€14.3 million in funding has been announced by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as part of its Research Call 2023 initiative. Five new projects that the Research Call 2023 funding will support are being undertaken by UCD researchers. Funds will be allocated to a total of 33 new research projects that aim to support innovations and research capacity in strategically important areas across Ireland. 

worms eyeview of green trees
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The projects of the UCD awardees address key areas of environmental research related to societal transformations and sustainability transitions that will provide evidence which can be used to inform environmental protection policies in Ireland. The EPA Research programme is an initiative by the Government of Ireland and funded by the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications.

Professor Louise McHugh, of the UCD School of Psychology and Dr Cara Augustenborg, of the UCD School of Architecture, Planning and Environmental Policy, have both received funding for their research.

Professor McHugh’s ‘Sow what?: Connecting Farmers and Policy Makers on Climate Change’ and Dr Augustenborg’s ‘Using worldviews to inspire and scale climate action’ will both address climate change evidence needs. 

Related to delivering a healthy environment, Dr William Smith, UCD School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, has been granted funding for his research into ‘Solid-fuel emissions to air in Ireland’. 

‘Remediation of Faulty Septic Tanks: A Mixed Methods Approach to Environmental Risk Communication’, a research project by Dr Linda Fox-Rodgers (AD Astra Fellow), UCD School of Architecture, has also received support from the EPA.

The fifth and final UCD researcher to receive funding from the EPA is Dr Paul Brooks of the UCD School of Biology and Environmental Sciences. His research project, ‘Enhancing Blue Carbon and Ecological Services through Nature-Based Solutions: Integrated Restoration in Irish Coastal Waters’ will provide evidence related to protecting and restoring our natural environment. 

EPA Director General, Laura Burke, said upon announcing the awards: “Scientific research and innovation are playing an increasingly important role in informing how governments and society can respond to the challenges posed by climate change and environmental degradation. 

“The projects announced will address knowledge gaps, both current and future… [and] are essential to enable Ireland to effectively leverage the full range of environmental, economic, and societal opportunities offered by the green transition.”

Professor John Cryan, University College Cork Vice President for Research and Innovation said that these funds, “allows [researchers], through scientific research and innovation, to tackle critical environmental, climate, health, and sustainability issues”.

This year’s funding of research projects by the EPA represents a 34 per cent increase in investment from the previous Research Call in 2022. More than 40 per cent of lead researcher applicants in 2023 were newcomers to the EPA Research Programme. Submission of applications for the EPA Research Call 2024 will begin in April.

Manus Daly – Reporter