Collaborative Research – UCD & Glanbia
Professor Kevin O’Connor
Glanbia Ireland DAC, a joint venture between Glanbia Co-op and Glanbia plc, is an integrated agri-food and nutrition business. The company is Ireland’s leading dairy processor and is the fastest growing dairy company in the world, processing 2.7 billion litres of milk annually, with an annual revenue of €1.8 billion and employing over 2,000 staff primarily across its 11 processing plans in Ireland.
Through its production processes, Glanbia generates large amounts of low-value delactosed whey permeate (DLP), an unusable by-product of whey processing that presents a waste stream for the business. In 2014, the company approached UCD to investigate potential solutions to address these waste streams.
Based on this challenge posed by Glanbia UCD undertook some preliminary research which demonstrated the capability of converting whey-based substrates to lactic acid which can then be used to make biodegradable plastics, fertiliser and minerals for human nutrition.
The results of this initial research led Glanbia to formally engage UCD in a collaborative research project with UCD for two years under an Enterprise Ireland Innovation Partnership programme. This in turn resulted in UCD, Glanbia and others being successfully awarded €22 million in 2018 under the EU Horizon 2020 Bio-Based Industries Joint Undertaking Programme for a new project called AgriChemWhey. This was Ireland’s biggest win under the fund to date and the first dairy project to be awarded funding under the programme.
AgrichemWhey has established a new facility in Tipperary on the site of the former Lisheen mines which will transform dairy waste products into high value bio-based products for growing global markets. There are currently 12 people employed at the facility which is set to grow once the facility is fully operational. Furthermore, the development of the site will renew and invigorate the local and wider economy.
The success of this collaboration has enhanced Glanbia’s international reputation as a pioneer in research and development and equally has positioned UCD as a global leader in the field of bioeconomy research.
Glanbia has invested in the UCD Lyons Dairy Education and Research Facility supporting numerous student placements and employing many UCD graduates. As a result of the project UCD has become a founding member of the National Bioeconomy Campus at Lisheen and further funding awards of €18 million and €11 million have been granted to the research centres BEACON and Food for Health Ireland respectively.
Working with the lead researcher and the company, NovaUCD, the UCD TTO, has supported this project from its inception. The UCD TTO provided support throughout the collaborative relationship between the university and Glanbia Ireland DAC that included helping to identify and protect results coming from the research and supporting the contracting and the negotiation of terms for the initial Innovation Partnership as well as subsequent terms relating to licensing and assignment.
Underpinning Funding Sources Include:
Enterprise Ireland and Glanbia
Science Foundation Ireland