South East Technological University (SETU) is proud to announce that the PEStech cross-campus project team led by Dr Ray Griffin, in collaboration with Dr PJ White, Dr Órla Hayes, Dr Brian Casey and Dr Aisling Tuite, is one of the first teams to secure funding under prestigious Science Foundation Ireland (SFI)’s National Challenge Fund – a competition to find solutions to major environmental and societal issues.
The National Challenge Fund is a €65m research fund that provides researchers the chance to make a difference by developing solutions to eight key challenges in the areas of Green Transition and Digital Transformation. As part of the Future Digital Challenge, the PEStech project aims to build digital tools for Irish unemployed people and the organisations that help them to see personalised labour market data, and in doing so improve the quality of decisions and career choices.
The research team have been studying the experience of unemployment since 2012. This project builds on basic research supported by the Irish Research Council and grows directly from an EU-H2020-funded project which developed a library of advanced statistical techniques (AI and algorithms) to repurpose CSO and Eurostat labour market data made for economists and policy makers, to make the labour market visible to public employment service councillors.
PEStech aspires to progress that work using novel visualisation and User Experience Design (UX) to make the complex data constructs in that library intuitive and engaging to the Irish public and unemployed people, presenting data to citizens in a useful and meaningful format. In this way, PEStech will support people to make more evidence-informed career and job-search choices. Commenting on the process, Project Co-lead Dr PJ White of designCORE, SETU in Carlow said, “Involving users in design is not a glib activity, it takes considerable time, resources and expertise. It is inspiring that SFI have bought into our vision of a socially inclusive future for public digital services.”
The team’s piloting work on the existing library indicates this data can have a positive and transformative effect on individual lives. The team are working collaboratively with, an organisation with a strong understanding of the challenge of providing digital career advice, and who support  the research as industry champions. Dr Aisling Tuite, School of Business, SETU in Waterford added, “From basic research that started in 2012, with support from major Irish Research Council and EU Commission grants, it is brilliant to be now working towards a tool for the general public to help them make evidence-informed career decisions.”
The PEStech project is built on strong integration, alignment and collaboration with government departments, agencies, enterprise and the academic community. Such collaboration will, through the challenge ethos work towards building policies and procedures developed from the research conducted at SETU and other higher education institutions. 
This important funding win shows that SETU is at the forefront of solution-based, practical application of research that is of benefit to Ireland’s present and future. The links built with government through Science Foundation Ireland are vital going forward as research is continually looked toward to answer societally defining problems.
“SFI funding for a project nucleated in business and humanities is very unusual, we see something special in the work we are doing, it is wonderful that funders see it too,” said Project Lead Dr Ray Griffin, School of Business, SETU in Waterford. 
The National Challenge Fund was established under the government’s National Recovery and Resilience Plan (NRRP), funded by the EU’s Recovery and Resilience Facility. The fund is coordinated and administered by Science Foundation Ireland.