UL Sustainability Challenge finalists

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, Dr Lubna  Luxmi, Ruhi Anand, Bernal Institute Director Prof. Luuk van der Wielen

What is it?

For fifty years, UL has been at the forefront of finding solutions to today’s challenges.  UL Sustainability Challenge is a competition for UL students to develop proposals to tackle our climate crisis.  The competition is a partnership between the Bernal Institute, Faculty of Science and Engineering, Kemmy Business School and Buildings and Estates department which is calling on students to submit ideas to make our environment more sustainable – to either the campus, the city or wider Mid-West region or further afield.

Announcement of the UL Sustainability Challenge Winner, Tuesday, April 25th 2023

In November 2022,  five finalist teams were selected by an independent expert panel comprising representatives from industry and academia.  The five teams each received support, and up to €10,000 to prepare and deliver a working pilot or demonstration of their proposal.

On Tuesday, April 25th, from 1 pm – 2:30 pm, the five student teams will present their proposals in the Bernal Institute Lecture Theatre, AD2-010, at the University of Limerick; this event is the moment they have been waiting for.

We are delighted to announce that award winning Science Communicator and Broadcaster Kathríona Devereux will deliver the keynote speech.

University of Limerick President Professor Kerstin Mey will then announce the overall winner of the Sustainability Challenge 2022.

The outcome will be evaluated on the basis of targets, feasibility plan and societal impact.

The finalist teams are:


Alice Shannon – 4th year PhD student, CONFIRM School of Design, Faculty of Science and Engineering

Callum Guttridge – 3rd year PhD student, CONFIRM School of Design, Faculty of Science and Engineering

EmmaJude Lyons – 2nd year PhD student, CONFIRM School of Design, Faculty of Science and Engineering

Niall Mulcahy – 2nd year research Masters student, CONFIRM School of Design, Faculty of Science and Engineering

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.

‘TALBERT: ThermAL BridgE ReducTion’:

William O’Brien – 3rd year PhD student, CONFIRM

Mihai Penica – 3rd year PhD student, CONFIRM

The project team will utilize 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 visualize the amount, location and cost of waste heat leaving their homes.

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

Éabha Hughes – PhD applicant, School of Education, EHS

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.

‘Harnessing Heterogeneous Knowledge for Sustainable Agriculture’:

Rebecca Tumwebaze – 3rd year of PhD student (Knowledge Management) at Kemmy Business School

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.

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

Raju Lipin – 2nd year PhD Student, Department of Chemical Sciences, Bernal Institute

Niamh Terranova – 2nd year Applied Physics undergraduate student, Department of Physics

This proposal aims to develop 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 Dr A Susarrey Arce at the Mesoscale Chemical Systems Labs, University of Twente, Netherlands.

Competition Timelines

Deadline for applications:  5pm Thursday, August 25th 2022. The deadline to enter this competition has passed.

October 2022: Shortlisted entrants pitched their Project Proposal to the Independent Expert Jury.

November 2022:  The jury selected the five most promising Project Proposals

November 21st 2022:  University of Limerick President Professor Kerstin Mey announced the five finalist teams at an event in UL’s Glucksman Library

Tuesday April 25th 2023, 1 pm – 2:30 pm:  University of Limerick President Professor Kerstin Mey will announce the overall winner in the Bernal Institute Lecture Theatre, AD2-010, UL.


Questions about the competition can be emailed to SRawards@ul.ie with the word question in the subject bar.

  1.  Can I enter with my own team (having past students of UL and a few European Counterparts from other members state of EU)?

Yes, provided there is (are) current UL student(s) leading the team. Supervisors may participate but the proposal and pitch must be by led by UL student(s). Alignment with (PhD/ international/ industry/ academic) project & partners is permitted.

  1. Can I apply for more than one project?

No, applicants can only participate in one proposal.

  1. What rewards or opportunities are further waiting if selected as the winner?

We will disclose rewards/opportunities at or after Phase 1 (proposal) submission deadline, when selecting Phase 2 (proposal workout and delivery) teams.

  1. What is the final prize?

The final prize will be tuned to the winning team, we trust it will be interesting.  But the real reward is in translating your idea /ambition into action!

  1. Who are the people administering this challenge?

The UL Sustainability Challenge 2021 core group are:

  • Dr Rita Buckley, Department of Economics, Kemmy Business School, UL
  • Professor Finbarr Murphy, Executive Dean, and Associate Professor in Quantitative Finance and Emerging Risk, Kemmy Business School, UL
  • Chris Fogarty, Buildings and Estates Energy Manager, UL
  • Robert Reidy, Buildings and Estates Director, UL
  • Christine Brennan, Research Strategy and Policy Manager, UL
  • Áine O’Neill, Communications Officer, Bernal Institute, UL
  • Professor Luuk van der Wielen, Director, Bernal Institute, UL
  1. “Is the PDF proposal a text based document, or can we use pictures and other assets to illustrate our ideas?

Please submit the form (with team and proposal details) and refer to & include additional objects/ graphics/ artefacts/ GA/flowchart to illustrate your ideas. The Proposal should show credibility (availability, skillset) of team.

  1. Are there any limitations on the proposal?

The objective is to translate creative and ambitious sustainability ideas into real action. This implies experiment, test, pilot and demonstration. We believe that much of the testing and final implementation can be done at our other large resources: the UL Campus and within the regional environment.

Remember to include in your proposal any (test/demo) facilities, lab access or supports that you will require.  We will work with you within budget (10k per team max) towards your success.  The €50k budget is designed for the execution of projects in Ireland.   Talk to us about any further requirements that you have.