The two-year EU-SME project BARLEYboost started in December 2013. It is coordinated by Nofima (Norway) and has two other research partners (VTT and INRA). The objective is to use new technology and innovation to increase the availability of healthy foods made of barley.
52 million tonnes of barley is produced in the EU every year, but only 0.6 per cent is used for food. Most is used for animal feeds and for producing alcohol. Barley is a good source of fibre. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has recognised the claimed health benefits of the barley fibre, especially beta-glucan. A daily intake of 3-4 g of beta-glucan can help to reduce cholesterol in the blood and the rise in blood sugar after meal. It has also been investigated in many studies that increasing daily consumption of barley fibre can reduce the risks of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure and certain types of cancer. In addition, fibre from barley is good for constipation.
Even though barley contains good amount of beta-glucans, but it can be difficult to enrich beta-glucan in conventional milling processes. That means that, at the moment, a large portion of barley must be eaten to obtain the desired health effects related to beta-glucan.
The BARLEYboost project has three objectives:
1. The milling industry need to develop new ways of enriching beta-glucan from barley.
2. Equipment suppliers need to develop and calibrate new measuring instruments to measure the beta-glucan content from barley samples.
3. The bakeries and ingredient suppliers need to start using a new, rapid-learning product development process, to develop innovative products.
Support from the EU's 7th Framework Programme for Research and SMEs
Nine partners from seven European countries are participating in BARLEYboost. Four industrial companies have received in total 1.13 million Euro grants to support the 1.5 million Euro budget. The research funding comes from the EU's Framework Programme for Research, which places special emphasis on research that benefits small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). The funding will be used to purchase R&D assistance from three food research institutes in Europe (Nofima, VTT and INRA). The project owners from the industry are Stangeland Mill and Råde Bakery, both from Norway, the ingredient supplier Macphie from Scotland and Pats Bakery from Estonia. The measuring instruments will be developed by the Swedish company Perten and the milling technology will be developed by Bühler AG from Switzerland.
Turning the innovation process upside down
What makes this project different from others is the innovation method. EU has set a requirement that three new barley products with high beta-glucan content need to be developed. "The new thing that we are doing in this innovation process is to start with prototypes of the end products, combined with substantial hypothetical testing. We want to challenge conventional product development and start at the 'wrong' end. We start by creating products that we test in simple experiments. After that, we do the research and the industrial part. This is the way we are going to be working in BARLEYboost, with new insight increasing the chances of successful innovation," says Sveinung Grimsby, the project coordinator and project manager at Nofima.
More information about BARLEYboost:
Ulla Holopainen-Mantila, Project Manager at VTT, Ulla.Holopainen@vtt.fi