The University of Reading and Rothamsted Research will spend 18 months on the project, which is being led by Dr Dimitris Charalampopoulos.
He said: “Plant materials are rich in ferulic acid, which can be converted into vanillin. This can be used to add flavour to a variety of products or as an active agent in a range of personal care formulations.”
Currently, ferulic acid is mainly produced commercially from the residues generated during the production of rice bran oil.
However, wheat bran has great potential as a UK source because it contains relatively high concentrations of the acid.
It is estimated that around one million tonnes of wheat bran is produced annually in the UK and that this could equate to a potential ferulic acid production of up to 5,000t. The proposed research will generate the technical know-how for the development of a scalable, cost-effective and efficient process for ferulic acid production.
Harley Stoddart, HGCA research and knowledge transfer manager, said, “HGCA is investing in this work to help add economic value to lower quality products from conventional milling by developing an economically sustainable supply of renewable raw materials that can be used within the chemical industry.
“By increasing the options for products that have lower value in the food and feed markets, HGCA hopes that associated values will increase, bringing benefits to both the grower and the processor.”
A further £15,000
A further £15,000 has been awarded to biotechnology company NNFCC to conduct a three-month techno-economic feasibility study to investigate the potential for a poly lactic acid (PLA) plant in the UK.
PLA has gained a foothold in the global plastics supply chain in recent years and is used in many applications from compostable packaging for the food industry to durable automotive plastics.
Both studies are being funded after the HGCA issued a call for proposals last December.
The call invited research proposals to help exploit opportunities presented by co-products and by-products of existing arable production in the production of bio-based platform chemicals and fine chemicals. A budget of £250,000 was available.