Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) will play an important role in the implementation of the recently published All-of-Government Climate Action Plan to Tackle Climate Breakdown.
In immediate response to this, in June 2019 SFI launched the SFI Future Innovator Prize Call with the challenge theme of Zero Emissions. This call will see research teams compete for a €2 Million prize award to develop disruptive Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) based solutions that address significant challenges in achieving net-zero economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
Several of the SFI Research Centres are also operating in specific areas of relevance to climate change:
MaREI, the SFI Research Centre for Marine and Renewable Energy, combines the expertise of a wide range of research groups and industry partners, with the shared mission of solving the main scientific, technical and socio-economic challenges across the marine and renewable energy sectors. MaREI is coordinated by the Environmental Research Institute (ERI) at University College Cork and has over 200 researchers working across 6 academic institutions collaborating with over 45 industry partners. MaREI has recently been awarded €9 million from the EU Horizon 2020 programme to build a pilot multi-use platform which will be a decarbonizing one-stop shop for small islands, including their marine initiatives and ecosystems.
BEACON, the SFI Research Centre for the Bioeconomy outlines a programme of oriented basic and applied research in the areas of science, technology, and engineering with the aim of directly assisting the development and competitiveness of industry, enterprise and employment in Ireland in the area of the Bioeconomy. The Centre will produce a broad base of knowledge across multiple disciplines (science, engineering, agriculture, social science, policy) that will provide the platform to address the challenge of developing a new sustainable biobased economy.
ICRAG, the SFI Research Centre for Research in Applied Geosciences research activities focus on mitigating against the effects of climate change. An example is the Centre’s Spoke award on GeoHazards, which aligns with a recently added focus on “Protection from the Earth’ Hazards” including flooding and storm damage. iCRAG’s priority areas for future growth are all aligned to the Government’s Climate Action priorities and include the following: renewable energy (wind and geothermal, in particular), climate change studies/mitigation and carbon management.
VistaMilk, SFI Research Centre for precision dairy is a consortium that includes Teagasc, Tyndall National Institute, Waterford Institute of Technology, University College Dublin, Dublin City University, NUI Galway. The VistaMilk SFI Research Centre aims to be an agent of sustainable growth for the Irish dairy industry by being a world leader in fundamental and translational research for precision pasture-based dairying. Internationally, the advances developed in the centre will apply to dairy systems in many countries and will be a catalyst for global growth in the Agri-Tech sector.
Investment in fundamental research in the critical area of climate change is key to ensuring that Ireland is well positioned to deploy future climate mitigation technologies. World leading researchers and experts matter - SFI is actively recruiting these researchers to Ireland. One example is World Leading Economic Geologist Professor Murray Hitzmann, who in 2018 was appointed Director of the SFI Research Centre, iCRAG (which focuses on Applied Geoscience). Prof Hitzmann moved to Ireland from the US to take up this post.
SFI investments are also producing the skills required to advance the relevant sectors in Ireland through funded Masters, PhD and Post Doctoral positions on funded projects and through the suite of early career stage development programmes. Thus, SFI is helping to future proof Ireland’s skills pool for these challenges. Much of this research is being conducted in partnership with international collaborators and world leading experts, often with partners in countries that are experiencing immediate and specific climate change effects.
SFI is also facilitating substantial international collaboration through a suite of funding mechanisms. Examples include the US Ireland R&D Partnership (Centre to Centre) Programme under which SFI Research Centre MaREI is working with researchers in the US and Northern Ireland in the area of energy systems modelling. MaREI is also collaborating with researchers in China under the SFI/NSFC Partnership Programme.
Finally, with the engagement of the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment, SFI will create national awareness amongst the Irish public of key actions that need to be taken at an individual and national level to ensure Climate Action adaptation and mitigation. This will be delivered as part of Science Week in November 2019.