Professor Richard Mithen of the Institute of Food Research was a finalist in the BBSRC Innovator of the Year Awards for the development of Beneforte broccoli, a consumer product from UK plant research.
The new broccoli variety contains higher levels of a key phytonutrient thanks to Prof. Mithen and colleagues’ research on both the biology of plants and the link between human nutrition and health. Professor Mithen was nominated in the Best Social Innovator Category.
Through conventional breeding techniques the new broccoli contains two to three times the level of the phytonutrient glucoraphanin compared to standard broccoli. Glucoraphanin is a beneficial chemical that is found naturally in broccoli and is thought to help explain the link between eating broccoli and lower rates of heart disease and some forms of cancer. Glucoraphanin also leads to a boost in the body’s antioxidant enzyme levels.
The broccoli was developed from publicly-funded research at two of the UK’s world-leading biological research institutes: the Institute of Food Research and the John Innes Centre. It was launched in Marks and Spencer stores in the UK in October 2011 and will become more widely available in other supermarkets during summer 2012.
Plant Bioscience Limited helped to build the development partnerships with the seeds, farming and grocery industries to bring Beneforté to market.
The BBSRC Innovator of the Year Award is a competition designed to recognise and reward scientists who are ensuring that the UK’s excellent bioscience research is translated into outcomes that positively affect quality of life for everyone. In total nine finalists competed in three categories to be named BBSRC Innovator of the Year at an award ceremony in London on March 28th. The awards were presented by the Rt Hon Dr Vince Cable MP, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills and President of the Board of Trade.
This is the second successive year that a researcher from IFR has been nominated for a BBSRC Innovator Award. IFR’s Keith Waldron was named as most promising innovator in 2011, for his work developing a novel peat replacement from food chain wastes.