The Queen’s Awards for Enterprise, the UK’s blue ribbon for business success, have never been more important than they are in this their 50th birthday year, as the major category celebrates much-needed export achievement, the key element that is currently missing from the economic recovery.
It would seem that George Osborne’s target of doubling exports to £1 trillion by 2020 is unlikely to be met, with even the Office for Budget Responsibility’s forecast of an increase of 4 per cent a year meaning there will be a shortfall of almost a third.
Hence the importance of the Queen’s Awards as a promotional platform to bring non-exporting companies in from the cold, or to exhort those already exporting to do even more.
Fortunately, this year’s winners point to a substantial rich seam of talent out there waiting to be mined with the help of UK Trade & Investment (UKTI), not only to benefit the individual businesses themselves but also, collectively, to benefit UK plc. Of a total of 141 business winners, 105 were for international trade, 24 for innovation and 12 for sustainable development.
Export – or international trade – winners, the dominant group, have to demonstrate that their business has achieved substantial growth in overseas earnings and in commercial success (for their business size and sector), either through outstanding achievement over three years or continuous achievement over six years.
This year’s crop of export star performers includes Aberdeen-based Balmoral Offshore Engineering, which provides specialist subsea products for the international oil and gas industry, and Grace Cole England of Cheadle, which sells bath and body beauty products in 80 countries.
Both companies are featured in this issue, and both show the sheer diversity of UK businesses involved in the export arena, ranging from traditional sectors such as heavy engineering and life sciences to the more exotic – companies making military parachutes, speciality cheeses and even wooden bicycles. Size is no barrier, with one-man-bands ending up in the winners’ enclosure alongside the plcs.
Firms which won one of the Queen’s Awards for international trade showed they have benefited from substantial international growth in overseas earnings and commercial success within their sector. Awards for innovation are given to businesses demonstrating that their products or services are commercially successful. And sustainable development winners have to show they are involved in activity that ensures a better quality of life for everyone, now and in the future.
- Entries to the 2016 Queen’s Awards close on 30 September 2015. For more details, visit www.gov.uk/queens-awards-for-enterprise/ overview