The influence of inward investment is shown by the fact that a quarter of the winners of the Queen's Award for Export have overseas parent companies. American, German, Scandinavian and Dutch companies have long featured in the list of winners, while a new entry is those with a Japanese parent.

Japanese firms have invested more than US$39 billion in Britain since 1980, a large proportion of the total in manufacturing. Toyota, heading this year's Japanese export winners, was the fifth largest vehicle exporter from Britain. Its effect on the British balance of payments was a positive pounds 444m.

Sony, another famous Japanese name, is one of eight environmental winners. The company is proud of the award which shows a commitment not just to manufacture, but to innovation at its South Wales plant.

The award recognises the gains in a new soldering technique which reduces waste products by 90 per cent by carrying out the process in an atmosphere of nitrogen, rather than oxygen. An initial investment of pounds 250,000 is producing an annual saving of an equivalent amount, while the technique is being exported to other Sony plants around the world.

Panasonic, through its Matsushita manufacturing arm, has entered the select band of double winners for export. Its plant at Thatcham, near Newbury, Berkshire, won an award for the sale of digital mobile telephones, while the company's factory at Cardiff exported record numbers of televisions and microwave ovens. Matsushita employs more than 3,000 workers at its two British factories, with exports to more than 50 countries.

Seinosuke Kuraku, managing director of Matsushita Electric (Europe). says: "The Queen's Awards are recognised around the world as one of the most prestigious awards for businesses to receive. To win not just one, but two, awards in the same year is a tribute to the commitment of our workforce and to the quality of our products."

Whisky may seem like an essentially British product, but celebrations over the second successive export win for Morrison Bowmore Distillers will be celebrated in Toyko as well as its home city of Glasgow. Morrison Bowmore is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Suntory, of Japan. Exports have increased 75 per cent since the first win in 1996 and represent three- quarters of production.

NEC Semiconductors, another Japanese-owned company, exports over 80 per cent of the production from its plant in Livingston, West Lothian. Bill Gold, senior administration manager, said the company has invested more than pounds 800m since setting up in Scotland in 1982 and now employs 1,600 workers.

He said "At least four or five other Japanese companies have come here because of us and we are very proud of that."