The European Union has identified seven priority challenges where targeted investment in research and innovation can have a real impact.



How we respond to the grand challenges we face, nationally and internationally, will be the major determinant of economic and societal development in the years ahead. Interdisciplinary research is key to addressing such challenges, which are typically highly complex. It can often generate more innovative solutions and new ways of approaching and thinking about problems.

Demonstrating our commitment to ‘challenge-led’ research, we have invested €4.7 million to date in research projects aimed at addressing major societal challenges. We plan to invest a further €5 million in 2017.

This support is provided primarily through four schemes:

  • The Research for Policy and Society programme aims to build partnerships with government departments and agencies to enable peer-reviewed research to underpin policy decisions and assist cultural and societal development.
  • The New Horizons programme is a tailored initiative to help the Irish research community prepare novel and excellent ideas for competition at European level. There is a particular emphasis on the development of interdisciplinary projects that address the Horizon 2020 Societal Challenges.
  • The New Foundations programme includes specific strands to support research aimed at enhancing civic society. The ‘Enhancing Civic Society’ strand of New Foundations is run in partnership with The Wheel and Dóchas. The Wheel is a support and representative body connecting community and voluntary organisations nationally. Dóchas is the Irish Association of Non-Governmental Development Organisations. To date, this strand of New Foundations has funded 96 projects in collaboration with 88 partner agencies and organisations. These include Action Aid Ireland, Concern Worldwide, Clúid Housing Association, and GLEN, the LGBTI Equality Network.
  • The CAROLINE COFUND programme – ‘Collaborative Research Fellowships for a Responsive and Innovative Europe’ provides researchers with the opportunity to obtain a prestigious research mobility and career development fellowship supported by Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions. CAROLINE fellows collaborate with non-governmental and international organisations. They conduct research in any discipline relevant to the themes of the United Nations 2030 Agenda.

The overall objective of these initiatives is the stimulation of and support for the establishment of a ‘Social Innovation Community’ of researchers, social innovators, citizens and policymakers. This community will help to address national and global societal challenges.