Bakery businesses are being urged to apply for a new £750,000 research fund from Coeliac UK and Innovate UK.

Researchers and firms have until 3 September to apply for grants of up to £250k, as part of a wider move to identify ways to produce better gluten-free food, less invasive diagnostic tests and digital self-care tools for people with coeliac disease and gluten-related autoimmune conditions.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for businesses and researchers to develop competitive advantages that will be of benefit to a badly underserved patient group,” said Sarah Sleet, chief executive of Coeliac UK. “We have had a number of interested parties contact us, keen to get involved in the funding opportunities, and we encourage more applications.”

Kathryn Miller, lead for food and nutrition at UK innovation agency Innovate UK, added: “This is a new partnership for Innovate UK, working with high-profile third-sector organisations such as Coeliac UK, so it’s great to see good levels of interest in this competition. I would encourage others who may be thinking of applying not to miss out on such an exciting opportunity.”

In March, as part of the charity’s 50th anniversary activities, Coeliac UK launched the Research Fund and accompanying fundraising appeal, aimed at raising £5m to change the future for people with coeliac disease and gluten-related autoimmune conditions.

The push has been backed by the charity’s patron, actress Caroline Quentin, who was diagnosed with coeliac disease three years ago.

Coeliac disease is a serious illness where the body’s immune system reacts to gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye and barley, making the body attack itself. 

According to Coeliac UK, one in 100 people in the UK has coeliac disease, but the average time to diagnosis is 13 years.

One in four people diagnosed with coeliac disease had previously been told they had Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).