Biofuel technology breakthrough by Galway firm

7 Aug 2007

An NUI Galway campus company, formed on the back of campus research, has attracted investment from a Canadian firm active in the biofuels sector.

Canadian firm Micromill System Inc will invest €10m in the technology developed at NUI Galway by Eirzyme, which is backed by Enterprise Ireland.

The new company will produce low-cost enzymes to convert biological materials such as brewers’ grains into bioethanol and biogas. These renewable fuels produce environmental benefits by reducing overall emissions of greenhouse gases and are sustainable alternatives to petrol and diesel.

“There has been considerable industrial interest in the patented technology developed by Dr Maria Tuohy and her research team at NUI Galway,” Dr Daniel O’Mahony, director of technology transfer at NUI Galway explained.

“The formation of Eirzyme is the first step towards unlocking the inherent commercial potential of their breakthroughs. Eirzyme will have global reach and we are confident that the company will make a valuable contribution to addressing future energy needs.”

The ultimate goal for Eirzyme is to set up a large-scale enzyme production facility that will manufacture specific enzyme cocktails to work on a range of raw materials.

O’Mahony explained that without funding from Enterprise Ireland and other agencies the breakthrough technology would never have emerged.

He said in the past 12 months, the university has executed eight licence agreements across different industry sectors.

“Through our commercialisation fund and our commercialisation specialists we have been working with NUI Galway to find a route to market for this excellent technology,” said Dr Paul Roben, director of life sciences and food commercialisation at Enterprise Ireland. “We are very excited about the potential of this venture.”

By John Kennedy