Ministers for Marine and Agriculture Launch ‘Surf and Turf’ Initiative on Marine Functional Foods

The €5.2 million Marine Functional Foods Research Initiative aimed at establishing Ireland as a leader in the $74 billion worldwide market for functional foods was announced today (24th April 2007) by Mr. Noel Dempsey, TD. Minister for Marine Communications and Natural Resources and Ms. Mary Coughlan TD, Minister for Agriculture and Food in Dublin.

This seven-year initiative, which invites proposals from research institutions anywhere on the island of Ireland to form a research consortium focusing on marine functional foods and food ingredients research, follows the recommendations of  Sea Change: A Marine Knowledge, Research and Innovation Strategy for Ireland 2007 to 2013, which was recently published by the Marine Institute.  It also takes into account the recommendations of the Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation, the report of the Seafood Industry Strategy Review Group and AgriVision 2015. The initiative is funded by The Marine Institute and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

"The nutritional and health benefits to consumers of seafood are already becoming widely known but the marine environment is also a rich source of other food materials that even today remain overlooked”, said Minister Dempsey. “The initiative we are launching here today seeks to redress this imbalance by supporting cutting edge research that could yield enormous benefits to our economy and to our health as a nation.  Marine functional foods and ingredients are key elements in our strategy to brand this country as the "Seafood Island" of Europe as per the Government's recently published strategy for the seafood sector."

Minister Coughlan added “I am delighted to launch this ‘surf and turf’ initiative jointly with Minister Dempsey. The Science Strategy has flagged the potential of functional and marine health foods. World-class research is needed to deliver on this opportunity for Ireland’s marine, food and health industries and this close partnership between the Marine Institute and my Department is an innovative way of pooling expertise as well as funding.”

“The initiative dovetails neatly with the commitment in the Agri Food 2015 Plan to stimulate collaboration and to strengthen inter-institutional research partnerships in order to ensure a competitive consumer focussed agri-food sector. My Department has promoted inter-institutional research in its own competitive research programmes.  The link up with the marine sector will provide further opportunities for developing functional foods targeted at consumer demands for health, convenience, wholesomeness, value and indulgence. The potential in this research area is vast and the strategic link up of the food and marine research communities will ensure that this potential is fully exploited.”

The sea is already known to be a major potential source of health-giving functional materials, including omega-3 oils, essential minerals and vitamins, antioxidants, peptides, proteins and enzymes. At a recent workshop hosted by the Marine Institute and attended by a wide cross-section of food companies, food ingredients suppliers, seafood processors, biotechnology firms and researchers, four key areas emerged as potential sources of marine functional foods. They include the sustainable harvesting of those species of fish that are not currently targeted as food for human consumption; seaweeds; farming of fish and shellfish; and discarded materials from fish processing plants.

“This initiative is a shining example of how Ireland’s growing marine research and development capability can be applied to solving a very practical problem – that of increasing the value of our marine food industry over the next seven years,” said Dr. Peter Heffernan, CEO of the Marine Institute, who are managing Sea Change. “Sustainable fisheries management and developments in aquaculture are vital sources of raw material, but to survive and grow as a producer of marine food, Ireland has to take the leap towards the new and exciting horizon of marine functional foods.”

Full details associated with the Call are available on the Marine Institute website and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine website . The Call is open to all research institutions on the island of Ireland and initial applications will be assessed by a panel of international experts, followed by the invitation to the successful applicant(s) to submit detailed proposals in advance of contract negotiations.


For further details, please contact:

Dr. John Joyce – Communications Manager, Marine Institute
Phone: 087 2250871

    Notes to Editor


 The Marine Functional Food Research Initiative is a joint venture to create a  research consortium on marine functional food by the Marine Institute and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and funded by the Inter Departmental Research Initiative and Food Institutional Research Measure (FIRM).
The Initiative follows from the Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation 2006-2013 and the AgriVision 2015 Action Plan which support the objectives of the FIRM and describe key actions for the future development of the Agriculture and Food sector, including functional food research.

From the marine perspective, Sea Change, A Marine Knowledge, Research and Innovation Strategy for Ireland 2007 to 2013  outlines a commitment to develop Ireland’s marine sector. Both this report and the 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 call for a research programme in Marine Functional Foods.  The consortium is required to deliver an integrated research programme that builds on the skills and expertise of the teams and is aligned to one or more of the areas of research identified in the recent Marine Institute hosted workshop on functional foods and ingredients. 

Objectives and Deliverables

The objectives of the Marine Functional Food Research Initiative are to:
1. Create a strong, interdisciplinary research capability, capable of exploiting 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
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.

They will be met by the creation of a research consortium comprising research performers from research institutions in Ireland.

The research consortium will be required to deliver:

1. A report, delivered 18 months into the work programme, on the status of international research as it relates to marine functional foods and ingredients and highlighting knowledge gaps that can be filled by new Irish research performed by the consortium. 
2. An agreed programme of fundamental research that develops a lasting competency on marine functional foods and ingredients drawing on the above review.
3. New knowledge on which to base the development of marine functional foods and ingredients from species that can be harvested sustainably.
4. Specific research actions and outcomes from a defined and planned work programme.
5. The creation of additional research positions within dedicated teams.
6. Relevant research training at post-graduate level in order to stimulate the creation of additional research capacity.
7. Research teams able to contribute to and draw from the Sea Change programme.
8. The publication of research outputs in high-impact international journals with due consideration to maintaining intellectual property rights.
9. Relevant and appropriate dissemination of research outputs through, e.g., workshops, conferences and publications.

The Marine Institute

The Marine Institute was created under the Marine Institute Act in 1991 to “undertake, to co-ordinate, to promote and to assist” in the development of marine research and development in Ireland. Since its early days in Harcourt Street Dublin, it has grown into an internationally respected science body with over 200 staff, two purpose-built vessels – RVCeltic Explorer and RV Celtic Voyager, a research facility near Newport, Co. Mayo and now a brand new headquarters and laboratory on the shores of Galway Bay.

Sea Change

Sea Change – A Marine Knowledge and Information Strategy 2007 – 2013 seeks to strengthen the competitiveness and environmental sustainability of the marine sector by developing greater alignment between the needs of industry and the research capacity of the public sector and the third level. It aims to build multidisciplinary research capacity and capability that can be applied to marine-related activities, leading to the acquisition of new technical skills, improved flow of expert personnel between the research community and industry and the creation of new commercial opportunities. Sea Change will also deliver a comprehensive planned policy support research measure to apply the knowledge gained from research and monitoring to inform public policy, governance and regulation.