The Dairy Processing Technology Centre (DPTC) of the School of Food and Nutritional Sciences at University College Cork (UCC), Ireland, is a center of excellence for dairy processing research and innovation. The centre helps to fuel growth in the Irish dairy sector by performing research focused on cost-efficient processing, facilitating a step-change in environmental sustainability and creating, validating and commercialising a pipeline of science and technology-based manufacturing platforms for dairy ingredients. The production of traditional dairy products, such as cheese, generates large quantities of low-value side-streams (e.g. whey). Due to its high levels of organic matter, these side-streams present processing and environmental challenges. To address this fact a wide-range of whey-based ingredients are currently produced, both for food applications (e.g., whey-protein-isolates, used in nutritional supplements) or non-food-grade and within a biorefinery concept (e.g., bioethanol and bioplastics). Additionally, the DPTC industry partners are increasingly concerned with the environmental challenges of their byproducts. Finding new solutions, either food-grade or not, for their low-value side-streams, is part of a strategic path towards a more sustainable production and environment.  

Bringing in the suitable experience, skills and expertise is one step forward to increase the success rate of any project. This can be achieved through external collaborations, which brings the opportunity to exchange transferable skills and promote the work of all the collaborators. By providing opportunities for international collaboration and fostering a culture of co-operation in addition to giving access to unique expertise and equipment, the Biofuels Research Infrastructure for Sharing Knowledge (BRISK2) offers a transnational access to several research partners’ research work packages, including advanced measurement techniques. From the BRISK2 partners list, the BBRI facility from LNEG in Portugal, was the one providing the expertise and advanced analytical instrumentation, i.e., Capillary Electrophoresis (CE), desired for this project and which is currently missing within our research group. In the attempt of acquiring such proficiency, a collaboration between DPTC-UCC and BBRI-LNEG, under the supervision of Dr. Luisa Roseiro, was proposed and successfully granted. 

The work propose, was focused on the development, optimisation and application of an advanced analytical methodology by CE, for dairy-waste protein profile. Dairy by-products, have a very complex matrix which makes its characterisation a difficult task.  Protein analysis can be a complicated and time-consuming task, however, CE has found application in a number of important areas of food analysis, including biochemical analysis of proteins. Therefore, the development of a successful analytical methodology for the rapid identification and quantification of whey-proteins in dairy side-streams will give the dairy industry the opportunity to engage in a more sustainable strategy for low-value side-streams.  

By addressing the current research gaps and commercial spheres in respect to adding-value to under-utilised whey-protein-based streams, this study contributed to the overall objectives of BRISK2, not only for the international collaboration on research-activities and the advanced analytical technique involved, but also for innovating bio-refining approaches for sustainable bio-based products.  

The work developed at BBRI-LNEG included the samples preparation and the method setting, troubleshooting and optimisation, in addition to samples analysis. The necessary equipment, materials and facilities were provided as well as the adequate training and guidance. Overall, a method for whey protein identification and quantification was successfully developed and optimised and the objectives of the work packaged proposed fully achieved. The results have also shown the potential of CE, not only for protein analysis but also for lactose and potentially specific bioactive lipids, such as phospholipids. This requires further investigation and suggests new collaboration opportunities in the future.