The SFI Future Innovator Prize is a new challenge funding opportunity from Science Foundation Ireland. It seeks to support Ireland’s best and brightest unconventional thinkers and innovators to develop novel, potentially disruptive, technologies to address significant societal challenges.
The Innovator Prize will consist of three phases: Concept, Seed and Prize Award. Following application review, successful applicant teams will be awarded funding of €20k to undertake team building, scoping and concept validation activities. They will then undergo a rigorous interview and shortlisted teams will be provided with €200k to further validate and prototype their proposed solutions. Finalists will ultimately compete for one overall prize award of €1M to further develop and deploy their solution.
What is Challenge Funding?
What defines a challenge under the programme?
What are the objectives of the SFI Future Innovator Prize?
Who can apply?
The SFI Future Innovator Prize is intended to support highly motivated interdisciplinary challenge teams committed to addressing key national challenges of transformative impact potential. Applications will be accepted from motivated teams comprising researchers (established, postdoctoral) and postgraduate students (MSc/MEng, PhD) from eligible research bodies.
Given the complex and multi-stakeholder nature of challenges and the strong emphasis that the prize places on delivering solutions, teams must encompass a range of technical (both scientific and engineering) and non-technical skills to address various barriers associated with challenge definition and solution deployment.
If you believe you have a clear, profound or perhaps unconventional understanding of a complicated societal challenge or issue, and you believe that a STEM-led solution has transformative impact potential, then you should form a team and submit an application.
Applications will be accepted where the Lead Applicant and Co-Applicant (where applicable) satisfy the following eligibility criteria:
- Be a member of the academic staff of an eligible Research Body (permanent or with a contract that covers the period of the award)
- Be a contract researcher with a contract that covers the period of the award (contract may be subject to receipt of the award)
- Hold a PhD or equivalent. Please consult the SFI Policy on PhD Equivalence for further information.
Applications to the prize must identify a core applicant/leadership team comprising:
- Team Lead (Lead Applicant) – It is expected that the Team Lead will have responsibility for managing the activities of the team, will provide technical leadership and have overall responsibility for delivery of research programme objectives.
- Team Co-Lead (Co-Applicant) – It is expected that the Team Co-Lead will provide technical leadership as part of the research programme but should not have the same technical/disciplinary background as that of the Team Lead.
- Societal Impact Champion – It is expected that the Societal Impact Champion will play a key advocacy role and assist in maximising the societal impact of the solution. They will provide non-technical leadership and support the lead and co-lead to identify and validate challenges in addition to advising on solution development. Importantly, it is envisaged that the Societal Impact Champion will play a crucial role in identifying barriers and developing strategies to overcome them.
To support participation by young innovators, the Co-Applicant (Team Co-Lead) can be a postgraduate student (i.e. a full-time student undertaking a postgraduate qualification, e.g. MSc/MEng, PhD, by research in a STEM discipline registered at an eligible Research Body). In such cases, they are exempt from the criteria above.
Following successful application, selected core teams will have the opportunity to build a broader challenge team during the Concept Phase of the programme. This will include identification and recruitment of additional collaborators (e.g. researchers, beneficiaries, end-users, industry stakeholders or students) and planning or defining activities they will undertake as part of the challenge team.
What constitutes a Challenge Team?
The Prize is intended to support close collaboration between researchers and solution beneficiaries so that relevant, meaningful and important challenges can be identified and validated. In this context, it is expected that the solutions are developed in collaboration with beneficiaries to maximise their societal impact potential. The inclusion of this expertise should serve to assist teams to navigate non-technical issues relating to challenges and solutions such as stakeholder engagement and barrier identification. It may also enhance the technical skill set of the team with non-technical skills such as innovation and entrepreneurship.
Challenge teams should be strongly committed to applying interdisciplinary and convergent thinking to develop unconventional approaches to the identification of challenges and to the development of novel, potentially disruptive, solutions. Given the focus of the prize on solution delivery, the technical capabilities of teams should include design and prototyping. Final deployment of a solution should occur within a 1-year timeframe after the end of Prize Award phase.
How to apply?
Before applying to the programme, please download and carefully read the Prize Handbook. To apply, download and complete an official application form and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org before the call deadline (see Key Dates below). It is the responsibility of the applicant to ensure that eligible proposals are received by SFI on, or before, the deadline indicated.
NOTE: Application documents must be submitted in PDF format by email to email@example.com.
Applications not adhering to these requirements, or with incomplete content, will be deemed ineligible and will not be accepted for review, regardless of the date of submission.
Once submitted, an application cannot be withdrawn and subsequently modified for resubmission in the same call, regardless of the date of submission.