Food Innovation, Research and Technology

Food Innovation, research and technologyare national priorities

Ireland’s Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine has supported food research in Universities and other research institutes through its dedicated Food Institutional Research Measure  from 2007 to 2013.

With the topics of Sustainable Food Production and Processing and Food for Health having been identified as national research priorities for Ireland in the latest national Research Prioritisation Exercise, this focus will be increased from 2014 onwards. Building on existing research strengths and investments, these thematic areas  are set to become the focus of future state investment in research and innovation and will set the agenda for technologies, intellectual property, capabilities and skill-sets emerging from the Irish higher education sector in the years to come.

 

Food for Health 

The Food for Health priority area encompasses research on products and functional foods that provide health benefits in addition to providing basic nutrition. This includes

  • New high-value nutrition and wellness products, produced by re-formulation of existing products or through development of new functional foods,
  • The discovery of new bioactive components from natural resources, functional ingredients and nutraceuticals,
  • Robust scientific research to underpin health claims,  through access to a functional clinical and translational research system,
  • Understanding of the contribution of such products in promoting wellness and  addressing diet-related chronic diseases such as obesity and Type II diabetes,  and
  • The identification of individual and population differences in gene expression in response to diet and dietary components, through population health research.

 

Sustainable Food Production and Processing

The focus of the Sustainable Food Production and Processing  priority area is on sustainable, competitive and efficient agri- and marine food production and processing, encompassing land-use optimisation, forestry and non-food crops, wild fish harvesting and aquaculture, and the manufacture of safe, value added and innovative foods.

  • Research areas that are of particular relevance to the food and drink market include food safety, food processing technologies, food products, food business and consumer services, and nutrition and dietetics (including food and health and diabetes) and  innovative processing and packaging technologies.
  • The food industries this research will support include dairy, beef, poultry, pork, sheepmeat, organic food, seafood, processed or convenience foods, the alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverage sectors, and the fruit and vegetable sector.
  • Areas of the Irish seafood sector the research areas address includes added value processed seafood, sustainable management of high value inshore stocks, marine science related to water quality and wild fish stocks and environmentally sustainable fishing and aquaculture production methods.

 

Food capability and resources – Ireland’s higher education sector

Ireland’s higher education sector and public-funded research institutions have strong experience working as research and innovation partners with the food industry through

The breadth of expertise ranges from process technology and health and nutrition to quality and safety right across the food spectrum from dairy, meats, seafood and beverages to prepared consumer foods.

A full listing of taught food-related programmes at Irish higher education institutes is available. Simply type ‘food’ into this directory.

Here is a snapshot, not an exhaustive list, of some of the expertise and resources available to industry.

 

University College Cork

University College Cork operates a comprehensive food research programme geared towards the needs of industry.  Its focus includes food technology, food microbiology, speciality foods and food business and marketing.  Its Food Industry Training Unit  provides food science and technology part-time courses and management development programmes geared towards the research, training, continuing education needs of food industry professionals. One of UCC’s  specialist research institutes is the Health Research Board’s Centre for Diet and Health Research . UCC also hosts the  world-class Alimentary Pharmabiotic Centre.The university has  formed a strategic research alliance with Teagasc Ireland’s dedicated food research agency, to provide a single portal for food companies seeking expertise in the areas of  food and health, food science and technology and food and the consumer.

 

University College Dublin

University College Dublin has strong focus on the areas of food engineering and science and is a leading European player in the area of food safety, regulatory affairs, and risk analysis. The Institute of Food and Health  is a major campus-wide imitative, aimed at developing and conducting world-class, multidisciplinary research into food and health. Current research is focused on biosystems, food and the consumer, food and nutrition, food production, food regulation, food safety and food science.

 

Dublin Institute of Technology

Dublin Institute of Technology is strongly aligned to the needs of the food industry. Research themes allied to its School of Culinary Arts and Food Technology include food allergies and anxieties, organic foods, nutrition and wellbeing, value-added food products, enterprise and technology, food safety, quality enhancement and the culinary performing arts, new food innovation, food management systems and gastronomy and culture.

Its School of Food Science and Environmental Health specialises in research areas such as environmental health, food technology nutraceuticals and food science.

DIT’s Food Health Research Centre  focuses on six thematic areas: functional foods and nutraceuticals, bio-prospecting from the dairy, marine, brewing, fruit and vegetable industries, fermentation and bioprospecting of bioactive ingredients; genetic diversity and conservation post-harvest and non-thermal technologies; quality and nutritional characteristics, shelf-life extension, applied modelling for process optimisation food product development and culinary innovation; sensory analysis and consumer evaluation; processing and product innovation; molecular gastronomy; and cereal and baking technology.

 

The University of Dublin (Trinity College Dublin)

Research at the Unit of Nutrition and Dietetics , Trinity College Dublin ,spans a broad-ranging area, overlapping with many other discipline, including biochemistry, physiology, microbiology, food science, dietetics, medicine and public health.

Its nutrition-related research takes place at the laboratory level, as well as in population studies (nutritional epidemiology) and in disease groups (clinical nutrition).

