Drinks entrepreneur Claire Hall is ready to speed up production of her alcoholic iced tea range after receiving an Innovation Support Grant (ISG) from the Food and Drink iNet.

Claire has been hand producing her two flavours since launching Drink It Limited six years ago. But the £4,600 ISG has helped her to research the best equipment to automate the process, and now she is hoping to move the business forward.

“Manually I can produce 300 bottles a day, but it’s a struggle and not consistent,” explained Claire. “The Food and Drink iNet Innovation Support Grant has helped me to find out what equipment I need to automate the process. Now I need to invest in the equipment.”

Claire, who is based at Kirton Holme, near Boston, worked with experts at Nottingham Trent University on trials and tests to pinpoint the most suitable brewing vessels for her alcoholic iced tea, which is a blend of fruit juice, iced tea and vodka.

The equipment chosen will allow her to produce 2,000 bottles a day.

“The process will be less manual, the product will be more consistent and I will be complying with all the regulations,” added Claire. “The ISG has enabled me to go to the next stage in my business. Now I am looking to secure investment.”

Claire produces the Percy’s range of alcoholic iced tea. She currently has two flavours – mango and lemon and lime – but she hopes to expand the range in the future and use seasonal and local fruits to create new flavours.

The Innovation Support Grant also allowed her to work with University of Nottingham spin-out company Flavometrix.

The Food and Drink iNet Lincolnshire business adviser Rachel Linstead said: “Innovation Support Grants are designed to encourage innovation in businesses, and Claire’s plans for Drink It Limited are the perfect example of how innovation, in this case by automation, can help a business to develop.”

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.

Around £250,000 in Innovation Support Grants has been allocated to around 50 food and drink firms across the East Midlands by the Food and Drink iNet since the iNet was launched in 2008. The iNet hopes to have more funding allocated as part of a new contract in 2010, said Peter Maycock, Food and Drink iNet project director.

Firms wanting more information should contact the Food and Drink iNet on 0845 521 2066 or visit www.foodanddrink-inet.org.uk

For information about support for innovation that is available in the East Midlands, visit www.eminnovation.org.uk