Record year for services sector at royal honours

Corporate Oscars: Interest renewed in the accolade as BBC Worldwide and Liffe are recognised for achievement in growing exports
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The Independent Online

The Queen's Awards for Enterprise have notched up a third year of rising applications, showing that business interest has been renewed in the royal accolade.

The International Trade and the Innovation categories both saw more companies apply for the 2002 award – the first time the trade prize has seen increased applications since 1997.

Competition for the Sustainable Development award was down, as expected, after last year saw a near doubling of applications when the category was broaden from its previous incarnation as the Environment prize.

There were 131 awards made this year, down slightly from 133 in 2001. As ever, a huge range of industries and sizes of business were honoured.

Among the bigger winners were BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm of the broadcaster, and Tibbet & Britten, the logistics company with nearly 16,000 employees, both winners in the International Trade category, which had 85 successful entries out of 418 applications. In the three years to 2001, BBC Worldwide grew its television export earnings by 35 per cent to £195m a year.

Rupert Gavin, chief executive of BBC Worldwide, said: "This is a great accolade and it quite rightly recognises the tremendous job our sales and marketing teams around the world are doing."

The smaller companies included Garnett Farms Engineering, based in Knutsford, Cheshire, with just four employees. It picked up one of the 37 Innovation prizes, from 320 entries in this category. Andrew Garnett designed a machine to automatically distribute cow-bedding material as a college project, in response to a request from his father who farms in Cheshire. The machine, which they now produce for other farms, is virtually maintenance free and reduces the bedding time by a third.

Among the nine Sustainable Development Winners was St George, an urban developer which is part of Berkeley Group, the quoted housebuilder. The company specialises in reusing industrial or derelict sites for cutting-edge mixed schemes in London, which provide apartments, offices and leisure facilities.

An example is the St George Wharf development in Vauxhall, an otherwise run-down area of the capital, which will boast London's tallest residential tower block. St George, which is also working on the massive scheme to redevelop the area around King's Cross station, has an annual turnover of over £200m.

Tony Carey, St George's managing director, said: "We identified, several years ago, the need for a new breed of developer, one who realises the importance of the sustainability agenda, especially in London where development has become more and more complex."

The Queen's Awards, which date back to 1966, now appear to be in good health. The accolade was overhauled after enthusiasm for the scheme hit an all-time low in 1999 when there were just 765 applications in all categories, after 1,724 contenders in 1997 and 1,214 in 1998. Some commentators suggested the awards were becoming irrelevant.

A review was led by Prince Charles, which led to categories being broadened, both in 2000 and 2001, with greater feedback and a new application process that made it easier for service sector companies to apply. This year saw a total of 903 businesses apply for the awards.

David Moore, Secretary to the Queen's Awards, said: "It is encouraging that, for the third year in a row, applications have risen. It shows that Prince Charles' recommendations were the right ones."

In 2000, the award for Exports was widened to an International Trade category, with returns on overseas investments made admissible and companies to provide estimates of overseas earnings, to bring in the City and the financial services sector generally.

Also that year, Technology changed to the Innovation award, to include companies behind a wider range of inventions. For instance, this year, SYR, a company based in Stourbridge, West Midlands, was recognised for developing a new kind of mop.

In 2001, the Environment became Sustainable Development to take in management methods and contribution to the local community, as well as more strictly environmental criteria.

Ormiston Wire, a business in Isleworth, Middlesex, with just 14 employees, was one of the Sustainable Development winners this year.

Dating back to 1793, it was also the oldest company to receive a award. A manufacturer of wire products, Ormiston was recognised for its energy saving measures, such as higher efficiency lighting, occupancy detectors and water saving devices.

For the first time in 2002, a financial exchange was give an award – the London International Financial Futures and Options Exchange (Liffe), for achievement in overseas trade.

Hugh Freedberg, Liffe's chief executive, said: "Each day more money is entrusted to Liffe's technology than to any other electronic exchange. Today there are over 500 sites around the world linked to Liffe Connect, Liffe's trading system, 60 per cent of which are located outside the UK."

Businesses operating in the services sector had a good showing in 2002, clinching 34 per cent of the awards – compared with 17 per cent in 1998. Three City law firms won awards for their impressive growth in foreign earnings – Linklaters, Richards Butler and Herbert Smith.

Mr Moore said: "This was a record year for the services sector which has tended to be under-represented in the past in relation to the sector's contribution to the UK's overseas earnings."