Organisers of this year’s Food and Drink iNet (Innovation Network) Innovation Awards are reminding firms, individuals and researchers connected to the East Midlands food and drink sector that entries close in a month.

Previous winners have gained a string of benefits after scooping an accolade in the annual awards including media exposure, raised profiles in the industry and the chance to network with those who work in the sector.

Food critic Jay Rayner, who is perhaps best known for his Observer food column, will be the guest speaker at the Innovation Awards ceremony, which will be held on November 17th at Nottingham Conference Centre, Burton Street, Nottingham.

Being held for the fourth year, the Innovation Awards aim to reward some of the most exciting innovations in the East Midlands food and drink industry.

Previous winners have included the development of a new material for food and drink packaging that featured non-leaching and antimicrobial properties, the invention of modified salt crystals to create a more intense flavour from less salt and thus allow a reduction in salt used in manufacturing, and the development of a sweet-tasting broccoli.

Now the hunt is on across Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire and Rutland for entries to the 2011 awards, which need to be in by September 30th.

The Food and Drink iNet Innovation Awards have three categories open to firms, organisations and individuals working across the food and drink sector. They are – Most Innovative Food and Drink Business, Most Innovative Business Supplying into the Food and Drink Sector and Most Innovative Research Project.

The Campden BRI Innovation Champion 2011 will be chosen from the winner of the three categories.

“In previous years we’ve had some really interesting winners, and we’re looking forward to this year’s entries,” said Food and Drink iNet director Richard Worrall. “We want to celebrate the different ways that food and drink firms are innovating and the exciting research that’s being carried out in the region.”

Forms to enter the Innovation Awards are available to download from the iNet section of the Food and Drink Forum website

Funded by East Midlands Development Agency (emda) and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the Food and Drink iNet co-ordinates innovation support for businesses, universities and individuals working in the food and drink sector in the East Midlands. One of four iNets, it has developed an effective network to encourage the collaboration of academic expertise and knowledge, and local food and drink business innovation needs.

It aims to build on the tradition of innovation in the food and drink industry in the region by helping to create opportunities to develop knowledge and skills, and to help research, develop and implement new products, markets, services and processes.

The Food and Drink iNet is managed by a consortium, led by The Food and Drink Forum and including Food Processing Faraday, Nottingham Trent University, the University of Lincoln, and the University of Nottingham. It is based at Southglade Food Park, Nottingham, with advisors covering the East Midlands region.

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