Entrepreneurs shine through in gloomy times; winners of the Queen’s Awards for Enterprise are a showcase for the country’s ability to create innovative products and services and sell them around the world.

April 22, 2013 12:43 am

Entrepreneurs shine through in gloomy times

By Brian Groom

Five years into the most prolonged economic downturn of modern times, British business could do with cheering itself up. A glance through this year’s winners of the Queen’s Awards for Enterprise should help.

From a maker of mass spectrometers to a nail bar chain, from a maker of milking equipment to a supplier of food supplements to improve fertility, the winners of the awards – first handed out in 1966 – are a showcase for the country’s ability to create innovative products and services and sell them around the world.

The 2013 list, published to mark the Queen’s birthday on April 21, contains 152 business awards, mixing FTSE companies with subsidiaries of foreign-owned groups and private businesses.The number is down slightly on the record of 209 awards handed out in 2012, the monarch’s diamond jubilee year, but the quality remains high. The core of the list is the dozens of often unsung smaller companies, for which the awards provide important recognition.

The drive that these companies have shown, particularly in boosting sales to emerging markets in Asia, Africa and South America, coupled with their versatility of innovation, exemplifies the qualities required if the UK economy is to get back to healthy growth.

More of them are needed. The overall performance of the UK’s tradeable sector has been, as the Bank of England puts it, “disappointing”, particularly given the 20 per cent fall in the real value of sterling since the start of the financial crisis.

Weaker than expected exports accounted for almost all the shortfall in economic growth in 2012 compared with earlier forecasts from the Office for Budget Responsibility.

“The Queen’s Awards for Enterprise are one of the most internationally recognised and sought-after awards that a UK business can achieve. They give companies prestige, an edge overseas and a well deserved boost,” says Michael Fallon, the energy minister.

He says the awards highlight “our strong entrepreneurial streak and the excellent businesses we have up and down the country who are growing, creating jobs, making a valuable contribution to the economy and helping us to compete in the global race. I applaud each and every one of the winners.”

The awards demonstrate the UK’s strength in sectors ranging from information technology services and engineering to legal services, education, construction, architecture, horticulture, software, oil and gas, printing, medical devices and many more.

Winners include a publisher of online scientific information, the world’s only commercial specialist in breeding and propagating hybrid Dianthus (pinks), developers of games for mobile phones, makers of body armour and mailroom equipment and suppliers of whisky, beer and cheese.

Some are household names, such as Regatta, the outdoor clothing specialist, and Tyrrells Potato Crisps, the premium snack maker, both of which win international trade awards. Many other winners, while less known to the public, have achieved technological breakthroughs that are firing their own growth and that of others.

Other winning businesses range from enterprises with as few as two employees to FTSE companies such as De La Rue International, which wins an innovation award for novel banknotes to foil counterfeiters, and Renishaw, which wins one for developing a multi-sensor probing system for co-ordinating measuring machines.

Two companies have won awards in both the international trade and innovation categories: Niftylift, which manufactures mobile aerial platforms for the building and maintenance sectors, and Reid Lifting, which makes lightweight, portable lifting equipment.

Spinko, trading as Harrison Spinks, which makes bed springs, is a winner in both the innovation and sustainable development categories. Sun Mark, a marketing and distribution company in the fast-moving consumer goods sector, has become the first company to win an award in five consecutive years.

Awards are given for achievement in three categories: international trade, where there are 116 winners; innovation, with 27 awards; and sustainable development benefiting the environment, society and the economy, with nine. There are also eight enterprise promotion awards to individuals for efforts to encourage entrepreneurship.

Judges said the standard of entries this year was high, with 25 per cent of entrants winning an award. Fourteen of the winning companies have 10 employees or fewer, while 133 have fewer than 250 employees.

At the smallest end, Metal Events and Hydrate for Health have two employees each. The former, as its name suggests, organises events for the global metals industry, for which it receives an international trade award. The latter wins an innovation award for developing a hands-free drinking system that reduces dehydration in hospital patients, care home residents and people in care at home.

The oldest companies among the winners include Royal Society of Chemistry Publishing, a not-for-profit scientific publisher, learned society and professional body for chemical scientists, founded in London in 1841. Winn & Coales International, which produces anti-corrosion tapes, coatings, sealants and waterproofing products, was established in 1883. Both win international trade awards.

Elsewhere in the international trade category, foreign-owned winners include Inca Digital Printers, a Japanese manufacturer of industrial digital flatbed ink-jet printers; Swiss-owned Mettler-Toledo Safeline X-ray, which sells X-ray systems to the food and pharmaceutical industries; and Sweden’s Euroforest, which harvests and markets British timber.

Manufacturing, which is struggling to recover from a difficult recession, has a wide range of winners, including Steelite International, a Stoke-based maker of ceramic tableware for the hospitality industry; Pearson Engineering, a Newcastle upon Tyne-based manufacturer of military combat engineering products such as landmine rollers, mine ploughs and bulldozers; and Totalpost Services, which makes mailroom equipment.

Nails Inc, a London-based company established in 1999, is among the more colourful winners: it set out to establish a chain of branded nail bar concessions in leading department stores with high footfall, and has created a worldwide business with the help of a trading partner, Sephora.

Fever-Tree, established in 2004 “to create the perfect gin and tonic”, now markets a portfolio of premium, natural mixer drinks sold to 35 overseas markets, with growth centred on the US and Spain. The Cambridge Satchel Company, which started trading in December 2008 from a kitchen table, manufactures and sells traditional leather satchels directly to customers and top stores.

In the innovation category, ADF Milking, based in West Sussex, wins an award for developing a “milking cluster-based automatic dipping and flushing system”, which has reduced the risk of disease associated with milking cows.

Winners of the Queen’s Awards are visited by a royal representative and presented with a crystal bowl to mark their achievement. They also attend a celebratory reception at Buckingham Palace. They can use the Queen’s Award emblem in advertising, marketing and on packaging for a period of five years as a symbol of their quality and success.

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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