

AI_PREMie is focused on the development of an AI-powered risk stratification platform for Preeclampsia.

Members of the AI_PREMie team include; Professor Patricia Maguire, UCD School of Biomolecular and Biomedical Science, UCD Conway Sphere and Director, UCD Institute for Discovery; Dr Fionnuala Ní Áinle, UCD School of Medicine, UCD Conway Sphere, : Dr Paulina Szklanna, UCD School of Biomolecular and Biomedical Science; societal impact champion,  Dr Mary Higgins, National Maternity Hospital and John Curran, Head of Technology, SAS Ireland.

Professor Patricia Maguire, said, “Preeclampsia is difficult to diagnose and kills 50,000 mothers and 500,000 babies each year worldwide. During the next phase of the SFI AI for Societal Good Challenge, we will develop a new test #AI_PREMie to better predict severity of preeclampsia and help to save lives. We are honoured to be working closely on this challenge with our partner organisation SAS Ireland, global leaders in analytics.”

Greenwatch is focused on developing AI-based methods to detect greenwashing in order to improve the measurement of progress towards the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Team co-funded by Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Members of the Greenwatch team include; Professor Andreas Hoepner, UCD College of Business; Dr Georgiana Ifrim, UCD School of Computer Science, Dr Yanan Lin, UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School, Dr Theo Cojoianu, UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School, and societal impact champion, Pat Cox, Chairman, Sustainable Nation Ireland.

Professor Andreas Hoepner, said, “On behalf of Georgiana, Pat, Theo, Yanan, and the entire Greenwatch team, we are delighted to have been shortlisted for the seed phase of the SFI Future Innovator Prize challenge.”

“Since the 2015 Paris Agreement, many corporations have been tempted to greenwash by conveying an inaccurate impression of their environmental sustainability, thereby misleading consumers, investors and policy makers. Our project is utilising AI methods to challenge this greenwashing temptation experienced by corporations. We are very much looking forward to the next phase of the programme and believe that Ireland is uniquely positioned to lead in this space, especially since our national tax revenues from fossil fuels are comparatively inconsequential.”

Two UCD teams, Farm Zero C and LiCoRICE, have been shortlisted for the Zero Emissions Challenge.

The dairy industry faces the challenge of needing to reduce GHG emissions and ultimately to become carbon neutral, and the Farm Zero C project is focused on creating a carbon neutral resilient dairy farm.

There are multiple partners in the Farm Zero C project with a leadership team of Professor Kevin O’Connor, UCD School of Biomolecular and Biomedical Science and Director, BiOrbic SFI Bioeconomy Research Centre; Dr Fionnuala Murphy, UCD School of Biosystems and Food Engineering and societal impact champion, Enda Buckley, Director of Sustainability, Carbery.

Professor Kevin O’Connor said, “Agriculture is under environmental pressures with a negative image but I believe it can be a leader in sustainability. It will take a lot of effort but I see lots of opportunities for farmers to turn the tide so that farms are climate neutral, enhancing biodiversity and stewards of sustainability. That is what Farm Zero C is attempting to achieve: A new sustainable business model for farming. We are using a dairy farm as an exemplar but we believe it can be translatable to other sectors of agriculture.”

Other members of the Farm Zero C project team include; Alejandro Vergara (UCD and BiOrbic); Laurence Shaloo (Teagasc and Vista Milk); James Gaffeyy (IT Tralee and BiOrbic); Jane Stout (TCD, Nature+ and BiOrbic); Dario Fornara (Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute, Northern Ireland); Jean Kennedy (Devenish) and Johan Van Gran (Grassa, Netherlands).

LiCoRICE is focused on bringing lithium cobalt batteries into the circular economy, which is key to meeting Ireland’s aims of decarbonising transport by 2030. Team co-funded by Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Members of the LiCoRICE team include; Dr Tony Keene, UCD School of Chemistry; Dr Steven Ferguson, UCD School of Chemical and Bioprocess Engineering, and societal impact champion, Conor Leonard, WEEE Ireland.

Dr Tony Keene  said, “The LiCoRICE team is leading the way towards Ireland’s first recycled lithium batteries, using a green process to help reduce waste, provide cheaper access to electric vehicles and to ease the humanitarian crisis in cobalt mining areas such as the Democratic Republic of Congo. The partnership of chemistry and chemical engineering researchers at UCD with the proven expertise of WEEE Ireland in recycling and recovery of waste materials is perfectly placed to make Ireland a leader in this field.”

Minister Heather Humphreys, TD said, “I am delighted to announce that twelve teams will go forward to the next phase of the Future Innovator Prize competition. These teams are addressing key societal challenges Zero Emissions and Artificial Intelligence for Societal Good. I commend the researchers on their inspiring solution-focused ideas.”

“Now more than ever, we need to ensure that ongoing significant national and global issues including climate change, disease diagnosis and treatment continue to be addressed. Programmes such as the Future Innovator Prize empower our innovators to deliver creative solutions to important issues where we as a society will benefit.”

Twenty-four teams have participated to date and the successfully shortlisted teams represent a diverse range of backgrounds and closely engage with societal and industry stakeholders to co-create their solutions. During the seed phase these teams will be expected to further validate and prototype their solutions to compete for the overall prize.

The competing teams are led by academic researchers and ‘Societal Impact Champions’ drawn from a range of disciplines and stakeholder groups such as industry and civil society in an effort to support convergent and collaborative problem-solving.

In addition to UCD, the shortlisted seed phase teams hail from Trinity College Dublin; University of Limerick; NUI Galway; University College Cork and Tyndall National Institute.

Further information on all the shortlisted projects available via; and

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