UCD partners in €30 million bio-refinery research project led by Glanbia Ireland

Posted April 26, 2018

The European Commission has announced €22 million funding for a new bio-economy research project led by Glanbia Ireland with University College Dublin as a partner.

AgriChemWhey is the first dairy industry project awarded funding under the Bio-Based Industries Joint Undertaking (BBI JU) under the EU Horizon 2020 programme. The balance of the €30 million funding for project will be provided by the partners. The BBI-JU is a €3.7 billion Public-Private Partnership between the EU and the Bio-based Industries Consortium.

The project will explore the development of a new bio-refinery at Lisheen, County Tipperary on the site of the former Lisheen mines. At the refinery, there will be a world-first process for converting by-products from the dairy industry into high value bio-based products including biodegradable plastics.

The new bio-economy campus will offer a single hub to enable industry, entrepreneurs and researchers to scale technologies that convert Ireland’s natural resources to products of high value for use in a wide variety of sectors.

Based on technology developed and patented by Glanbia Ireland, in collaboration with University College Dublin and Trinity College Dublin, AgriChemWhey builds on earlier research funded by Enterprise Ireland and carried out in the Advanced Materials and BioEngineering Research (AMBER) Centre funded by Science Foundation Ireland.


Pictured (l-r) Jim Bergin, CEO, Glanbia Ireland; Phil Hogan, Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development; Philippe Mengal, Executive Director, BBI JU; Prof. Orla Feely, UCD Vice-President for Research, Innovation and Impact and Michael Creed TD, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Jason Clarke Photography)

“AgriChemWhey is a highly innovative research project, which if successful, will serve as a flagship for Europe’s growing bio-economy, contributing towards a more resource efficient European dairy sector, with enormous potential for replication in other areas across Europe, while also providing a boost to jobs and growth in Europe's rural economy,” said Phil Hogan, EC commissioner for agriculture and rural development.

“Innovation is a key theme of the Food Wise 2025 strategy for the sustainable growth of the agri-food sector. Projects such as AgriChemWhey will strengthen the environmental sustainability of the sector, while offering new opportunities for rural employment and development,” said Michael Creed TD, minister for agriculture, food and the marine.

“The funding for the AgriChemWhey project, will not only stimulate regional economic growth in County Tipperary, but will also enhance Ireland’s position as a world leader in the development of the bioeconomy and provide the country with an opportunity to lead on issues central to achieving the UN SDGs,” said Professor Orla Feely, Vice President for Research, Innovation and Impact.

“It is exciting to see Glanbia Ireland and its partners spearhead this research and innovation project as it gives us a clear indication that more actors see the potential offered by a sustainable and competitive bio-based sector for Europe and its citizens,” said Philippe Mengal, executive director of BBI JU.

“This project is Ireland’s biggest win under the fund to date and illustrates the potential of the fund for Irish companies and researchers. I want other Irish companies to work with us and see Horizon 2020 as an opportunity to innovate and grow their businesses,” said Julie Sinnamon, CEO, Enterprise Ireland.

“Ireland is ranked second in the world for Animal and Dairy Research, a topic of great strategic importance to this country and it is a testament to the excellent research being undertaken across industry and academia that competitive European investments of this magnitude are won,” said Professor Mark Ferguson, director general of Science Foundation Ireland and chief scientific adviser to the government of Ireland.

Growth in milk production is set to continue as a result of increasing demand for whey protein for human and animal nutrition globally and the removal of milk production quotas in the EU in 2015, underscoring the need for new technologies, products and markets to manage the associated waste streams.

AgriChemWhey has the potential to be replicated in other regions across Europe, contributing towards the development of the European bio-economy promoting rural growth, competitiveness and job creation in line with European sustainability targets.

AgriChemWhey will also partner with Model Demonstrator Regions for sustainable chemicals in Ireland and in Belgium to examine policy development for market uptake of bio-based products and share best practice while working on common challenges together as part of the Irish Bioeconomy Association.

Partners in the AgriChemWhey project in addition to Glanbia Ireland and UCD include; AMBER, School of Physics, Trinity College Dublin; Commercial Mushroom Producers Cooperative Society Ltd; PNO Consultants Limited, (UK); GIG Karasek GmbH, (Austria); Tipperary County Council; Teagasc, the Agriculture and Food Development Authority; Pole Greenwin, (Belgium); Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, (Belgium) and EW Biotech GmbH, (Germany).

By: Staff Writers, UCD University Relations