Nottingham Trent University’s School of Science and Technology has been crowned the Food and Drink iNet Innovation Champion 2009 for the development of an exciting new material for food and drink packaging.

Experts at the university successfully solved the problem of leaching in bottles and have taken the technology a step further to add antimicrobial properties which kill or lessen micro-organisms.

During a gala dinner and awards ceremony at Athena in Leicester, the university’s School of Science and Technology was presented with The Food and Drink Forum Innovation Champion 2009 award by TV presenter, writer and foodie Hardeep Singh Kohli.

The judges said of the project: “This has the potential to revolutionise the packaging industry and represents a big shift in thinking.”

A number of other awards were also presented during the evening, which attracted 150 representatives from across the East Midlands food and drink sector and was designed to celebrate the uptake and implementation of innovation in the industry in the region.

The winner of the University of Lincoln National Centre for Food Manufacturing Award for Most Innovative SME Food and Drink Manufacturer went to Thornbridge Brewery, Ashford in the Water, Derbyshire. The producer of high quality craft beers launched in 2005 in a ten barrel brewery, and has just opened a new 30 barrel brewery and bottling line after demand outstripped supply.

Judges said: “It is good to see an SME using state-of-the-art technology. We applaud the proactive approach of the brewery’s business drive.”

The winner of the Campden BRI Award for Most Innovative Business across the Food and Drink Supply Chain was presented to Eistechnik, Loughborough, Leicestershire, for the development and advancement of eutectic refrigeration units for trucks, which are more environmentally friendly and less noisy than traditional transport refrigeration methods.

Judges said: “The adaptation of ‘forgotten’ technology ticks all the right innovation and environmental boxes to make this a worthy winner.”

– The CenFRA Award for Most Innovative Research Project was presented to Nottingham Trent University, School of Science and Technology for adapting existing technology to create an innovative solution to solve leaching problems in bottles, and for taking the technology a step further by adding antimicrobial properties which kill or lessen micro-organisms. This project also went on to win The Food and Drink Forum Innovation Champion 2009 award.

Judges said: “After providing a real evidence of need, this research offers a solution that has the potential to transform the packaging industry.”

The Food Processing Faraday Award for Most Innovative Large Food and Drink Manufacturer went to Marshalls (part of the Produce World Group), Butterwick, Boston, for the development of a sweeter tasting broccoli, known as bellaverde® and launched in July 2009, created in conjunction with Seminis, the largest developer, grower and marketer of fruit and vegetable seeds.

Judges said: “Lots of determination and effort has been shown to create a new breed of broccoli to be grown in the UK, rather than import one.”

The Nottingham Trent University Award for Most Innovative Business in the Wider Food Sector was presented to Mem Saab, for the establishment of their own tandoori and Indian cuisine skills centre to train chefs for their five tandoori restaurants in the Midlands, including the latest addition to the group, High Cross Restaurant in Leicester. The group has Mem Saab restaurants in Leicester, Northampton, Leamington Spa and Banbury, and trades under the name of City Buffet, Friar Lane, Nottingham.

Judges said: “This represents a proactive approach in addressing a skills shortage problem.”

Peter Maycock, Project Director for the Food and Drink iNet, said: “The Food and Drink iNet Innovation Awards have once again shown the high standard of research and enterprise that is being undertaken in the food and drink sector in the East Midlands. We have been delighted to see the exciting range of innovation, and congratulate all the winners.”

The Food and Drink iNet is aiming to foster innovation in the region’s food and drink sector by encouraging businesses to turn new ideas into new business through the development of new technologies and products. It’s also hoping to stimulate new processes, services and ways of working in the industry to help boost the sector.

Funded by East Midlands Development Agency (emda), the Food and Drink iNet is managed by a consortium, led by the Food & Drink Forum and including Food Processing Faraday, Nottingham Trent University, the University of Lincoln, and the University of Nottingham.

David Wallace, Innovation Director at East Midlands Development Agency (emda), said: “This year we have seen innovation in areas as diverse as the development of antimicrobial agents to kill micro-organisms in bottles, to more environmentally-friendly refrigeration systems – and even the creation of a new form of broccoli.

“These awards demonstrate that businesses in the food and drink sector in the East Midlands are at the forefront of the development and implementation of new and exciting ideas. This is why we believe that it is so important to support and promote innovation in the region through the iNet. I hope that other entrepreneurs in the industry will be inspired by the tremendous achievements of all of the winners and nominees.”