But the competition is now an international one with 27 per cent of this year's winners thesubsidiaries of foreign owned companies. American, Japanese, Swiss, Swedish and German companies are all represented alongside such British institutions as Lloyd's Register of Shipping and Marks & Spencer.
Masaaki Nakamura, managing director of Yuasa Battery, said the award had been well received in Japan, as had an earlier export award success in 1986. The company, which set up in Ebbw Vale, South Wales in 1982, has trebled its exports in the past 10 years to more than £20m. It manufactures rechargeable batteries used as back-up supplies for security, medical and computer equipment.
"We regard this award as a very high honour for our company which endorses our parent company's confidence in investing here in the UK," Mr Nakamura said. "It must also encourage other overseas companies to see that Britain can be a country for secure investment."
Yuasa is just beginning a further investment programme worth £7m which will increase output by 40 per cent in the next 12 months, following sales growth in France and Italy.
The value of a public endorsement of the investment strategy was supported by Peter Lishman, managing director of Boss Industrial Mouldings, of Mildenhall, Suffolk, a subsidiary of BIMS AG, of Switzerland. The company exports more than 70 per cent of its output of oven lights and indicators for domestic and commercial ovens.
"It shows we can deliver the goods," he said. "It shows we are competitive to the best European standards and is worth more than just a growth in sales volume."
TRAK Microwave, an American company based in Tampa, Florida, set up a subsidiary in Dundee on the east coast of Scotland in 1987 as a means to enter European markets for its high-technology components in the space, defence and communications industries. It now employs about 85 people with a turnover of £5m.
Dale Burns, company president, said of the company's export award: "We chose Dundee because we saw the advantages of the availability of highly skilled people at all levels. It looks like our decision paid off and TRAK in Tampa is real excited that the Dundee operation has received this recognition."
Diamond Power Speciality, of Dumbarton, Scotland, is a subsidiary of McDermott International, a large heavy engineering company based in the United States. Its workforce of 120 makes cleaning systems for boilers and heat exchangers and exports to 40 countries.
"We are very much a hands-off operation," said managing director Allan Naismith. "They probably don't know much about the Awards in the States, but they will do by the time we have finished with them".