EU grants €22m to bio-refinery research project led by Glanbia
01 May 2018
Dr Ramesh Babu from Trinity’s School of Physics is the AMBER lead on the project
The European Commission has announced €22 million in funding for a new bio-economy research project to be led by Glanbia Ireland. The project, called AgriChemWhey, will receive €22 million in funding from the Bio-Based Industries Joint Undertaking (BBI JU) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.
It is the first dairy industry project to be awarded funding under the programme. The overall value of the project is €30 million with the balance of funding coming from the partners involved.
Development of new state-of-the-art, bio-refinery at Lisheen, Co Tipperary
The project will explore the development of a new state-of-the-art, bio-refinery at Lisheen, Co Tipperary, with a world-first process for converting byproducts from the dairy industry into high value bio-based products including biodegradable plastics.
AgriChemWhey is based on groundbreaking technology developed and patented by Glanbia Ireland, in collaboration with University College Dublin and Trinity College Dublin. It builds on previous research programmes funded by Enterprise Ireland and research carried out within the Science Foundation Ireland funded Advanced Materials and BioEngineering Research (AMBER) centre. Dr Ramesh Babu from Trinity’s School of Physics is the AMBER lead on the project.
The AgriChemWhey project will take low value byproducts from the dairy processing industry – excess whey permeate (WP) and delactosed whey permeate (DLP) – and convert them into cost competitive, sustainable lactic acid. Lactic acid can then be used in value-added bio-based products for growing global markets, including biodegradable plastics, bio-based fertiliser and minerals for human nutrition.
Opportunity for greater resource efficiency
The new technology developed by Glanbia Ireland will provide both the dairy industry and wider society with an opportunity for greater resource efficiency – less food waste, more products from the same starting material (milk), and integration of food and non-food material production.
“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 agriculture and rural development commissioner Phil Hogan.
“Innovation is a key theme of the Food Wise 2025 strategy for the sustainable growth of the agrifood sector,” said Michael Creed TD, Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. “Projects such as AgriChemWhey will strengthen the environmental sustainability of the sector, while offering new opportunities for rural employment and development.”
Julie Sinnamon, CEO of Enterprise Ireland added: “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.”
Professor Mark Ferguson, director general of Science Foundation Ireland and chief scientific adviser to the government, said: “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.
Technology will place Ireland at cutting edge of sustainable agricultural processing
“The technology garnered from this research will place Ireland at the cutting edge of sustainable agricultural processing, and provide an excellent test bed for the roll-out of new and innovative technologies in the dairy sector.”
Jim Bergin, CEO of Glanbia Ireland, concluded: “We are very excited about this R&D project which has the potential to harness the potential of byproducts from the dairy processing stream and to create a circular bio-economy for the dairy industry.”
This project has received funding from the Bio Based Industries Joint Undertaking (BBI-JU) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 744310. The BBI-JU is a €3.7 billion Public-Private Partnership between the EU and the Bio-based Industries Consortium.
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.
Potential for replication in other regions across Europe
AgriChemWhey has the potential for replication in other regions across Europe, contributing towards the development of the European bio-economy to promote rural growth, competitiveness and job creation and aligning with European sustainability targets.
The new facility is planned for the new bio-economy innovation campus at Lisheen, Co Tipperary, on the site of the former Lisheen mines. 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.
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 include:
• Glanbia Ireland – Project Coordinator;
• University College Dublin (UCD) – Beneficiary;
• AMBER, School of Physics, Trinity College Dublin (TCD) – Beneficiary
• Commercial Mushroom Producers Cooperative Society Ltd (CMP), Ireland – Beneficiary
• PNO Consultants Limited, UK – Beneficiary
• GIG Karasek GmbH, Austria – Beneficiary
• Tipperary County Council, Ireland – Beneficiary
• TEAGASC – Agriculture and Food Development Authority, Ireland – Beneficiary
• Pole Greenwin, Belgium – Beneficiary
• Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium – Beneficiary
• EW Biotech GmbH, Germany – Beneficiary