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Queen's Awards honour enterprise; Midland firms make a splash: From international names to family concerns.

Byline: Shahid Naqvi Business Staff

Land Rover is one of seven Midland firms named as an outstanding company in the prestigious Queen's Awards for Enterprise 2001.

The company, which has its manufacturing base in Solihull and corporate headquarters at Gaydon in Warwickshire, scooped a double whammy after been named a winner in the international trade and innovation categories.

Under the International Trade award the company gained plaudits for exporting its four-by-four vehicles to 140 markets worldwide.

Key markets for the company include Japan and North America, where the new Freelander V6 will be launched later this year.

The award for innovation paid tribute to Land Rover's revolutionary hill descent control system, which automatically slows down off-road vehicles travelling down steep terrain improving safety and control.

Welcoming the awards, Land Rover's chairman Bob Dover, said: 'I can think of no greater way of recognising the efforts of everyone at Land Rover, in leading the world in 4x4 technology.'

A total of 133 companies were honoured with a Queen's Award this year.

It aims to recognise the achievement of the team unit of a company rather than individuals to coincide with the Queen's birthday today.

Winners are invited to attend a reception held by the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh at Buckingham Palace and can use the award emblem on letter headings and advertising for a five year period.

The scheme, which began its life as the Queen's Award to Industry in 1966, recognises companies which have shone under three categories of international trade, innovation and environment/sustainable development.

The winners of the competition were branded the 'creme de la creme of British business by Minister for trade Richard Caborn today.

'They are the winners in our own Oscars for enterprise,' he said.

'With their enterprising spirit and dynamism they exemplify the best of UK innovation and creativity.'

The other Midland winners were:

Industrial engineers Mechatherm International, based in Kingswinford. The company, which designs, supplies and installs industrial furnaces and ovens, was named a winner in the international trade section.

It marks a second honour for Mechatherm under the scheme, as the company was a Queen's Award winner in the same category five years ago.

The latest accolade comes on the back of a three-fold increase in exports over the last three years, targeting markets in SE Asia, Europe and Dubai, where it won a major contract as part of the expansion of an aluminium plant.

Nutrition Trading (International). The firm, based in Studley, Warwickshire, trades in speciality animal food and was honoured in the international trade category.

A small company employing only seven people, it has seen exports grow by 133 per cent in the last three years to account for more than 70 per cent of all turnover.

The company, which was founded in 1988, has recently opened an office in Japan.

Chemical products used in the high-tech manufacturing of printed circuit boards, won Coventry-based Shipley Europe an award for international trade.

The chemicals are also used by companies in 40 countries making semi-conductors, with Northern European countries such as France and Germany providing a key market.

Formed in 1966, Shipley is part of global US-based group Rohm & Haas - a world leader in supplying chemicals to the electronics industry.

Wolverhampton-based Thorne International Boiler Services scooped an international trade award for its successful operation designing, making and repairing boilers.

Since it was created in 1973, exports have increased by 113 per cent and now account for 88 per cent of turnover.

Main market destinations are Nigeria, Sudan and Yemen. The company has achieved its success by identifying potential new clients among firms working within industries using self-generated power.

Unitec Ceramics, based in Stafford, gained a Queen's Award in the innovation category for its work, which has led to reduced output of harmful emissions in cars.

The company has developed a sophisticated ceramic powder with chemical and electrical characteristics which can be used to help control engine emissions.

The fine powder has led to the development of sensors receptive to its properties which respond more rapidly when a car engine is warming up - the most difficult period for emission control.

Harborne-based Waterside Manufacturing gained an innovation award for its life saving equipment.

Trading as England's Safety Equipment, the company designs multi-functional safety equipment such as inflatable fishing jackets and body armour used by the military.

Waterside was created by Andrew Kerr six years ago, following an incident in which a friend got into difficulties while fishing.

'We were in six inches of water. I said follow me and the next thing I knew he went in up to his waist in some quicksand.

'I realised we needed safety jackets and decided to design a life jacket that people would like to wear,' he explained.

Mr Kerr first tried to set up the company in Wales but, after getting fed up with the bureaucracy there, moved to Birmingham.

'I came to Birmingham and the business immediately took off. There is a much more positive attitude to business here - it is a more go get attitude.'

The company, which currently employs nine people and has a range of five safety products, is about to launch a new ultra lightweight fishing suit complete with life jacket after working with the Ministry of Fisheries.

Mr Kerr said: 'We have undergone so many difficulties and made such sacrifices to develop products, but the Queen's Award makes it all worthwhile.'

body armour

CAPTION(S):

Brothers Andrew (left) and Mike Kerr with their body armour, left, and automatic inflating fishing vest Mechatherm International boss Andrew Riley - a second time winner of the prestigious award Land Rover's chairman Bob Dover
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Apr 21, 2001
Words:940
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