Food for Health Ireland (FHI)

FHI unites world-class science and dairy industry know how in one Technology Centre aimed at developing, marketing and selling nutritional ingredients and functional ingredients to improve consumer’s health and wellness. This is quite unique in the world.

Development of ingredients and functional food products offers significant opportunities for the Irish food companies given Ireland’s traditional strengths as a dairy and beverage producer, the presence of a strong pharmaceutical industry base, ample availability of quality raw materials, state-of-the-art food and drink research centres and world class third level institutes.

With support from Enterprise Ireland, Food for Health Ireland (FHI) was developed as an opportunity for partnership resulting in enhanced research productivity and effectiveness across diverse sectors.

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  1. Discovery – In phase 1 of FHI, more than 1000 unique samples from milk were analysed. Peptides are formed when proteins are broken down by enzymes in the gut or by fermentation or ripening during food processing. Some of these peptides are ‘bioactive’ – they have an effect on systems in the body. From these 1000 samples, 75 lead functional compounds (LFC) were identified. An LFC is a compound that is deemed to have scientific merit. 24 studies were performed to demonstrate efficacy in animals and humans.
  2. Commercialisation – We generated 6 available centre results for commercialisation by the FHI industry partners. These are unique scientific results that provide solutions to global health concerns reflected in the FHI program. 3 invention disclosure forms were created and 1 license for a new weaning food for infants was agreed.
  3. Attracting Industry – FHI is a gateway for accessing world-class academic research in food. FHI has created effective organisational systems to carry out contract research for the food industry with highly competitive costs. We have completed more than 30 projects with Irish and global food customers.
  4. Knowledge Translation – Research needs to be translated in a way that industry can commercialise, at a time when they need it. The FHI approach is to work with and alongside our industry partners and in close connection with the scientists over time. In FHI we have built a unique bridge between high-class research organisations and industry needs.
  5. Cross institutions- departmental work is essential to achieve better results. We are creating the conditions to allow the institutions to work together and realise the benefits of doing so. Funding this type of work will be essential to achieving an environment suited to successful innovation.
  6. International Relations- we have developed a number of good international relationships and touchstones. We can learn from other countries experiences and are willing to contribute to their international research agendas.
  7. Ireland’s Advantages- Ireland’s small size and flexibility is a definite advantage. Our national network of FHI experts in the food arena and commercial expertise are contributing to enhance the competitive advantage of the food industry in Ireland.
  8. Training - Capacity building is an essential component of FHI. We promote secondments, we have 16 completed FHI PhDs who are highly sought after by industry and 9 FHI Masters projects. Ireland needs trained managers and scientists who can ‘think’ and ‘do’.

In Phase 2, the most promising bioactives will be taken to the next level and in this second term, we will be able to close the gap between initial predictions and commercially feasible opportunities for these compounds.

The research programme is strongly driven by the industry partners requirements and insights. By building on and leveraging the market expertise of the partners early in the process, FHI has moulded and aligned the scientific programme more appropriately with their needs.

FHI Phase 2 consists of six workpackages:

  1. Infant Nutrition
  2. Glycaemic Management
  3. Healthy Ageing and Performance Nutrition
  4. Appetite Modulation
  5. Healthy Cheeses
  6. Technology

FHI has a multidisciplinary team of 75 scientists. This includes experts in 7 major Irish public research organisations (UCDULDCUUCCNUI MaynoothNUI Galway and Teagasc), and a management team based in University College Dublin. Our research partners bring the following expertise:

  • UL: Expertise in enzyme hydrolysis and protein chemistry.   State of the art facilities to research the effect of functional ingredients on ageing and performance
  • UCC:  A long history of research in dairy and science. The FHI researchers based in UCC also bring their pharmacological approach to using food to prevent or treat diseases
  • Teagasc Moorepark: Expertise in dairy processing and dairy chemistry. Researchers in Teagasc have expertise in food oligosaccharides and their use in functional foods
  • UCD: Researchers in UCD bring their experience in sensory evaluation, analytic chemistry, encapsulation as well as experience in developing human intervention trials to investigate the impact of diet on health
  • DCU: Expertise in mining food for new ingredients that can change the immune response
  • NUIM: Novel Food Immunology- using new humanised model systems to assess novel food impact on human health whether  positively (customer defined biomolecules or broad screens) or negatively (allergic reactions)
  • NUIG: Their research focuses on complex sugars (glycans) which are present on every living cell and are key modulators of chemical communication between molecules and cells.

Our industry partners are CarberyDairygoldGlanbia Ingredients Ireland Ltd.Kerry Group, and the Irish Dairy Board.

Check out FHI’s website for more information.

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