Servicio de Información Comunitario sobre Investigación y Desarrollo - CORDIS

Final Activity Report Summary - INSOLEX (Innovative Solutions for Extracting High Value Natural Compounds)

Over the past decade there has been an enormous increase in consumers' expectations, knowledge and understanding of the quality, safety and efficacy of many products, including food, cosmetics and medicines. In particular, there has been a strong consumer preference for products made from natural rather than synthetic sources based on the popular belief that natural products offer better health benefits. The commercial desire to produce these high value natural compounds (HVNCs) has raised industrial awareness, and extensive resources are being used to investigate potential applications for these products as well as identifying new process technologies to generate higher quality natural compounds more efficiently. With their very diverse and large number of compounds, from bulk products to very low volume, niche products, (i.e. pharmaceutically active compounds contained in speciality plant sources), natural products cover a broad spectrum of applications.

The network was launched in October 2006 to develop innovative technologies for the separation and refinement of high value compounds (HVNCs) from a range of natural extracts. INSOLEX delivered high quality training and research in the most up-to-date aspects of HVNC extraction technology covering: Extraction of valuable materials from plant and marine oils; Separation of natural extracts by membrane separation and counter-current chromatography; Synthetic chemistry for stabilising natural extracts; Chemical and biological modification of extracts; Evaluation of health benefits of extracts; and Business development and product engineering. The integration of different disciplines was embedded in the INSOLEX programme through the inclusion of partners whose research expertise spans a wide range of engineering (mechanical, chemical, and food engineering) and scientific (chemistry, biochemistry, microbiology) disciplines.

The project consortium involved multi-disciplinary expertise across 10 partners from 5 European countries. There were four academic partners and six industrial research laboratory partners. The INSOLEX research teams successfully developed accurate, reliable, energy efficient and cost effective extraction techniques suitable for large scale production. Applying membrane based extraction processes, researchers successfully increased the purity, concentration and value of the natural products, highlighting the potential of OSN. Nanofiltration techniques were shown to offer other advantages over competing separation technologies in terms of relative ease of scale-up, low energy requirements, mild operating conditions and low capital costs.

INSOLEX researchers demonstrated that HPCCC can be used to produce and quantify HVNC in crude extracts in a single purification step, generating homogenous compounds with very high yields. INSOLEX's advances in biological and enzymic modifications have demonstrated new scalable extraction processes across a range of applications, notably in the food and drink sectors. The novel processes offered novel clean, efficient and competitive technologies for extraction of added value natural compounds from by-products and wastes generated at agro-food industries.

The network contributed to the transfer of knowledge through the promotion of multidisciplinary research and training, interaction and networking of a total of 15 research staff working on the project. INSOLEX provided researchers with excellent career opportunities through a structured training programme which comprised doctoral studies and associated training, network run events, international workshops and secondments. Training covered extraction techniques as well as business development, professional skills and entrepreneurship training. The efforts and excellence of the researchers resulted in significant advances in extraction techniques which generated 4 patent applications, of which 1 has been granted.

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United Kingdom
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