Skip to content

Toggle service links

Coronavirus: Please be aware it may take us slightly longer to respond than usual. Find out about our coronavirus response and current contact hours.

You are here

  1. Home
  2. Lessons learnt ‘sniffing’ a comet to enhance the flavours of drinks

Lessons learnt ‘sniffing’ a comet to enhance the flavours of drinks

People drinking beer

Building on the lessons learnt from designing systems for “sniffing” comets in space the OU is supporting Efficiency Technologies Ltd to enhance the flavour analysis process for the UK drinks sector.

Milton Keynes-based business, Efficiency Technologies Ltd, has signed up to the national SPRINT (SPace Research and Innovation Network for Technology) business support programme, for the second time, to develop a commercial analytical capability and novel products for the drinks sector. Efficiency Technologies will continue its collaboration with the OU in a new SPRINT project that will enhance the validation of the source and quality of flavours created by industrial biotechnology, resulting in time and cost savings for production, improvements in product quality and less wastage.

Better beer and whisky

This new SPRINT project will focus on optimising and using novel processing techniques to create, control and modify the flavour profile of distilled spirits and alcohol products such as craft beers and English whisky, and how it can have a major impact on the value of the recovered materials and the time taken to generate new products.

In the initial SPRINT project, Efficiency Technologies collaborated with the OU to improve the analysis involved in chemical extraction processes for use in the UK food and drink sector. This enabled Efficiency Technologies to develop a new low-level analytical method of profiling for use in the production process phase. This monitors the correct levels of critical compounds and ensures that natural variability can be controlled and adapted to provide the highest premium product quality.

Commercial exploitation of space expertise

The project will be funded by a grant from the £5 million SPRINT programme that provides unprecedented access to university space expertise and facilities. SPRINT helps businesses through the commercial exploitation of space data and technologies.

Phil Metcalfe, Founder/Director of Efficiency Technologies said: “Quantifying flavour quality is complex, SPRINT funding provided access to state-of-the-art technology that is both flexible and innovative. SPRINT1 was transformation of our company’s growth path, validating our technological approach and opening new, exciting commercial opportunities. 

“The team, led by Dr Morgan at the OU, were great to work with and gave us fantastic insights into both our product performance and additional ways to enhance the flavour profiles. We have already embedded all of the lessons from the original programme into our commercial system. We are incredibly grateful to the SPRINT programme for enabling further cooperation with The Open University and accelerating our commercialisation journey.” 

Dr Geraint Huw Morgan from the OU’s School of Physical Sciences added: “We’re delighted to be able to further grow our relationship with Phil and his team at Efficiency Technologies Ltd, building on the highly successful commercial outputs from the original SPRINT project. Being selected for a second SPRINT project with Phil indicates that we were able to evidence the huge potential for us to once again deliver impact beyond academia with substantial reach and significance.  

“Building on our heritage of developing space instrumentation, designing and manufacturing ‘sniffing’ systems from scratch to answer complex scientific questions, whilst also taking into consideration the restrictive operational constraints, the team at the OU look forward to developing novel analytical tools that can be used by Efficiency Technologies to develop their own products.

“It is our aim that Phil will also be able to offer these analytical insights and his team’s know-how as a service to the UK craft beer and artisan distilled spirit sector. One thing is for sure – we will have a lot of interesting samples from Phil and it will be fun and exciting project.”

Contact our news team

For all out of hours enquiries, please telephone +44 (0)7901 515891

Contact details

News & articles

Space ship orbiting earth

OU space researchers secure a share of £2 million Research England funding

The Open University’s award-winning space researchers are to benefit from significant new funding awarded by Research England’s Connecting Capability Fund (CCF) to the Space Research and Innovation Network for Technology (SPRINT) programme.

26th July 2021
See all