Coeliac disease charity Coeliac UK has launched a £750,000 funding project to boost research into gluten-free food production for UK manufacturers.

The charity will provide grants from £50,000 to £250,000, aimed at researchers and businesses investing in projects designed to help people suffering from coeliac disease.

Coeliac UK obtained an investment of £500,000 from non-departmental public body Innovate UK to support the research competition. The rest of the funding will be provided by the charity itself.

Coeliac UK chief executive Sarah Sleet said: “With the global diagnosis for coeliac disease increasing year on year, this is a chance for UK business and researchers to get ahead and develop competitive advantages in innovation which will be of benefit to a badly underserved patient group.”

Food manufacturers hoping to receive a grant will need to provide evidence of the production of healthy and affordable gluten-free food. Such measures include the use of original ingredients, foods with improved nutritional profiles, and new production techniques.

Companies must also demonstrate innovation in processing efficiency so that foods can be produced at a lower cost, and take of advantage of new technologies to improve shelf life.

Innovate UK head of agriculture and food Calum Murray said: “By funding great new ideas, which will help diagnose and care for people with coeliac disease, and by encouraging tasty new developments in gluten-free food, this competition promises to make a real difference.

“Not just for those living with coeliac disease but it will help fuel innovation in our food and health sectors–crucial components of the government’s industrial strategy.”

The funding is divided into three categories. Firstly, food companies can receive a grant in order to enhance the quality of gluten-free foods. This entails creating more nutritious products at a low cost using novel ingredients, new methods, and innovative processing. The second funding category requires companies to improve coeliac disease diagnostics by developing less invasive methods to improve diagnosis rates and lead to early effective treatment. Lastly, businesses can receive funding to develop digital tools to help improve self-care of coeliac disease.