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Leader of the pack(aging)

An innovative approach to sustainable food packaging saw Teagasc’s Shivani Pathania receive recognition at this year’s UCC SPRINT Awards, with commercialisation for her concept next on the agenda.

At UCC’s 2023 SPRINT Awards, all of the top accolades were awarded to female researchers. Among the winners was Teagasc Researcher Shivani Pathania. Shivani was accepted into UCC’s SPRINT Accelerator programme last year, thanks to the close partnership between Teagasc and UCC technology transfer functions. She was the proud recipient of the ‘Sustainability Award’ with her Clean Green Packaging Technology, whereby establishment of a spin-out company is being considered as its commercialisation vehicle.

TResearch Summer 2023

Teagasc Researcher Shivani Pathania with her SPRINT Award

Shivani’s current role in the Food Industry Development Department at Teagasc Food Research Centre, Ashtown, involves supporting the prepared consumer food (PCF) industry through the provision of technical and consultancy services, and contract research. It was during such PCF industry engagements that Shivani recognised the multiple challenges faced by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) related to their packaging needs. More than 90% of food businesses in Ireland are SMEs, and they feel challenged to reduce food waste, and to improve operational efficiency and production automation.

As 68% of Irish SMEs are actively working towards reducing packaging use, this led Shivani to identify a gap in the market. With her concept for a novel sustainable packaging solution for small ready-to-eat food manufacturers, she secured internal Teagasc support to develop a first prototype.

Aligned with sustainability goals

Shivani’s Clean Green Packaging Technology can provide an eco-friendly, sustainable packaging solution for gas-flushed ready-to-eat and ready-to-heat (RTE/RTH) products, suitable for SMEs. The semi-automatic machine features a novel nozzle design that can introduce modified atmosphere into the plastic pots, preserving and extending the shelf life of the food products, without the use of plastic film.

Shivani’s innovation offers a solution that addresses the issue of both food waste and plastic waste. Not only is it in line with Teagasc’s own climate action strategy pillar on circular food systems, but it further aligns with the UN Sustainable Development Goal to ensure responsible consumption and production patterns, as well as EU strategy on zero-landfill waste by 2025. All of this makes netting the Sustainability Award a truly deserving win.

Further to engagement with Engage@Teagasc, in 2022 Shivani secured funding through the Teagasc START Fund, which was set up to bring early-stage technologies closer to market as a basis for new companies. By using this to optimise the design and validate shelf life extension capabilities for a range of RTE products, the prototype is now closer to market, and the next step may be to seek commercialisation funding from Enterprise Ireland.

Connecting with entrepreneurs

With an interest in developing business knowledge and entrepreneurial skills, and securing further funding/investment for her spin out idea, Shivani was accepted into 2022 SPRINT, which UCC runs for its researchers to help potential and early stage spin-out companies overcome challenges they may encounter when starting businesses.

Shivani says: “As a participant of UCC SPRINT, I was delighted to receive this award, and really benefitted from participation in such an excellent programme and connecting with like-minded researchers.

I had the opportunity to connect with serial entrepreneurs as business mentors, learn from their invaluable experiences, draft business canvases, perfect my business pitch, and equip myself with the tools to navigate the uncertainties of the entrepreneurial journey.”

Teagasc and Shivani are grateful to UCC for opening SPRINT to select Teagasc researchers since 2020. Shivani added: “Myriam Cronin, who runs the UCC SPRINT programme, demonstrates remarkable insight in understanding the unique journeys of participants and tailoring the modules to their specific requirements. I am so grateful to UCC and Myriam for this invaluable opportunity.”

The entrepreneurial journey may have only started for Shivani but she is excited by the prospect of it. With an award won and investors already keen to engage, the future looks bright for Shivani and her Clean Green Packaging Technology.


Internal Teagasc funding for the initial prototype. The author wishes to thank UCC’s SPRINT programme and primarily Myriam Cronin of UCC Innovation.


Miriam Walsh, Head of Intellectual Property, Teagasc Oak Park.

Photo courtesy of UCC Innovation.