Entries are now being accepted for the 2012 Food and Drink iNet Innovation Awards which recognise and reward the brightest ideas in the East Midlands food and drink sector.

Last year’s overall winner, which received the title of Campden BRI Innovation Champion 2011, was a team from the University of Leicester Space Research Centre, who applied space technology to allow the detection of fake whisky through the bottle.

Tim Maskell, from the university, said that news of the award win had brought publicity and interest from around the world, as well as potential customers for the technology and additional investment.

“The team at the University of Leicester were very proud and honoured that their Spectral ID counterfeit detection project was chosen as Innovation Champion, as well as Champion of Champions, in the 2011 Food and Drink iNet awards,” he said.

“This is an exciting project for the authentication of high value consumer drinks – such as whisky – that does not require opening the bottle. As a result of winning the awards last November we have received much publicity and interest in our novel test from around the world. In particular we have received serious enquiries from potential early adopters in the whisky and fine wine markets. We have been successful in raising new investment to fund further product development, and have recently established a new spin out company as the vehicle for the wider commercial exploitation of our technology.

“We are very grateful to the Food and Drink iNet for their encouragement and support without which this would not have happened.”

Being held for the fifth year, the awards recognise and reward the use of innovation in the region’s food and drink sector as a way of boosting development, profitability and growth.

There are four categories this year – business growth, new product development, positive impact, and collaboration. Winners of all categories will be revealed at a glittering awards ceremony and gala dinner in November before one of the winners is crowned Campden BRI Innovation Champion 2012.

Entries are being invited from companies, researchers and individuals across Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire and Rutland.

Food and Drink iNet director Richard Worrall said: “We are delighted to hear that winning the title of Campden BRI Innovation Champion 2011 at last year’s Food and Drink iNet Innovation Awards brought so many benefits to the team at the University of Leicester.

“Our annual innovation awards are free to enter, and create great, positive exposure for the short-listed and winning companies and organisations. We’re looking forward to hearing about the exciting projects and developments that are currently going on, and I’d urge companies, individuals and researchers to enter as soon as possible.”

Forms are available to download from the iNet section of the Food and Drink Forum website www.foodanddrinkforum.co.uk and need to be submitted by August 17th 2012.

A range of sponsorship opportunities are also available, including award categories and table sponsorship, which will provide valuable promotion in front of food and drink professionals from across the East Midlands.

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 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.

For more information about the iNet visit www.foodanddrink-inet.org.uk

For further information about the Innovation Awards or sponsorship opportunities call 0115 9758810.

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