In 2006, a number of representatives from the dairy industry and Enterprise Ireland came together to explore the possibility of collaborating to fund nutrition and health research to improve public health. The aim was to conduct research in ‘precompetitive’ areas by teams that share a vested interest in success. 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.
FHI acknowledges that public and private sectors can play complimentary roles with one -another in research, with strong leadership, infrastructure and a willingness and commitment by each sector to build trust and work together towards mutually beneficial goals.
Key results and deliverables from FHI over the last eight years
- Discovery – In the initial few years of FHI, more than 1000 unique samples from milk were analysed. From these samples, 75 lead functional compounds (LFCs) were identified. An LFC is a compound that is deemed to have scientific merit. Twenty four studies were performed to demonstrate efficacy in animals and humans.
- Commercialisation – We generated 7 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. Ten invention disclosure forms were created, 5 technologies patented and 7 licenses have been granted to our industry partners.
- 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 50 research projects with Irish and global food customers.
- 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.
- 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.
- We have developed a number of excellent international relationships and touchstones. We can learn from other countries experiences and are willing to contribute to their international research agendas.
- 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.
- Personnel Development – Capacity building is an essential component of FHI. We promote secondments, have completed internships with our industry partners and have 16 completed FHI PhDs and 9 FHI Masters projects, each of which are highly sought after by industry. FHI prides itself in the development of future academic and industrial leaders who can ‘think’ and ‘do’ .