Irish Research Council announces investment of €5.3 million in research to confront societal challenges

Posted: 26 October, 2021

  • Investment of €2.1m from Department of Foreign Affairs in this year’s awards

The Irish Research Council has today (26.10.2021) announced a total investment of €5.3 million under the Collaborative Alliances for Societal Challenges (COALESCE) programme.

Research projects exploring public health information during Covid-19, the effects of climate change on migration and the right to conscientious objection were amongst 21 successful projects that will address key national and global societal issues.

Peter Brown, Director of the Irish Research Council, said: “The investment announced today is vital in finding innovative ways to address major issues in society – such as the Covid-19 pandemic, the housing crisis and climate change. The COALESCE fund provides a unique opportunity for researchers to break down barriers between different disciplines and collaborate with peers across different sectors and departments, which will deliver results that will benefit every facet of Irish society. Addressing these challenges is a key priority for us at the Irish Research Council.


“We are delighted to have partnered with so many Government departments and partners to deliver the COALESCE programme, particularly the Department of Foreign Affairs who made a significant investment of €2.1 million in this year’s awards. The research carried out under the COALESCE fund has the potential to make a significant contribution to public policy in Ireland and further afield. Government departments are increasingly deploying expert-led, evidence-based research in response to current priorities and policy needs. The call for 2021 will see continued partnership with government, which will open up new areas for research.


“The projects announced today bring the Council’s and our partners’ total investment in research focused on societal issues to €11.8 million since the establishment of COALESCE.”

This is the third cycle of the COALESCE programme. Since its formation, the research fund has run in partnership with various different government departments and agencies, including: the Central Statistics Office; the Irish Human Rights Equality Commission; the Health Service Executive Sexual Health and Crisis Pregnancy Programme; the Department of Children and Youth Affairs; Geological Survey Ireland; the National Parks and Wildlife Service, Met Éireann and the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Solving Societal Challenges

Among the researchers awarded funding this year under the interdisciplinary strand of the programme are:

  • Declan Redmond (University College Dublin), based on the recommendations from the recently adopted National Planning Framework calling for higher density housing development, will assess the opportunities for increasing residential density but will also examine some of the challenges that will arise from having more houses or apartments on any given piece of land.
  • Richard Roche (Maynooth University) will assess the benefits to cognition and psychological health of tailored activities like exercise, meditation and breathwork for specific groups in the community including older adults in the local community, people living with dementia, and older people living with dementia in prisons.
  • Dr Andrea Mulligan (Trinity College Dublin) will commence the CORALE Project, which will investigate how the right to conscientious objection to abortion services in Ireland works in practice, along with producing recommendations for how conscientious objection should work in the future and whether any change needs to be made to the law.

Among the researchers awarded funding this year under the Department of Foreign Affairs Better World strand of the programme are:

  • Susanne Barth (Teagasc) will collaborate with researchers in Ireland and Africa to translate bioscience research advances on main cereal crops into oats and develop new varieties, adapted to tropical regions, with tangible benefits for smallholder livestock farmers in Sub Sahara Africa.
  • Ehiaze Ehimen (IT Sligo), in collaboration with Malawian researchers and stakeholders, will put forward a demonstrable process and supporting structures which can be used to achieve sustained electrification in low-income communities in Sub Saharan countries. The project outcomes will be demonstrated in four pilot rural community sites in Malawi, which by the end of the project will own and operate their own renewable energy systems.

Minister of State for Overseas Development Aid and Diaspora, Colm Brophy T.D. today welcomed the launch of the fund. He added: “This exciting partnership between the IRC and the Department of Foreign Affairs helps us to support Irish universities and their counterparts in developing countries to do exciting research which will help to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals”.

He went on to say: “Academics in Ireland bring great enthusiasm and knowledge to the COALESCE programme. This continued funding increases capacity in partner universities, and will put Irish researchers at the cutting edge of work on global challenges such as climate change, healthcare and technology”.

The call for COALESCE 2021 is currently open and this year’s Strategic Funding Partners include the Department of Foreign Affairs, the National Monuments Service of the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage in partnership with the Heritage Council.

Further details about the COALESCE call are available here:

Click here for the full list of Coalesce 2020 awards

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