Research Programme on Bioactive Compounds from Seaweed Introduced

Dermot Hurst (Sea Change Programme), Elena Ebanez, Alan Critchley, Phillipe Potin, Cepta Duffy (Enterprise Ireland) and Peter Heffernan (CEO of the Marine Institute) at the seminarNinety participants from the seaweed industry, the research community and relevant national agencies gathered at the Marine Institute in Galway on the 22nd January to hear the latest developments in seaweed research.  

The Symposium, which was organised by the Marine Institute in conjunction with Enterprise Ireland, Bord Iascaigh Mhara and Údarás na Gaeltachta, provided insights into international seaweed research involving the search for bioactive compounds and seaweed processing. The Symposium also introduced the new national industry-led research programme (ILRP) entitled ‘Bioactive Compounds from Seaweed’, which was launched by Enterprise Ireland in December.  

The Symposium also provided a networking forum for the 59 researchers who attended, from 18 different institutes of technology and universities in Ireland, and with research interests spanning seaweed research, marine bioprospecting, molecular biology, natural products chemistry, biochemistry, food and nutritional sciences, and process engineering. Eight researchers made short presentations about their current work, capabilities and research interests, while international speakers presented on current issues relating to international seaweed research and industry priorities, including:

 photo of Phillippe Potin

Challenges in the Optimised Production of Bioactives from Kelp - Dr. Philippe Potin, Station Biologique de Roscoff, France

Dr. Potin described the factors affecting the bioactive content of seaweeds, which can make characterising individual species and optimising the production of desired bioactives complex.  He also outlined how developments in genomics and biotechnology can improve our understanding and lead to the synthesis of bioactive compounds and the tailored aquaculture of seaweed species.  

Photo of Elena Ibanez

Challenges and options in the extraction of bioactive compounds from macro-algae - Elena Ibañez, IFI-CSIC, Spain

Dr. Ibañez detailed three methods to extract bioactive compounds that are quick, selective, give high yields, maintain bioactivity and minimise the impact to the environment: Supercritical Fluid Extraction (SFE), Pressurised Liquid Extraction (PLE) and Subcritical Water Extraction (SWE).  She outlined the technique, the associated benefits and disadvantages of each, and their industrial potential.  

Photo of Alan Critchley

Seaweed research – the needs of international industry - Dr. Alan Critchley, Acadian Seaplants Ltd., Canada

Dr. Critchley outlined the challenges facing the international seaweed sector, including maintaining global competitiveness, the management and availability of the wild resource, the feasibility of aquaculture, and the opportunities for innovative firms to develop niche products based on a natural resource.


Industry Research Needs from the ILRP - Dr. Franck Hennequart, Oilean Glas Teo.

Dr. Hennequart, representing the ILRP partners, described the evolution of the ILRP proposal and the research priorities identified by the seaweed industry.  He outlined the content of three work packages that form the basis of the planned research programme and industry expectations for what each package should deliver.  Dr. Hennequart stressed the importance of building strong links between the research providers and industry through this initiative.  

The ILRP Process - Dr. Cepta Duffy, Enterprise Ireland

Dr. Duffy outlined the ILRP process and invited applications from researchers and research groups to the seaweed ILRP.  The closing date for applications is 18th February 2009.  All proposals will be evaluated by an independent international expert panel after which interviews will be held. The successful proposal will be finalised by Enterprise Ireland, in conjunction with the ILRP representatives, before being finally approved by both the Industrial Research Commercialisation Committee (IRCC) and the Enterprise Ireland Board.  

The full research brief and application form  for ILRP can be downloaded via the Enterprise Ireland website at, and any queries regarding the process should be directed to Dr. Cepta Duffy, Lifescience & Food Commercialisation, Enterprise Ireland, East Point Business Park, Dublin 3 or  

Further details of the symposium, including copies of all the presentations, can be found in the Research section of the MI website      

Seaweed photo: © Dagmar Stengel, NUIG