Minister Coughlan Announces €5.2 million Marine Functional Food Programme


Ireland’s marine food industry received a €5.2 million boost today (Friday 30th November) with the announcement of a multidisciplinary research consortium involving universities on both sides of the border.

The Marine Functional Food Research Initiative (MFFRI) which is led by Teagasc under the direction of Dr. Declan Troy will identify novel marine food ingredients and products, allowing Ireland to become players in what is already a $74 billion worldwide market for functional foods. The initiative involves University Colleges Cork and Dublin, NUI Galway, University of Limerick, and the University of Ulster Coleraine.  

“Both the Marine Institute and the Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Food (DAFF) see the need for new ways of thinking and diversification into new markets in the seafood sector,” said Minister Coughlan at the launch of the initiative aboard the research vessel RV Celtic Explorer in Galway. “Ireland has both the natural resources and the expertise to become significant contributors in the new and expanding market for marine functional foods and food ingredients. This is why our two organisations have agreed to co-fund significant research in this new and exciting area.”  

The MFFRI will focus on three themes: the use of fish processing waste, the sustainable exploitation of underutilised species of fish and seaweed, and the development of value-added products from aquaculture—both for finfish and shellfish. These themes were identified as research priorities in a workshop hosted by the Marine Institute in January this year and attended by food companies, food ingredient suppliers, seafood processors, biotechnology firms and researchers from industry and other institutions.  

“This initiative recognises the potential of marine functional foods—which give health benefits as well as tasty eating—as identified through the consultation process around Sea Change—A Marine Knowledge, Research and Innovation Strategy for Ireland,” said Dr. Peter Heffernan CEO of the Marine Institute.  “It is also a rapid national response to the recommendations of the Cawley Report on the fishing industry and is therefore of major relevance to Ireland’s seafood sector. Our aim is to create a strong interdisciplinary research team, capable of exploring marine animals and plants as a source of materials for use in functional foods.”  

The consortium will provide new additional research staff including two principal investigators at professorial level; seven post-doctoral posts and seven PhD places. A Professor of Marine Natural Product Chemistry will be recruited internationally and located at the Teagasc Ashtown Food Research Centre-UCD axis of the consortium. A similar internationally ranked Professor of Marine Functional Foods Biochemistry will be recruited at the Moorpark Research Centre-UCC axis.  

The strategic positioning of Ireland’s marine foods sector to become more research-intensive supports the enhancement and strengthening of Ireland’s knowledge economy and is also in line with the EU Lisbon Agenda.  



Front page thumbnail photo shows Dr Declan Troy, Minister Mary Coughlan and Dr Peter Hefferan.

Main photo shows Minister Coughlan with Dr Peter Heffernan and the crew of the Celtic Explorer in Galway.

All photos, courtesy of and available from:

Andrew Downes, Galway 


The Marine Functional Food Research Initiative (MFFRI) is a joint initiative established by the Marine Institute and the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (DAFF). It is supported by funds provided under the Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation 2006-2013 (SSTI) and the Food Institutional Research Measure (FIRM), to establish a Marine Functional Foods Research Programme.

  The SSTI and AgriVision 2015 Action Plan enforce the objectives of the FIRM and describe key actions for the future development of the Agriculture and Food sector. From the marine perspective, Sea Change - A Marine Knowledge, Research and Innovation Strategy for Ireland 2007-2013 presents a strategy that aims to drive the development of the marine sector as a dynamic element of our knowledge economy.

  Sea Change and the Cawley report of the Seafood Industry Strategy Review Group, Steering a New Course – a Strategy for a Restructured, Sustainable and Profitable Irish Seafood Industry 2007-2013, both call for a research programme in Marine Functional Foods.   


The MFFRI is designed to develop capability and create new additional capacity in marine functional foods and ingredients research. The initiative will lead to a greater utilisation of Ireland’s marine resource by encouraging participation by Irish marine and food scientists in food-oriented collaborative research.  

The objectives are to:  

  1. Create a strong, interdisciplinary research capability, capable of utilising marine biodiversity as a source of materials for use in functional foods;
  2. Develop capabilities to process marine-based materials for use by the functional ingredients sector;
  3. Support the creation of new research capacity in areas that underpin research in marine functional ingredients and foods; and
  4. Establish new research capabilities in marine functional foods—linking indigenous and multi-national food and pharmaceutical industries with researchers at state and higher education research institutions.  

Deliverables- new research capability and capacity  

The work programme, which targets opportunities identified by industry in fish processing waste; aquaculture and seaweed – was endorsed by the Marine Institute, the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries, Bord Iascaigh Mhara, Enterprise Ireland and Údarás na Gaeltachta – and recommended by an international peer review panel. It will initially build a foundation on which new marine based food products will be developed from research that will,  

  • Provide a detailed review of relevant National, EU and International legislation as it applies to the sourcing, refinement and application of (marine) compounds in animal and human health matters.
  • Identify gaps in current knowledge in terms of the isolation, identification and subsequent characterisation of marine components having functional food potential.
  • Provide a database of potentially exploitable material with signposts to known/suspected compounds from fisheries, culture and processing; including the presence and availability of target compounds on spatial and geographical basis.
  • Identify the nature, availability, character, formats and quantities of various species, extracts, materials and wastes generated / available from the wild and produced by farming and downstream processing from the Irish Marine environment.
  • Provide protocols and technologies for the quantitative and food friendly extraction of functional materials from marine sources.
  • Identify methods for the extraction purification and characterisation of marine origin bio-actives.
  • Provide training and advice to food and marine food companies through, newsletters, workshops, technical reports and peer reviewed publications.
  • Interact with Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Enterprise Ireland, An Bord Iascaigh Mhara, Udaras na Gaeltachta and the Marine Institute to stimulate and support the development of new products by Ireland’s food and marine foods sectors.  

Key players

  • Dr Declan Troy and Prof. Paul Ross - Teagasc
  • Prof Mike Gibney and Prof. John O’Doherty – University College, Dublin
  • Prof Mike Guiry, Dr Richard Fitzgerald and Mr Declan Clarke – NUI Galway
  • Prof Gerard Fitzgerald and Prof John Davenport University College Cork
  • Prof Sean Strain and Dr Emeir Duffy University of Ulster, Coleraine.
  • Prof Richard Fitzgerald University of Limerick
  • Dr Pamela Byrne Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Food
  • Dr Dermot Hurst Marine Institute