Latest News

UCC researchers awarded €3.7m for new research to address climate and environmental challenges

14 Feb 2024
Photo (L-R): UCC's EPA Research Call 2023 Awardees - Professor Edmond Byrne, Dr Noreen Byrne, Dr Tracy Bradfield, Dr Archishman Bose, Dr Aaron Lim, Dr Niall Dunphy, Dr Michelle McKeown and Dr Paul Holloway. Image credit: Ruben Martinez (UCC TV).
  • UCC is the highest performing institute in the Environmental Protection Agency Research Call Awards 2023.
  • Funded research covers a wide range of areas covering climate change, the natural environment, the green and circular economy, and the environment and human health.
  • JustCities Hub project to capture and explore timely knowledge on enabling climate justice change in the city.

Cities could learn from Paris’ recent decision to charge higher parking for SUVs, according to a University College Cork (UCC) researcher leading a project on more sustainable urban environments.

Dr Niall Dunphy, of the School of Engineering and Architecture and Environmental Research Institute, made the comments as his project was announced as one of eight UCC studies awarded a combined €3.7m in environmental research funding.

Dr Dunphy, whose JustCities Hub was today announced as a beneficiary in the latest Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Research Call Awards said: "JustCities Hub is fundamentally about imagining city life in a way that embraces the challenges of climate action and promotes stable, just, and healthy urban environments. This must include learning from the experiences of other cities and importantly reflecting the wishes of the citizenry. The recent Paris referendum on higher charges for SUVs is an example of citizens deciding to make their city safer and healthier."

The project seeks to enable just transitions in cities while also engaging in problem-solving climate change from a multi-stakeholder perspective.

JustCities Hub is one of eight UCC projects to receive funding in the EPA Research Call Awards, to address a range of areas covering climate change, the natural environment, the green and circular economy, and the environment and human health. Nationally, UCC is the highest performing institute in terms of these awards, receiving funding of €3.7 million from a total €14.3 million across thirteen organisations.

The EPA Research Call provides support for innovative research projects that will support policy and decision making, while also addressing environmental, climate change and sustainability challenges. Among the new UCC research projects to be funded by the EPA are:

Professor Edmond Byrne (School of Engineering and Architecture and the Environmental Research Institute/MaREI)
Project Title: Deep Societal Innovation for Sustainability and Human Flourishing (DSIS).
Project Co-Leads: Professor Maggie O’Neill (Department of Sociology and Criminology and ISS21), Dr Ian Hughes (Environmental Research Institute/MaREI)
Funding amount: €593,519

The accelerating impacts of climate change, allied to the challenges of meeting 2030 goals (and beyond), has stirred a sense of urgency for policy responses and societal and behavioural changes needed to embark upon the structural transformations required to tackle pressing global challenges. DSIS seeks to develop a methodological basis for conceptualising the deep whole of society transformation required to engage on a trajectory towards authentic sustainability and human flourishing, which can create narratives for deep, rapid, whole of society transformation, and employ those narratives to inform policy making and public discourse on climate change and sustainability. DSIS is an inter- and transdisciplinary, inter-institutional, and international initiative, anchored at, and emanating from a well-developed research base in this area at UCC, and includes researchers and academics from MaREI and ISS21.


Dr Niall Dunphy (School of Engineering and Architecture and the Environmental Research Institute)
Project Title: JustCities Hub
Project Co-Leads: Dr Alexandra Revez (MaREI), Professor Brian Ó Gallachóir (Associate Vice-President of Sustainability at UCC and Director of the Environmental Research Institute) , Dr Gerard Mullally (Department of Sociology and Criminology)
Funding amount: €593,579

JustCities Hub encapsulates a combined concern for embracing the challenges of climate action and promoting stable, just, and healthy urban environments. It adopts a nested research design with emphasis on the connection between scientific knowledge and practice. On the one hand it seeks to capture and explore timely knowledge on enabling climate justice change in the city and on the other it seeks to engage in problem-solving and evaluating solutions for climate change from a transdisciplinary and multi-stakeholder perspective. The project also explores and evaluates mechanisms for mobilising the development of micro-interventions, in a manner that supports, encourages, and empowers the potential and the diverse spaces of civic engagement within the city. Furthermore, it provides a strategic plan to bolster climate justice in the city through co-creation and foresight activities.


Dr Aaron Lim (Department of Geography and the Environmental Research Institute)
Project Title: Digital Environmental Technology for Enhanced Coastal Zone Management (DETECT)
Funding amount: €555,187

This project aims to harness the power of novel multispectral 3D structure-from-motion photogrammetry, machine learning and numerical modelling to support environmental decision-making and policy development with a focus on vulnerable coastal habitats in Ireland. By leveraging existing data sources, emerging technologies, and consolidated methodologies, this project will develop a digital twin framework from multi-threshold data to create a state-of-art simulation system of protected habitats. This will enable high-resolution predictive modelling that can provide near-real time results, key for informed decision-making of stakeholders. Thus, this project ensures synergy and collaboration with Ireland’s leading research institutions towards actionable insights on vulnerable ecosystems whilst creating a virtual replica of the current state of the environment.


