Scientists at IT Sligo are providing the research for a new business venture which is developing an Irish equivalent of Manuka Honey.

Through the Enterprise Ireland Innovation Voucher Scheme, three of the Institute’s scientists – Dr James Brennan, Dr Tom Patton and Dr John Barrett – are assisting three Donegal-based businessmen in developing the business, which won the 2013 Taste of Donegal Best Product of the Festival recently.

‘Active Irish Honey’ is the brainchild of Conor Daly, Carl Diver and Austin Duignan.  Irish honey has the same activity levels – and therefore therapeutic benefits – as the world-famous Manuka Honey, they say, and tests underway at IT Sligo verify it.

Dr James Brennan, Head of Department of Life Sciences at IT Sligo, and lecturers Dr Patton and Dr Barrett, have gained international recognition for their research into honey. Dr Brennan says the research findings are ‘exciting’; “We’re testing the honey against international standards, using the Phenol standard test, and the results are exciting.  We can determine the activity level of the honey, as well as the season and plants that produce the highest activity levels,” he said.

Conor Daly, who is also a beekeeper in his spare time, says that the potential for the market is huge; “Irish consumers want to buy local products for a variety of reasons, not least because it supports jobs locally. The more local the honey the more effective it is believed to be in preventing the symptoms of allergies. Many hay fever sufferers for instance get great relief from consuming locally produced honey. “We envisage that this concept will be rolled out nationally to honey producers around the country,” he said.

Active Irish Honey is currently involved in a market research study and Daly says the response from consumers has been phenomenal; “We conducted consumer testing at the Donegal Taste Festival at the end of August and we were blown away by the interest from the public and the hospitality sector. We were delighted to win the Best Product Award and we’re looking ahead to moving the product and concept to market.”

The expertise provided by IT Sligo in the process has been invaluable, he says; “Getting the scientific verification for the product is vital and we are so fortunate to have some of the country’s most experienced researcher in this area located on our doorstep. The access to academic expertise through the innovation Voucher Scheme is a powerful resource for any start-up business.”

As well as the Innovation Voucher-funded research at IT Sligo, Active Irish Honey has also received 50 per cent grant funding from the Donegal Enterprise Board and support from Letterkenny Institute of Technology’s CoLab.