Institute of Technology Carlow Science Team Working to Eradicate Plastic Pollution Amongst 12 teams competing for €1 million SFI Future Innovator Prize


An Institute of Technology Carlow science team working to solve the problem of plastic pollution has been announced by the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys TD, and Minister of State for Training, Skills, Innovation, Research and Development, John Halligan TD as one of 12 teams – and the only institute of technology – in the running for the SFI Future Innovator Prize, a new challenge-based prize programme calling on researchers to develop innovative approaches to societal challenges facing Ireland.

With five teams to be shortlisted in April, an overall winning team will be announced in December and receive a prize award of €1 million, providing the opportunity to implement an innovative solution with potential to deliver significant impact to Irish society.

The Institute of Technology Carlow team, comprising Dr. Adriana Cunha Neves (science) as principal investigator, Dr. Brian Casey (design) as co-lead,  and Ms.Martina Moyne (design) as societal impact champion, are working to develop biodegradable plastics for use in the food packaging industry that would be tailor-made for the needs of all industries, retailers and consumers.

The team is developing different prototypes of plastics and has been analysing them for their biochemical and mechanical characteristics. The project involves a collaboration between Institute of Technology Carlow’s enviroCORE and designCORE innovation centres in a team effort to deliver societal impact by solving the problem of plastic pollution.

“I believe that the collaborative nature of this project adds a huge value to the research outputs that we have been obtaining. All the team is excited to see that people we talk to want to be part of this change, want to become more eco-friendly and are willing to engage with us to find solutions for the problem of plastic pollution”, commented Dr. Adriana Cunha Neves of Institute of Technology Carlow.

If the IT Carlow team receives funding for the next phase of the competition, it hopes to develop a bioplastic package that will be accepted by both industry and consumers and assess implementation strategies in collaboration with Carlow County Council to achieve the highest possible societal impact.

Congratulating the competing teams, Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys TD, said: “The Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation launched the SFI Future Innovator Prize with Science Foundation Ireland to encourage bright minds across the country to work together to identify major challenges facing Ireland’s society, and to propose creative and impactful solutions to them. It is very exciting to enter into the next phase of the competition with twelve teams of diverse and interdisciplinary individuals. Their innovative ideas are of a superb standard and I am confident that ultimately, the prize award of €1 million will support research that will provide Ireland with positive, tangible impact.”