Pictured above are the finalist teams,  back row from left to right Niall Mulcahy, Mihai Penica, William O’Brien, UL President Prof. Kerstin Mey, Callum Gutteridge,  Alice Shannon, Rebecca Tumwebaze,

Front row:  Éabha Hughes, Emma Jude Lyons, Niamh Terranova, Lubna  Luxmi, Ruhi Anand, Bernal Institute Director Prof. Luuk van der Wielen

The finalists in a University of Limerick Sustainability Challenge seeking ambitious proposals from students to tackle climate issues have been announced.

The five student teams selected as finalists in the UL Sustainability Challenge are to receive €10,000 each.

UL President Professor Kerstin Mey announced the selected teams at an event in UL’s Glucksman Library this Monday.

The purpose of the challenge is to stimulate sustainable solutions which can be tested on the UL campus or in the wider region.

The selected projects show the diversity of UL and are in plastic recycling, thermal energy monitoring, improving sustainable agricultural practices in Africa, biodiversity in the Shannon Estuary, and efficiency improvement and cost reduction in hydrogen manufacturing.

Announcing the finalists, Professor Mey said: “Given the importance of sustainability for this institution, this challenge is a perfect example of how we can draw on the ambition of our student body to attempt to solve the climate issues and some of the grand challenges of our time.

“This concept is most certainly seen as a way to contribute to the circular economy and the circularity of materials, renewable energies and the reduction of emissions in transport.

“A key pillar of our development at UL is sustainability and with a strong 50-year history in leadership at local, regional and national levels, we are perfectly placed to take advantage of our position as a pioneering university and put it to excellent use in answering these grand challenges of our time.

“Initiatives like this, and many more besides, will allow us capitalise on our strengths and we will be looking forward to the next 50 years in order to plan and to create the purpose for the community to move forward and develop,” Professor Mey added.

Each team will receive up to €10,000 to develop their project by March 2023 and will have a mentor to facilitate them.

Professor Luuk van der Wielen, Director of the Bernal Institute and Chairperson of the jury, said: “By initiating the challenge we set out a target of trying to create a culture among students and later graduates that will have learned how to translate ambitious ideas into working concepts. Preselection and guidance with a mentor are meant to improve success rate and success in sustainability projects benefits us all.”

Professor Norelee Kennedy, Vice President Research, said: The UL Sustainability Challenge is supporting talented student research across energy, sustainable agriculture, circular economy, advanced manufacturing, biodiversity to be translated into real benefits for our world. These dynamic student teams have all demonstrated a global perspective to partnering to solve grand challenges, this illustrates the power of a connected and open research community. The future is bright and I am very excited to see where these projects take us.”

The competition was launched in April by Minister of State with responsibility for Public Procurement, eGovernment and Circular Economy Ossian Smyth TD.

The concept of the Sustainability Challenge evolved from a partnership between the Bernal Institute, Kemmy Business School and Buildings and Estates department at UL, along with the Research Office, to empower and encourage students to contribute to sustainable development.

The challenge is part of a programme of events taking place this year to mark the anniversary of the establishment of the University.

The finalist teams are:


The project aims to harness plastic waste streams to benefit local communities, using waste material locally rather than transporting/exporting for recycling. Waste plastic bottles, made from PET (polyethylene terephthalate) plastic, will be collected and treated locally before the material is 3D printed to create urban furniture, large scale outdoor games for schools and art pieces.

Team: Alice Shannon, Callum Guttridge, Emma Jude Lyons, PhD students, CONFIRM School of Design, Faculty of Science and Engineering and Niall Mulcahy, Masters student, CONFIRM School of Design.

‘TALBERT: ThermAL BridgE ReducTion’:

The project team will utilise drones to undertake thermal mapping to generate a map of buildings for AI analysis of their heat envelopes. The pilot project will be an open-source mapping service designed to allow residents to easily visualise the amount, location and cost of waste heat leaving their homes.

Team: William O’Brien and Mihai Penica, PhD students, CONFIRM

‘Sustainable Shores: Ireland’s Life Below Water’:

This project aims to achieve an educational framework with resource packages designed to develop scientific knowledge surrounding SDG14, create collaborative spaces/workshops/initiatives for individuals and local communities.

The project involves the integrated delivery of knowledge, skills and principles developed and contained within a core resource book (RB) titled ‘Sustainable Shores: Ireland’s Life Below Water’, accompanied by an online resource network.

Éabha Hughes – PhD applicant, School of Education, Faculty of Education and Health Sciences

‘Harnessing Heterogeneous Knowledge for Sustainable Agriculture’:

The project team will deploy collaborative workshops in Rubaya, south-west Uganda to enhance knowledge sharing and develop a framework for sustainable matooke farming (highland cooking banana).

The workshops will involve smallholder farmers, commercial

farmers, technical agriculture specialists, government extension officers, non-governmental players, and private sector players.

The AKM framework, which will be the main output of this project, will be developed by a project team that brings together knowledge management and agriculture expertise. While it will be developed in Uganda, generalizability of the framework to countries with a similar context, such as the Sub-Saharan African and Asian countries is possible.

Rebecca Tumwebaze – PhD student at Kemmy Business School

‘Clean, Accessible, Renewable and Efficient Energy – Metal-Free Catalysts to the Rescue? (CARE)’:

This proposal aims to test theories for the production of hydrogen gas, as an affordable, clean energy alternative. Hydrogen is proving itself to be an important fuel source for the future, as it is efficient, renewable, and more powerful than conventional fuels.

The team propose to collaborate with Mesoscale Chemical Systems Labs, University of Twente, Netherlands.

Raju Lipin – PhD Student, Department of Chemical Sciences, Bernal Institute

Niamh Terranova – Applied Physics undergraduate student, Department of Physics