British manufacturers scooped a cornucopia of awards at a London ceremony recognising the achievements of growing businesses and entrepreneurs last night.
The Growing Business Awards, hosted by Real Business magazine in association with the CBI and sponsored by Lloyds Banking Group, are in their 15th year and have seen past winners go on to ubiquitous, sometimes notorious success.
Former Growing Business Awards champions include Lastminute.com, Betfair, Wonga, Innocent, Friends Reunited and LOVEFILM. Last night saw a range of fast growing companies and individual entrepreneurs join their ranks.
Across nearly all categories, manufacturers made a strong showing.
The first award of the evening, Export Champion of the Year, went to Oliver Valves, the Cheshire-based engineering company founded by Mike Oliver in 1979.
Today the company exports to approximately 50 countries around the globe. Brazil and North America are particularly strong markets and trade is thriving in the Middle East and Asia, particularly South Korea.
Oliver Valves directly employs 350 people and turns over £80m. On accepting the award for Export Champion of the Year Award last night Robert Wright, the company’s financial director said: “this is primarily for the creativity and hard work of the employees. That’s what it’s all about.”
Other manufacturers in the Export Champion of the Year category included coffee machine manufacturer, Fracino which picked up EEF’s Export and Winner of Winner Awards back in March this year, oil & gas supplier Advanced Insulation and pet food manufacturer mpm.
Real Business’s Innovator of the Year Award went to advanced materials company Versarian, beating competition from the highly popular website Just Eat as well as mobile ap company SwiftKey – which holds the number 1 ap spot in 58 countries globally.
Plastic recycler Eco Plastics was shortlisted in the Company of the Year: Mid-Sized category and Chris Rea, managing director of EAS Engineering was among those nominated as entrepreneur of the year.
Perhaps the most hotly contested category for manufacturers last night however, was the Made in Britain Award which shortlisted companies from the food and drink, oil & gas, advanced engineering and advanced materials sectors.
Vodka manufacturer Chase Distillery and Tyneside-based off-shore engineering company OGN stood side by side to receive this award, demonstrating the strength and diversity of the UK’s industrial base.
The resurgence of UK manufacturing set the tone for the evening with the opening speech by Lord Karan Billimoria, founder of Cobra Beer, making explicit reference to its economic importance.
He spoke of his pride in having Cobra beer made in the UK and reflected on his belief when he first came to the UK that ‘Made in England’ meant “the best in the world”. He chastised governments in recent years saying they had “neglected this economy”.
Comments from Mark Stokes, managing director, mid markets at Lloyds Bank and from Danny Alexander, chief secretary to the Treasury, urged manufacturers to invest more in order to magnify their current success.
Mr Stokes stated that there is £500bn of cash sitting on company balance sheets in the UK which ought to be invested in business growth. Mr Alexander concurred, highlighting that if business as a whole had invested 10% more in 2012 it would have added £12bn to national GDP.
Look out for more celebration of UK manufacturing success at TM’s own awards in Birmingham on December 4.
For more information about the Manufacturer of the Year Awards, this year’s shortlist and past winners go to www.themanufacturer.com/awards.