SCIENTISTS who have managed to match the flavour and scent of grapefruit in their laboratories have won a £10,000 investment.

Abingdon-based Oxford Biotrans was named a winner in the Royal Society of Chemistry's Emerging Technologies Competition, in the food and drink category.

The Oxford University spin-out company received the award for developing a product called Nootkatone, which produces the taste and smell of grapefruit.

Using an enzymatic process, its team converts a type of citrus extract obtained from oranges called valencene, producing a 'natural' end product with a transformed flavour.

Oxford Biotrans chief executive Jason King said: "We are absolutely delighted to receive the award.

"It's somewhat unexpected because I was thinking this is an award for technologies that are just beginning to come out of the lab, whereas actually we've been on that journey for five years now.

"It's really nice to get recognition for the work we've put in, and also the recognition that 'emerging', as a technology, is sometimes something that takes time."

The ingredient Nootkatone naturally occurs in grapefruit and several other plants and creates the characteristic smell of the fruit.

Its uses are versatile for an array of foods and beverage products as well as with fragrances and cosmetics.

Oxford Biotrans, which is based in Milton Park, will receive tailored business support from the competition's multinational partner companies, as well as business training, media support and a cash prize of £10,000.

Finalists had to pitch their ideas to a panel of expert judges at Chemistry Means Business last week, an event which celebrates and recognises the most innovative companies in the country.

Two winners were announced in each of the four categories: food and drink, health, materials and enabling technologies, and energy and the environment.

In the latter, another Oxfordshire company was hailed a winner for its work developing an evaporator.

Oxford nanoSystems Ltd, based at Harwell Science Campus near Didcot, gained recognition for creating an evaporator that is 70 per cent smaller than a traditional unit, and uses 70 per cent less energy and refrigerant to work.

The idea was developed to help keep the things cool without producing unnecessary heat, and can be used in air conditioning and fridge systems.

Oxford nanoSystems Ltd has decided that the prize money should benefit the education of its students and interns.

Andrew Anderson, a research fellow at the company, said: "I honestly did not expect to win – there were so many incredible companies that were pitching that are doing such incredible work, with so many different aspects.

"We have decided that the prize we have won will go towards our placement students and our interns, allowing them to do work that is very interesting, not just for our company but also academically, so they can say that this is something that they've achieved.

"When I first graduated I really struggled to find work because I didn't have any experience, so it’s great to be able to give interesting internship placements to students, help them get jobs elsewhere and help them with their career."

Aurora Antemir, head of industry at the Royal Society of Chemistry, said being named a winner in the competition is 'no mean feat'.

She added: "As one of only 39 companies shortlisted across four categories, getting to the final stage in itself is a significant achievement."

Chemistry Means Business is the Royal Society of Chemistry’s flagship event for the industry.

The Emerging Technology Competition has previously seen university groups spin out into promising businesses, companies expand overseas, enter commercial contracts, and conduct large trials.

As well as highlighting the innovations at the award ceremony, the event connects start-ups, small and medium-sized enterprises, academics and entrepreneurs with multinational corporations.

Previous winners have gone on to raise a combined £31m in investment and grant funding, collectively doubled employee numbers, attracted licence deals and secured international expansion projects.

Dr Antemir added: "Winning is a terrific opportunity for both companies, having proved to be a fantastic springboard for several previous winners."