Its dietetics research is focused on the role of nutrition in health and disease and includes laboratory-based, molecular, clinical, dietary intervention and epidemiological studies.

 

Cork Institute of Technology

Research specialisations at Cork Institute of Technology include food for health and food hygiene. Its BIO-Explore Cluster incorporates research in the area of bio-analysis and bio-control. The Mass Spectrometry Research Centre for Proteomics and Biotoxins ,specialises in the isolation of new toxins and the development of new analytical protocols for the determination of micro-organic contaminants and their metabolites in the environment and food.

 

University of Limerick

University of Limerick (UL)  operates a Food Science Research Centre  and has a growing research interest in the area of food, health, sport and human performance.

 

The Marine Institute

Ireland’s Marine Institute ,includes a Marine Environment and Food Safety Service,  which provides  scientific advice, marine environmental monitoring services and research to support the seafood industry.  Key research areas include fish health and shellfish safety. 

In addition, in conjunction with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, the Marine Institute co-funds Nutramara , a national research programme in marine functional foods and ingredients research aimed at developing high value-added products.  This programme is delivered by Teagasc.

 

Seafood Industry Research

Galway Mayo Institute of Technology, NUI Galway  and University College Cork specialise in research areas of interest to the seafood industry.

 

Letterkenny Institute of Technology

Letterkenny Institute of Technology carries out research closely allied to its Department of Gastronomy and Culinary Arts, which offers BSc degrees in Culinary Arts and Food Technology, Primary Food Hygiene and Food Science and Nutrition.

 

Other food research, education and training providers

Other Institutes of Technology  in  Dundalk, Waterford,  Carlow, Tralee, Tallaght and Athlone provide higher education, training and research related to food in the food industry.

 

 

Case Studies

University College Cork researchers make bread last longer. Food scientists at University College Cork have developed a revolutionary method to increase the shelf-life of bread by up to 14 days, in a breakthrough that has now been patented and licensed to Puratos, the Belgian-based  multinational food ingredients company.  Puratos supplies the baking and confectionery industries in over 100 countries worldwide and will upscale the UCC scientists’ work to industrial level before bringing it to the market.

The shelf-life of bread is only a few days before mould appears. The challenge for bakers has been to extend this while responding to consumer demand to reduce the amount of additives in bread products.  Twenty per cent of all bread is thrown out due to shelf-life issues which is a major problem in this era of reduced wheat production and increased demand worldwide. Since 2000, world food markets have experienced the greatest sustained increase in price for three decades. There has been a need for new and innovative solutions to reduce wheat wastage while continuing to meet global food demands.

Professor Elke Arendt and her research team in the Department of Food and Nutritional Sciences at UCC have been looking for natural ways to improve the shelf-life of cereal products for the past ten years.  One of the most successful areas she has developed has been the use of lactic acid bacteria in bread products. The  research was funded by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine  under the FIRM programme as well as Commercialisation Technology Development Fund of  Enterprise Ireland.

“Sourdough is known for its excellent taste and traditionally extends shelf-life,” says Filip Arnaut,  R&D Director at Puratos. “Based on UCC’s new technology we will bring this to the next level.  The new sourdough  will have all the benefits of traditional sourdough and in addition  extend the shelf-life of baked products, which is what our customers want today.  It is not only an extraordinary scientific achievement and example of university and industry co-operation but also an innovative product break-through in line with consumer demand.”

 

University College Dublin leads European Personalised Nutrition Project

University College Dublin’s Institute of Food Health is leading an EU-funded project, Food4me, aimed at providing an integrated analysis of opportunities and challenges for personalised nutrition.

The complete mapping of the human genome sequence in 2000 introduced the possibility of individualised medicine, including personalised nutrition.  During this time the field of ‘nutrigenomics’ emerged, examining the relationship between food and gene expression.  Many were hopeful about the ability to plan diet recommendations based on an individual’s genetic profile. However, the promise of personalised nutrition has failed to develop as a commercial service, and matching dietary advice to genetic profiles has proven difficult. 

This project aims to address knowledge gaps by developing suitable business models, researching technological advances, and validating delivery methods for personalised nutrition advice.  In addition, it seeks to create best practice communication strategies and ethical boundaries to be shared with EU institutions, the food industry and other stakeholders. See: http://food4me.org

DIT researchers working to improve meat packaging

DIT researchers at the School of Food Science and Environmental Health and the FOCAS Institute  are collaborating with Teagasc’s Ashtown Food Research centre in a project designed to improve the quality of beef on sale in retail outlets.

An advantage of current modified atmosphere packaging systems is the production of a healthy red beef colour. Unfortunately this is also accompanied by a loss of tenderness and taste and an increase in odours due to lipid oxidation.  In addition, shelf-life is reduced due to potential aerobic growth of spoilage microorganisms.   

DIT’s novel pre-treatment regime aims to combine the advantages of vacuum-packed products with the ‘healthy’ red colour of oxygenated meat by using new technologies and processes. The research is being funded by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine  under the FIRM programme.