A pioneering method to detect fake whisky through the bottle using space technology has been crowned the Food and Drink iNet Innovation Champion 2011.

Developed by The University of Leicester Space Research Centre, the technology was described by the judges as ‘a fascinating project that has huge potential for the food and drink sector’.

“Since news of the research was released earlier this year it has created interest around the world. Not only does it have great potential for fighting the war against counterfeit whisky, wine and other liquids, it also has the potential to transfer to other areas such as airport security,” they said. “It is wonderful to see such ground-breaking research being carried out in the East Midlands which will have such important implications for the food and drink sector.”

As well as receiving the Campden BRI-sponsored Innovation Champion 2011 award, The University of Leicester team, who developed the technology in association with university spin-out company Perpetuity Group, had earlier in the evening also been awarded the title of Most Innovative Research Project.

The accolade for Most Innovative Food and Drink Business went to Nottingham bakery manufacturer Butt Foods, for the way it had shown application and drive by introducing innovative business practices that had achieved 40% sales growth in six months.

The judges said: “The company has demonstrated innovative business practices by giving back to their customers. It has become an example to others of how innovation can impact on business performance.”

Lincolnshire company Libaeration, from Butterwick near Boston, was given the title of Most Innovative Business Supplying into the Food and Drink Sector for the development of the world’s first alcoholic foam. The foam, which is used to enhance coffee, desserts, cocktails and other drinks, is expected to have a wide impact on the bar, catering and hospitality trades as well as drink manufacturers and packaging manufacturers.

The judges said: “This is a new product that has tremendous export potential. It could be huge, as there’s potential for the technology to be applied to other products too.”

The awards were presented by TV presenter, writer and food critic Jay Rayner in front of around 100 guests from across the East Midlands and beyond at a ceremony at Nottingham Conference Centre, Burton Street, Nottingham.

Organised by the Food and Drink iNet, the Innovation Awards aimed to recognise and reward the most exciting ways that businesses and organisations had introduced innovation.

“This is the fourth year we have held the Food and Drink iNet Innovation Awards and once again we have had a really exciting batch of winners,” said Food and Drink iNet director Richard Worrall.

“This demonstrates the world-beating innovations in the food and drink sector that are being developed in the East Midlands. The shortlisted candidates have shown that innovation takes many different forms, and I hope it inspires others to think about ways that innovation could be introduced into their own organisations.”

Part funded by 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. 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 Quotec Ltd (formerly 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.

Issued by Nottingham PR company Perfect 10 PR www.perfect10pr.co.uk