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Earrach Sakura Award

The Earrach Sakura award is given twice a year to exceptional PhD students at SCSS. The award allows the awardees to spend between three and six months at the National Institute of Informatics (NII) in Tokyo for a fully funded research internship. The internships take place under supervision of both a supervisor at SCSS and a local supervisor at NII.

There is a limit of three awards per call. The award for successful applicants comprises of up to 1,000€ for travel expenses, and a monthly allowance of 171,000 JPY. The name of the award originates from the Gaelic word 'earrach' (eng. 'spring') and the Japanese word 'sakura' (eng. 'cherry blossom'). The award aims at stimulating and flourishing the awardees' academic careers as well as the relationship between the Irish and Japanese supervisors.

General information and deadlines

The table below provides an overview of the deadlines.


First Round

Second Round

Call-for-applications Cancelled Due to Coronavirus TBA (in summer 2020?)
Internal SCSS Application deadline --- ---
Announcement of nominees --- ---
Final-application deadline --- ---
Announcement of awardees --- ---
Begin of internship --- ---
Previous Calls 2019-01



Information for Students


The Earrach Sakura award is attractive in three ways. First, on a professional level. The NII is one of Japan's leading research institute in areas including machine learning, speech and video processing, knowledge engineering, content analysis, natural language processing, open data, linked data, big data, financial smart data, networks, cyber security, quantum science, cyber-physical systems, cloud computing, and software engineering. As such, working at NII will greatly enhance your knowledge and skills in the corresponding area. It is also expected that you author at least one high-quality publication with your NII and SCSS supervisors during the time of your internship. Last but not least, the Earrach Sakura award and a research internship at the NII will be a prestigious addition to your CV and a great opportunity to broaden your international network. Second, on a personal level. Tokyo is one of the world's most amazing cities. It has a gigantic population (13 million people in the metropolis area; 38 million people in the greater area), yet Tokyo is extremely clean, safe, and relaxed and public transport is fast and reliable. The NII is located in the centre of Tokyo, just a few minutes walk from the Imperial Palace. Throughout the year there are festivals, fireworks, parades and other cultural events in Tokyo. The nightlife is crazy, and food is amazingly diverse -- for those who can't live without Guinness and Irish stew, there are plenty of Irish bars, too. Consequently, living in Tokyo is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Third, on a financial level. You will receive the monthly allowance (171,000 JPY) in addition to your e.g. PhD scholarship*, and Tokyo is surprisingly cheap. You may get a pint of Guinness for 500 to 700 JPY, a small freshly brewed coffee in a convenient store for 100 JPY and a decent lunch for 300 to 800 JPY. Prices for a room in a shared house or host family vary between 40,000 and 90,000 JPY per month.

* The NII will reimburse you regardless of other incomes. It is your responsibility to clarify whether your other sources of income (e.g. scholarship organisations) allow you additional income. Please note that the money from the NII is not a salary, it is a lump sum reimbursement for your expenses.

Application Process

You cannot nominate yourself for the award but you need to be nominated by your PhD supervisor. Your supervisor in SCSS needs to be in contact with a potential supervisor at NII in order to agree a project (either one of the topics being mentioned in the call for applications or a specific topic agreed between the two supervisors). So, if you are interested in the Earrach Sakura award, your first task is to speak with your PhD supervisor. If your supervisor has not yet sent a student to NII, point your supervisor to the section below.

In the case that there are more than three applications they will be assessed by a local panel comprising the Director of Postgraduate Teaching and Learning, the Director of Research and the local coordinator of the NII programme.

Application Format

The application for the internal SCSS deadline should be formatted as outlined in the NII call.


What is the mimimum duration for the internship?

The shortest minimum duration is 60 days, but two months is usually not enough to complete an extensive research project. As such, most supervisors want you to stay for at least 3 months. However, if both your SCSS and NII supervisor agree, a duration of 60 days would be possible.

Can non-Irish students apply?

The award is available to all PhD students who are enrolled at SCSS, regardless of their nationality. However, if you are a non-EU citizen, be aware that Japan's VISA requirements for some nationalities are quite strict, and you should plan with at least two months between the notification and actually travelling to Japan.

Do I have to be enrolled as a student at SCSS during the whole period of the internship?

Yes. You need to be enrolled at TCD as a PhD student for the entire duration of the internship.

Information for (potential) supervisors at SCSS

The Earrach Sakura award is a great opportunity for you to establish a long-term research partnership with a professor at the National Institute of Informatics, which has experts in many areas including machine learning, speech and video processing, knowledge engineering, content analysis, natural language processing, open data, linked data, big data, financial smart data, networks, cyber security, quantum science, cyber-physical systems, cloud computing, and software engineering. Although Japanese tend to be a bit shy, they usually have a great interest in international collaborations. The NII has significant financial means to foster such international collaborations. The funded internships for PhD students are only one of the many options. Other options include research visits for yourself, logistic and financial support to organize workshops and conferences, and distinguished collaborators may even be appointed as visiting professors at NII. However, a joint project via a research internship of a PhD student is usually the first step.

If you are interested in a cooperation with a professor at the NII and nominating one of your PhD students for the Earrach Sakura award, please contact the coordinator of the programme (Joeran Beel) to learn more and discuss the details.