Minister Harris announces €24 million investment in rising research leaders

Posted: 2 November, 2023

Support for 43 emerging research talents in areas such as AI and vaping, student mental health, hearing children of deaf adults, sustainable cheese manufacturing, virtual reality, climate risk and predictability

Friday, November 3rd 2023 – Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris TD, today announced an investment of €24 million across 43 research projects to support Ireland’s blossoming research talent.

Marking the new investment, Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris, TD, said: “I am pleased to announce funding for critical research projects spanning a broad range of areas across science, technology, engineering, maths, arts, humanities and social sciences.

“I am particularly pleased to see we are researching the area of vaping and the impact it is having on the next generation of smokers. I believe the impact is significant and I am really looking forward to hearing the outcome of that work. There is also invaluable research into student mental health and wellbeing across the island of Ireland.

“By supporting this activity, we are cultivating generational talent within Ireland’s research and innovation ecosystem that is focusing on key challenges and opportunities and on the issues facing this generation such as climate and technology.”

Projects include:

  • Using AI to predict unexpected chemistries occurring in vaping devices
  • Student mental health and wellbeing on the island of Ireland
  • Developing a next-generation non-thermal treatment for irregular heartbeats
  • A study of hearing children of deaf adults
  • Shaping the future of Virtual Reality with magnetic tracking technology
  • Establishing a long-term record of natural climate variability to inform future climate predictions for Ireland
  • Maximising power capture from wave energy converters
  • Exploring relationships between early life adversity and functional outcomes in adolescence through to early adulthood
  • Increasing the sustainability of industrial-scale cheese manufacturing
  • Aligning Artificial Intelligence socio-technical design, to European Union values and incoming regulation


The projects are funded through the SFI-IRC Pathway programme, a collaborative initiative between Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) and the Irish Research Council (IRC) to support early-career research across all disciplines and to encourage interdisciplinary approaches.

Commenting on the awards, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland, Prof. Philip Nolan, said: “The SFI-IRC Pathway programme supports researchers at a comparatively early stage in their career to pursue independent research and discovery. In partnership with the Irish Research Council, we are nurturing and developing really promising talent across diverse research areas. Their work will give us new insights and knowledge, and drive innovation, across the full spectrum from humanities to science, engineering and technology.”

Director of the Irish Research Council, Peter Brown, said: “Bridging the gap between postdoctoral stage and that of independent principal investigator is a key milestone in the development of a researcher, and the Pathway programme is making an important contribution in this regard in the Irish research ecosystem. It also supports the retention of excellent researchers with cutting-edge ideas within our research system, and I have no doubt that this will support further success and new opportunities in the years ahead.”

Co-funding partners supporting the funding of seven proposals are the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Met Éireann and Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI), committing a total of €1.95 million.

Welcoming the announcement, Director General of the EPA, Laura Burke, said: “There has never been a greater need for new and innovative ideas to help Ireland transition to a sustainable society. Through this partnership, the EPA is delighted to support early stage researchers and build research talent to address challenges related to the environment, climate and sustainability.”

Director of Met Éireann, Eoin Moran, also welcomed the announcement, adding: “Met Éireann is also proud to support talent in partnership with the SFI-IRC Pathway Programme. We are delighted to fund research which will help us ‘make Ireland weather and climate prepared’. As we develop climate services to indeed help the country prepare for resilience in a warming world, we look forward to co-funding the project to better understand our past climate’s variability to inform future climate predictions.”

Director of Research and Policy Insights at Sustainability Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI), Margie McCarthy, said: “SEAI is at the heart of delivering Ireland’s energy revolution. Investing in knowledge creation and research is key to developing policies which allow us to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels for a cleaner energy future. We are delighted to co-fund four exciting new projects from early stage researchers as part of the SFI-IRC Pathway programme. These projects are exploring different ways to our renewable energy contribution including geothermal energy, wave energy, more sustainable battery technology and energy storage options.”

Of the 43 projects supported, 29 projects will be supported in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) and 14 will be supported in arts, humanities and social sciences (AHSS). The awards will enable postdoctoral researchers to conduct independent research for a four–year period and will provide funding for a postgraduate student who will be primarily supervised by the awardee.

Since launched, the SFI-IRC Pathway programme has focused on increasing the representation of female researchers in the higher education system:

  • STEM awards (29) by gender – Male (15); Female (14)
  • AHSS awards (14) by gender – Female (8); Male (6)
  • The 43 research projects will be funded through 13 research bodies, as follows: Trinity College Dublin (7); University College Dublin (7); Dublin City University (1); Tyndall National Institute (2); Maynooth University (2); RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences (4); University of Galway (6); University of Limerick (3); University College Cork (4); Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (3); Teagasc (2); Technological University Dublin (1); Atlantic Technological University (1)

List of IRC awardees for Pathway 2023

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