The missions of Actilait, the Technical Institute of Milk and Dairy Products, are to gain a clearer understanding of and to optimize farm, locally-made or industrial products from ruminant milk, control and enhance the products. The national organization, which can be found in 10 French départements and which has extensive operations in Franche-Comté, actively participated in the birth of the Vitagora competitive cluster and its cheese sector. Since then, Actilait has been strongly committed to the development of several cluster accredited projects, such as FROMSANTE, COLZAUPROT, COAG and recently HISTOL.
"Actilait was the outcome of an initiative by CNIEL, ANICAP and CNAOL  and was in line with the January 2006 agricultural policy law," recalled Eric Notz, Actilait Regional Delegate and Facilitator at the Poligny Joint Technology Unit. In 2008, 4 technical centers, Institut Technique Français des Fromages (ITFF), Centre d'expertise et de contrôle des analyses laitières (Cecalait), Institut technique des produits laitiers caprins (ITPLC) and Centre fromager de Carmejane were brought together within Actilait. Actilait is administered by representatives of the initial organizations, dairy or cheese trade organizations and users. The Institute can be found in ten départements  and has about one hundred associates working out of 7 competitive clusters .
Mamirolle and Poligny, Actilait's Two Sites in Franche-Comté
Based on two sites - Mamirolle (Doubs) and Poligny (Jura) - Actilait has extensive business roots in Franche-Comté. "35% of the staff work there and earn more than 35% of Actilait's sales figure," Eric Notz explained. At Mamirolle, Actilait activity covers two analytical sectors, food microbiology and dairy chemistry under the commercial name Larf. More than 200 customers, including all the French dairy groups and numerous small dairy and food-processing businesses and industries, can draw on the special skills and expertise that can map the analytical ID card of each dairy product.
At Poligny, "Actilait's center of dairy analysis expertise and control (under the name Cecalait) is the laboratory for laboratories," explained Philippe Trossat, Actilait site manager. The center provides services helping to improve the quality of analysis results with the supply of certified content samples for the control of analysis methods or equipment calibrating, with inter-laboratory aptitude tests and analytical expertise. Therefore, Cecalait is the preferred laboratory of the French national inter-professional center for the dairy economy and dairy professionals (CNIEL). It is involved in the research of several standardization organizations in France (AFNOR) and abroad (ISO and FIL). A large share of its activity is also devoted to research and development to contribute to the design of new analytical techniques or to improve current methods.
Actilait's Franche-Comté based technological cluster provides dairy expertise covering raw materials, production and finished products. The services optimizing yield and quality and backing innovation are carried out at artisan, farming and industrial workshops to provide customized assistance for solving technological, sensory quality, nutritional or health problems of the produced products. "Our service may involve designing and conducting tests and setting up monitoring tools of quality and technological control parameters," said Eric Notz.
Interface between Research and Dairy Professionals
As part of its general interest missions, Actilait is also involved in dairy research. Working with INRA and ISBA, it runs the Joint Technology Unit (JTU) 'Cheese Quality Control: the impact of processing practices before ripening'. "To date, the JTU is in charge of more than ten research projects dedicated to cheese technology," he explained. Actilait, a true interface between research and dairy professionals, which also draws on the favorable Franche-Comté environment through organizations such as INRA, CTFC (Centre Technique des Fromages Comtois, technical center of Comté cheeses) and ENILs (Ecoles Nationales d'Industrie Laitière, national dairy industry schools), is also part of regional networks such as ARIATT Franche-Comté and R23AE and is actively involved in the Vitagora competitive cluster. "The cluster has helped us find local expertise and skills that we were not aware of and that, until now, we went looking for in other regions," reported Eric Notz.
 French acronyms:
- CNIEL: Centre national inter-professionnel de l'économie laitère
- ANICAP: Association nationale interprofessionnelle caprine (National inter-professional association for goat farming and products)
- CNAOL: Conseil national des appellations d'origine laitières (national board of protected designation of origin for dairy products)
 Ain, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, Cantal, Charente-Maritime, Doubs, Ile-et-Vilaine, Jura, Haute-Savoie, Paris and Val-de-Marne
 Microorganisms for dairy purposes cluster, Cheese and dairy technological cluster, Sensory studies and marketing cluster, Analyses cluster, Health safety cluster, Standardization and processing cluster, training and documentation cluster