The Queen's Awards: Number of winners in awards for industry hits 11-year high

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The Independent Online

The number of Queen's Awards granted this year, the 40th year of the industry award scheme, has jumped to an 11-year high as a result of a rise in applications from better-quality businesses.

On her 80th birthday today, the Queen announces 145 Awards for Enterprise, the UK's highest accolade for business success, compared with 137 last year. The number of awards in the international trade category edged up to 90 from 88 last year, while innovation saw the biggest percentage rise, from 41 to 48 awards, and sustainable development experienced a small drop from eight to seven.

David Moore, Secretary to the Prime Minister's Advisory Committee for the Queen's Awards, said: "We had an increase in applications - from 789 last year to 839 this year - and the quality was very good. There's no fixed number of awards, it depends on the quality. If the number of applications continues to rise and the quality is maintained, the number of awards could certainly continue to rise."

Honours were also given to individuals for their role as business mentors for the second year running. The Award for Enterprise Promotion was given to 11 people, the same number as last year. They include a Lifetime Achievement Award given to David Rowe, the director and founder of the University of Warwick Science Park, in recognition of his work helping about a thousand new businesses and individuals set themselves up in an area much affected by the decline of the car industry. For the first time, an honorary award was granted to an American, Doug Richard, a "dragon" on the BBC's Dragons' Den, a TV show in which budding entrepreneurs pitch their ideas to secure investment finance from the dragons, elite business entrepreneurs.

The largest company to win this year is DSG International, previously known as Dixons Group, which employs almost 30,000 people. Since 1999 it has grown from a UK electrical goods retailer with four chains to an international giant with 14 chains in 14 countries. It won an outstanding achievement award in the international trade category for boosting annual group sales to nearly £7bn, with more than one-third coming from abroad.

At the other end of the scale are four companies with only three employees, three of which received awards for innovation. One went to the Birmingham-based Safe and Sound Lighting for the continuous development of recessed down-lighters with inbuilt fire and acoustic protection. Lifelines, from Stockbridge in Hampshire, was honoured for its ambulatory recorder called "Track it" which monitors the medical conditions of patients while they go about their business at home or work. Mmic eod, also from Hampshire, won an innovation award for developing a lightweight system for providing sealed access to various kinds of container for military and counter-terrorist purposes.

Another three-person company to win an award, for sustainable development, is Eco Arc, an ecological architecture practice based in York, for its CO2 neutral building design and development.

The oldest company among the winners is the family-owned brewer and pub owner Shepherd Neame, which dates back to 1698. It was granted a sustainable development award for sourcing its ingredients locally and for clean and green beer production and distribution.

Software and other IT-related companies did well this year, including Multimap.com which produces millions of maps online at high speed and low cost. Financial services and legal firms also stood out, including a London firm of barristers called 20 Essex Street, which won an international trade award for nearly doubling its export fee income over six years. The education sector produced several winners including the University of Nottingham, which won an award for the second time for doubling its overseas revenues to £53m in six years.

Geographically, London came top with 28 awards, followed by the South-east with 22 and the South-west with 15. Tied in fourth place were the North-west and Yorkshire & the Humber.

Mr Moore said: "That's no surprise because of the concentration of companies in London and the Southeast. Perhaps more surprising is the increase in the South-west region by six awards on last year."

School friends with an eye on success

UltraVision

UltraVision CLPL, the largest independent manufacturer and supplier of contact lenses in the UK, was founded by two former school friends, Keith Lomas and John Clamp. They won a Queen's innovation award for developing advanced contact lenses that give clearer vision and healthier eyes. The firm's patented SAM and UltraWave technologies have improved the lens surfaces using a combination of advanced mathematical techniques to provide levels of vision not experienced before, it claims.

Mr Lomas, the 35-year-old chief executive and a former City banker, said: "It's amazing how much people spend on new high-definition televisions, mobile phones and monitors without even considering their own vision. We need to encourage people to realise the greater benefits of improving their own vision first."

The company's UltraWave disposable contact lenses include wave front technology. Similar to laser eye surgery, the lenses offer the benefits of advanced wave front vision but without the risk of going under the knife or laser. The lenses can be worn for longer periods and are easier to fit than others. The technologies were also designed to be incorporated into all types of contact lenses, including bifocal and multifocals.