Dr Paul Holloway (Department of Geography and the Environmental Research Institute)
Project Title: TALX2 - Place-Based Climate Action Partnerships
Project Co-Leads: Dr Jane McCullough (Northern Ireland Environment Link)
Funding amount: €596,503

As tipping points in the climate system continue to be approached at an accelerating pace, threatening to cause profound physical and socio-economic changes, ambitious climate action, that takes a whole of society approach, is urgently needed. By adopting a place-based and multi-stakeholder-led partnership approach, TALX2 will foster stronger communication and collaboration between stakeholders across the island of Ireland, utilising and exchanging innovative data and knowledge on climate action, empowering local actors, and enhancing the ability of communities to plan for an uncertain future, and realise opportunities for sustainable development. The proposed research will use place-based partnerships to build skills and capacity, and establish long-term, all-island relationships, while leveraging synergies and opportunities for climate action that are inclusive and holistic. TALX2 will also employ reflective learning processes to ensure that learnings can be shared and used by communities to support climate action across Ireland, in line with national priorities for addressing climate change impacts, as outlined by both the National Adaptation Framework (NAF) for Ireland and the Northern Ireland (NI) Climate Change Adaptation Programme (NICCAP).


Dr Archishman Bose (School of Engineering and Architecture and the Environmental Research Institute/MaREI)
Project Title: Mapping the Role of End-of-Life Tyres for a Sustainable Circular Economy in Ireland (ENTYRE)
Project Co-Leads: Dr Gillian Collins (School of Chemistry) and Dr Richard O’Shea (School of Engineering and Architecture)
Funding amount: €143,071

Tyres are the wheels of modern civilisation. In the European Union (EU), over three hundred million units of tyres are sold annually. These tyres, evidently reach their end of life (EOL) and requires disposal, reuse, or repurposing. Upcoming local and EU regulations will severely limit the current uses of EOL tyres and would require critical analyses of the alternative pathways of use and repurposing of waste tyres in Ireland. Accordingly, this project, Mapping the Role of End-of-Life Tyres for a Sustainable Circular Economy in Ireland (ENTYRE), is aimed at performing a deep review of existing practices and literature regarding utilisation pathways of waste EOL tyres in terms of their techno-economic and environmental impacts as well as from the light of current and upcoming local (Irish) and international (EU) policies. Through the interaction with relevant stakeholders, industries, and decision makers using questionnaires and workshop (s), this 12-month project will aim to produce industry and policy papers and briefs for valorisation of EOL tyres in Ireland.


Dr Noreen Byrne (Department of Food Business and Development, Cork University Business School, and Director of the Centre for Co-operative Studies)
Project Title: DStream: Dairy Sustainability through Regenerative Experimentation and Mindsets.
Project Co-Leads: Dr Olive McCarthy (Department of Food Business and Development and Centre for Co-operative Studies), Professor Ciara Heavin (Cork University Business School), Stephanie Marwood (Department of Food Business and Development and Centre for Co-operative Studies).
Funding amount: €521,290

This project is grounded in the farmer and their practices. The overall objective of DStream is to investigate the role of practices in enabling the emergence of pro-environmental and experimental mindsets amongst Irish dairy farmers. Moreover, DStream aims to assess the potential for creating momentum for self-sustaining pro-environmental behaviour at both an on-farm and landscape level. DStream provides a basis to assess the inner dimensions of the farmer and use this knowledge to influence and inform policy and initiatives in a way that goes beyond adoption rates and environmental results (which often have a temporal disconnect). The vision of DStream is to provide a strong evidence base for action towards an enabling context for a more sustainable production system in Irish dairy.


Dr Tracy Bradfield (Department of Economics, Cork University Business School, and the Environmental Research Institute)
Project Title: The Development of Land Use Indicators for the Protection of Our Natural Environment
Project Co-Leads: Professor Thia Hennessy, Dr Emma Dillon (Teagasc), Dr Cathal Buckley (Teagasc)
Funding amount: €104,053

Understanding and measuring how land use can be adapted to improve environmental and wider socio-economic outcomes is crucial for a more sustainable future. This project seeks to develop indicators and an integrated model for assessing the impacts of land use in Ireland in particular. This is with the aim of understanding how land use policy can be adapted to improve the environment, resource availability, food, fibre and fuel production, and wider socio-economic factors.


Dr Michelle McKeown (Department of Geography and the Environmental Research Institute)
Project Title: Carbon and catchments - Understanding the Impacts and Sources of Carbon Export from land to water (C-UISCE)
Funding amount: €599,997

Carbon in water is a natural and essential component of waterbodies chemical makeup. However, elevated levels of Dissolved Organic Carbon (DOC) can lead to environmental issues. The C-UISCE project aims to improve our understanding of the sources and processes influencing the export of carbon from land to water, and its implications for water quality and aquatic ecosystem functioning. C-UISCE addresses a critical lack of DOC baseline data in catchments where agriculture, forestry and hydromorphology are significant pressures, closing existing knowledge gaps. It is anticipated that C-UISCE will radically improve our conceptual understanding of the sources and processes influencing DOC export by developing high-quality carbon baseline data and models that will enable scientists, policy makers and land managers to safeguard our freshwater resources from the impacts of climatic and environmental change.

Announcing the awards, Laura Burke, EPA Director General said: "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 today will address knowledge gaps, both current and future, to provide robust evidence to support the implementation of effective environmental policies in Ireland."

Professor John Cryan, UCC Vice President for Research and Innovation said: "I would like to thank the Environmental Protection Agency for continuing to award talented researchers that allows them, through scientific research and innovation, to tackle critical environmental, climate, health, and sustainability issues. These awards will further strengthen UCC’s position as a recognised global leader in the field of Sustainability. Aligned to UCC Futures – Sustainability, these projects will enable UCC researchers to support environmental policies in Ireland, address key societal challenges caused by climate change, and help deliver a healthier environment for all."

University College Cork

Coláiste na hOllscoile Corcaigh

College Road, Cork T12 K8AF