Food and drink businesses in the East Midlands with bright ideas for innovation are being urged to come forward to apply for a share of a £100,000 pot of funding available via The Food and Drink iNet.

The iNet, which covers Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire, Nottinghamshire and Rutland, has been helping companies in the food and drink sector to introduce new products and new ways of working since 2008.

Now it has announced that around £100,000 is available over the coming financial year to provide grants of 40% towards innovation projects to eligible small and medium-sized companies.

Part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the iNet is now looking for suitable projects to support and is appealing for manufacturing companies to come forward with their ideas.

“Innovation can take many different forms,” said Food and Drink iNet director Richard Worrall. “It may be new product development, introducing a new business strategy or adapting working processes to boost growth.

“We have supported around 600 companies with advice since we launched, and have given more than 80 grants to small or medium-sized businesses to help with innovation and growth projects. The East Midlands food and drink sector has a strong pedigree of innovation and the iNet is keen to support it going forward.”

Among those who have received grants in the past are Dragons’ Den participant Rico Mexican Kitchen, which was founded in Derbyshire and is now based in Nottingham, and Nottinghamshire firm Eminate Ltd, which developed a unique way of modifying salt to create a more intense flavour from smaller quantities.

Other companies that have been given grants include Leicester-based Shelton Imports, which was able to move into new markets as a result of the support, Northamptonshire-based The Pickled Village, which received orders from top London stores after iNet help, and Lincolnshire firm Libaeration, which developed the world’s first alcoholic foam.

Grants are available to companies working in food and drink or the supply chain, but excluding primary producers, retailers and restaurants, unless they are looking to start manufacturing.

“Not only is this good news for food and drink manufacturers but it may also be of interest to consultants working in the sector who are helping clients to implement new ways of working or new products,” said Richard Worrall.

The Food and Drink iNet, which is based at Southglade Food Park, Nottingham, with a team of advisors across the East Midlands, is managed by a consortium, led by The Food and Drink Forum and including Nottingham Trent University, the University of Lincoln, and the University of Nottingham.

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