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€21.6 Million Boost For ‘Functional Food’ Technology Centre

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€21.6 Million Boost For ‘Functional Food’ Technology Centre

€21.6 Million Boost For ‘Functional Food’ Technology Centre
December 04
09:11 2019

The Government has announced Enterprise Ireland funding of €7.2 million, over five years, for Food for Health Ireland, a Technology Centre based in University College Dublin (UCD) that aims to improve global health through innovation in functional food.

Speaking at the launch, Minister for Business, Enterprise, and Innovation Heather Humphreys said: “Innovation 2020, the Government’s strategy for research and development, science and technology, recognises the importance of innovation for the agri-food sector. Enterprise Ireland’s continued support of Food for Health Ireland, through investment in research and innovation capability, will help to build competitive advantage in the food sector and is well aligned with our Future Jobs Ireland framework.  Introducing companies to the expertise in Food for Health Ireland will lead to innovative technologies and job creation in the sector.

“The agri-food sector is Ireland’s largest indigenous industry and plays a crucial role in Ireland’s economic performance, with a total turnover of over €26 billion. Irish food and drink is sold in 180 markets worldwide by a countrywide network of around 1,300 businesses. The agri-food sector accounts for 7.9% of total employment in the State. Some 38%, or €5.2 billion, of exports go to the UK while 48% of our beef exports go to the UK.  Market diversification, both within the EU and to international markets, is a key priority for the sector. That is why the Government’s ongoing market diversification strategy is so vital as we deal with the challenges of Brexit.”

“The great success of the Irish food sector in recent decades can be attributed to a number of factors, but chief among them is the ingenuity and innovative capacity of Irish food companies,” according to Alexa Toomey, Manager of Dairy, Beverages and FDI at Enterprise Ireland.

“Our research shows that food and beverage companies that availed of collaborative innovation supports from Enterprise Ireland saw sales growth that was three times higher than those that did not participate,” she said. “We are delighted to support the continued work of Food for Health Ireland, with a renewed focus on expanding the network and commercialising its research outputs. Through programmes like this we can ensure that Ireland is recognised as a global leader in functional food innovation.”

This latest round of funding comes on the back of the centre’s 10-year collaboration with research and industry partners to produce peer-reviewed market-led research that supports innovation in the functional food space. Food for Health Ireland’s human-intervention trials have already produced results that can be translated into innovations in food for use in tackling the key health issues that underpin diabetes, obesity and heart health, as well as supporting healthier ageing.

“Food for Health Ireland has spent over a decade building a unique innovation ecosystem that brings together leaders in food and health research, industry, policy, marketing and investment,” according to the centre’s new director, Dr Nessa Noronha. “Working with our industry partners – Carbery, Dairygold, Glanbia Ireland and Kerry – we have developed a world-class model for collaboration and we are now ideally placed to expand our network to include start-ups, SMEs and other large and international players in the food and drink sector who need our support to innovate in the functional food space.”

Functional foods have a positive effect on health beyond basic nutrition, helping to promote optimal health and reducing the risk of disease. “Food for Health Ireland’s research addresses global concerns about food, nutrition and wellbeing and health,” said the centre’s lead scientist, Prof Dolores O’Riordan, Director of the UCD Institute of Food and Health. “Our focus is on providing safe, sustainable and scientifically-proven innovations in food. Our research addresses the growing desire globally for health-enhancing ingredients and functional food – from healthier cheeses to sustainable dairy practices to environmentally beneficial food innovations.”

The global market for functional food is forecast to be worth more than €250 billion by 2023. Consumers are looking for health-enhancing ingredients to come in food, not pills. “Preventative, holistic and natural health is replacing reactive treatment worldwide,” said Dr Noronha.

“The kind of research and insights we provide at Food for Health Ireland supports the food industry in maintaining a pipeline and a pathway for new functional foods to meet these mega-trends. World-class consumer-driven research is key to innovation in this space, and our vision is to make Ireland a world leader in improving global health through functional food.”

Food for Health Ireland offers a tiered membership structure, providing industry partners with a collaborative pre-competitive space in which they can access tailored research and insights. “Our industry partners have unanimously confirmed that the core research programme of Food for Health Ireland was a key market differentiator in dealing with their customers,” said Dr Noronha. “With this continued support from our partners and Enterprise Ireland, we are delighted to now be in a position to build on our decade of experience and open up this model to new partners. See for more.”


Minister for Business, Enterprise, and Innovation Heather Humphreys (pictured centre) at the announcement with Dr Nessa Noronha, Director of Food for Health Ireland (on the left); and AlexaToomey, Manager of Dairy, Beverages and FDI at Enterprise Ireland (on the right).

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