The Queen's Award for Enterprise, the United Kingdom's most prestigious business achievement award, has been won by five Northern Ireland companies.

The business achievements of Northern Ireland’s five winners of the Queen’s Award for Enterprise, the most prestigious awards for United Kingdom business, were praised today by Sir Reg Empey, MLA, Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Investment.

Sir Reg was commenting following the announcement of awards to: – Grafton Recruitment International Ltd, Belfast; Humax Electronics Ltd, Newtownards; Norbrook Laboratories Ltd, Newry; Nortel Networks Ltd, Newtownabbey; and Schrader Electronics Ltd, Antrim.

The Northern Ireland companies are listed among a total of 131 from across the United Kingdom.  The awards are made in recognition of achievements in three categories – International Trade, Innovation and Sustainable Development.

The five Northern Ireland awards are made in the International Trade category.

Said Sir Reg: “As we seek to re-energise the Northern Ireland economy through sharpening our focus on enterprise and innovation, award winning companies, such as these, will have an important position as role models for other progressive businesses, both externally and locally-owned.

“We need to see many more companies following their example in terms of the value they have added to their operations in global trade and innovative product development if Northern Ireland is to become a ‘hotspot’ of business enterprise.

“My Department and Invest Northern Ireland will seek to promote the creativity and ingenuity needed to generate greater wealth and high quality employment opportunities within an enterprise-driven economy,” added Sir Reg.

The Minister said he was also encouraged by the broad cross-section of industries – electronics, pharmaceuticals, telecommunications, automotive technology and business services - recognised in the awards.

“To fuel future growth, my Department and its Agencies are committed to building partnerships with business and universities.  This will ensure that companies, such as the winners of the Queen’s Awards, and all other ambitious companies, are able to draw on expertise and support to help them achieve success overseas,” added Sir Reg.

The International Trade category recognises either:

Outstanding achievement in international trade, resulting in substantial growth in overseas earnings and in commercial success, sustained over not less than three years, to levels which are outstanding for the goods or services concerned and for the size of the applicant’s operation, or;

Continuous achievement in international trade, resulting in substantial overseas earnings with growth and commercial success, sustained over not less than six years, to levels which are outstanding for the goods or services concerned and for the size of the applicant’s operations.

Grafton Recruitment International Ltd, Belfast is a locally-owned company specialising in staff recruitment services for commerce and industry worldwide.

Humax Electronics Ltd, Newtownards is the Northern Ireland subsidiary of a Korean-owned company which manufactures digital set-top boxes for radio and television for satellite broadcasting.

Norbrook Laboratories Ltd, Newry is a locally-owned company which develops, manufactures and distributes pharmaceuticals worldwide.

Nortel Networks Ltd, Newtownabbey is part of the Canadian global telecommunications company. The Northern Ireland business develops and manufactures optical networks.

Schrader Electronics Ltd, Antrim, a subsidiary of the US Schrader Bridgeport company, part of the UK Tomkins Group, designs and manufactures a dashboard mounted tyre pressure monitor for the global automotive industry.