The biggest business accolade

The Queen's Awards
The Queen’s Awards have retained their emphasis on promoting international trade and innovation while more recently recognising sustainability issues

While economic circumstances are in constant flux, the Queen’s Awards for Enterprise continue to reward innovation and ambition

By Mike Cowley

Click to access article as a .pdf

The Queen’s Awards for Enterprise, the blue ribbon for identifying UK business success were first granted by Royal Charter back in 1966 as the Queen’s Award to Industry. The awards have never been more important than in this year as the need to stimulate and encourage overseas trade intensifies as the UK enters uncharted waters after Brexit.

Exporters, now categorised as ‘International Trade’, dominated the first year’s winners and included household names then and now such as Bamfords, the Beecham Group, Black & Decker, British Insulated Calendar Cables, David Brown Tractors, and Burberry.

There was also a sprinkling of companies in the technical innovation category with the British Baking Industries Research Association winning an award for breadmaking, and Automated Products Associated which was selected for its innovative approach to motor vehicle transmissions.

Since then the Queen’s Awards have retained their emphasis on promoting international trade and innovation but in the past two years have added the categories of sustainable development and promoting opportunity. In all, there were 238 awards announced for 2018 going to 230 businesses (eight businesses have picked up two awards), bringing the total to date to more than 7,000.

Overall winner in terms of numbers this year was the international trade category which jumped from 105 in 2017 to 152 this year, an increase of 50%, and looked on as welcome news for the Government in terms of enhanced export potential. Winners have demonstrated that their businesses have achieved substantial growth in overseas earnings and in commercial success (for their business size and sector) through either outstanding achievement over three years or continuous achievement over six.

Meanwhile a University of Strathclyde Business School survey (carried out just before the Brexit referendum) has shown that 70% of all International Trade winners directly increased their trade because of the award. It points out that, while Britain’s future relationship with the EU will not become clear for months, the government will look to successful companies such as Queen’s Award winners to lead the way in raising the country’s efforts in trade and innovation. “In that, they will be setting an example to the nine out of ten UK businesses that currently do not export”, the survey states. Awards for Innovation came second – totalling 70 – including one mattress maker who had developed an all-new type of mattress, which has been well received.

Innovation is often seen as a precursor to international success as it is often accepted as the key to crossing borders. Innovation winners have demonstrated that their business has substantially improved in areas of performance and commercial success by either achieving innovation over at least two years, or by continuous innovation and development over at least five years.

Whereas winners in sustainability and business promotions trailed, they are on the increase, including one Devon ice cream maker who travels to the Far East to source sustainable products to reduce his business footprint. Overall the number of SMEs who won an award made up 80% of the total, a similar percentage to the previous year.

This year’s winners, as have previous ones, will be:

  • invited to a Royal reception at Buckingham Palace, hosted by Her Majesty the Queen
  • presented the award in situ by one of The Queen’s representatives, a Lord-Lieutenant
  • fly the Queen’s Award flag at their main office and use the emblem on marketing materials (for example, on packaging, advertisements, stationery and website)
  • given a Grant of Appointment and a commemorative crystal bowl

The awards are valid for five years.