The new technology has helped group sales grow fivefold over the past few years, and has been licensed to several mainstream contact lens companies in Europe and Asia. The company, based in Leighton Buzzard, Beds, produces annual turnover of £2.5m to £3m and employs 60 people.

UltraWave lenses are now for sale, priced like standard disposable contact lenses, at most opticians in Britain and are also available in more than 20 countries.

Julia Kollewe

The roll of honour

INTERNATIONAL TRADE

20 Essex Street; Abbey Masterbatch; Aerotron; AIRCOM International; Albourne Partners; Allam Marine; aura Corporation UK.

Baillie Gifford Overseas; Capital Valves; Ceramicoat Tunnel Linings and Coatings; The Change Group International; Colchester Global Investors; ColorMatrix Europe; Conseco International; Corus Special Profiles; Craig Group;

John Crane UK, Turbomachinery Division; DSG international; Dage Precision Industries; Data Connection; Jeffrey Davies and Davies; Diagnostic Monitoring Systems; Diamond Consulting Services; Dorset Cereals; Dyson James; The European Lawyer; FT Technologies; Falmouth Fishselling Company (Falfish); Fastalloys; FilmLight; Fintec Crushing & Screening; Firmdale Hotels; Forest Press Hydraulics; John Foster of England; Gooch & Housego; Goodwin Steel Castings; Graff Diamonds International; Grafton Recruitment International; Grant Macdonald (Silversmiths); Guidance Navigation; James Halstead; Peter Hambro Mining; Hatsu Marine; The Henley Management College; Hughes Safety Showers; IDTechEx;

Immunodiagnostic Systems; IXEurope; JCB Earthmovers; JCB Heavy Products; Keymat Technology t/a STORM Interface; KeyMed (Medical & Industrial Equipment); Langtec; Law Business Research; John Lawrie (Aberdeen); London College of Accountancy; Malvern Instruments; Melett; Meritmill; Micron Sprayers; Mondrian Investment Partners;

Orange Music Electronic Company; Oxford Diffraction; Penta Consulting; Phosyn; Photonic Products; Playtop; Polymeters Response International; RFI Global Services; RJH Tradin; Radnor Hills Mineral Water; John Reid & Sons (Strucsteel); SRK Consulting (UK);Sangenic Internationa; Shape Technology; Sondex; Spectrum Technologies; St Peter's Brewery; Star Syringe; StatPro Group; TRB; TRP Sealing Systems; Thermacore Europe; The University of Nottingham; Victrex;

Wagtech International; Walker Filtration; William Data Systems; F G Wilson (Engineering); Wogen Titanium.

INNOVATION

ACO Technologies; AD Holdings; AESSEAL; Angel Technology; Ardmel Automation; Atlas Copco Construction & Mining; Balcan Engineering; Bells of Lazonby; Berghaus; Biocolor; Bradley Doublelock; Citation; Contact Lens Precision Laboratories t/a UltraVision CLPL; Doyle & Tratt Products; ELG Haniel Metals; e2v technologies Imaging Sensors Group; EnviroSystems (UK); Exasoft FT Technologies; Fox Brothers & Co; Glencairn Crystal Studio; Greenvale AP; Hadley Industries; Haldane (UK); Halyard (M & I); Hambleside Danela; Kensington Mortgages; Lifelines; MCL Software; mmic eod; MSA Engineering Systems; Multimedia Mapping t/a Multimap.com; Precision Polymer Engineering; Reid Lifting; Renishaw; James Robinson; Safe and Sound Lighting; Siemens Communications;

Smiths Aerospace - Electronic Systems, Cheltenham; Spinnaker International; Tilsatec, a Division of Sirdar Spinning; Timsons; Ulster Carpet Mills (Holdings); Velux Company; Waterside Manufacturing t/a Englands; Whitbybird; Wolfson Microelectronics; E Wood.

SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

Eco Arc: Ecological Architecture Practice; North of England Zoological Society (Chester Zoo); Alastair Sawday Publishing; ScottishPower Renewables; Shepherd Neame; Traidcraft; Yeo Valley Farms (Production).

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT IN ENTERPRISE PROMOTION

David Rowe

ACHIEVEMENT IN ENTERPRISE PROMOTION

John Anderson CBE; Derek Browne; Janet Brumby; Walter Herriot OBE; Jason Holt; Dr Bryan Keating; Prof David A Kirby; Amanda Parris; Peter Westgarth.

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