Northern Ireland firms have until 31st July to enter leading awards.

Northern Ireland companies are being urged to enter the fifth UK online for business/ InterForum E-Commerce Awards. Companies stand the chance of winning an incredible £40,000 cash prize. The application deadline is on 31 July and time is running out.

Many companies from right across Northern Ireland have been filling in the application form for the awards, which aim to recognise and reward innovation in the use of Internet and information and communications technologies to transform small and medium businesses in the UK, and are open to any UK business with up to 250 employees. Entries can be made via the dedicated web site www.ecommerce-awards.co.uk

Stephen McArdle, UK online for business Regional Champion for Northern Ireland, said: “I would really urge companies from Northern Ireland to enter the E-Commerce Awards. Many local businesses are using technology in innovative and effective ways and the awards present a great opportunity for this to be recognised and rewarded. We have already some impressive entries from Northern Ireland across a whole range of sectors. If local companies have used ICT to help their business and improve their competitive edge, we want to hear from them now.”

The awards consist of regional heats with four different categories; e-business start-ups, e-trading, e-business and voluntary and community sector. The category winners from each region will receive £2,000 and will go on to the national finals where they will compete with other category winners for an £8,000 prize. The four National Category winners will then go head to head for the National E-Commerce Awards Champion 2003 title and an incredible £30,000.

To celebrate the fifth anniversary of the E-Commerce Awards, four new national innovation categories have also been introduced:
· Use of Mobile & Wireless Technology
· Use of Broadband Technology
· Advanced Supply Chain Integration
· Use of Technology Means Business (TMB) accredited advice
Each Innovation Category winner will be presented with an £8,000 cash prize.

Jim Sayers, Invest NI’s Director of Knowledge Management division, commented: “Technologies such as broadband, and mobility and wireless solutions have succeeded in really improving productivity levels. Invest NI continues to help companies improve their competitiveness through the application of technology, for example with our new Broadband Stimulation package. These awards are one way that we can support and reward the innovation that will shape the success and growth of organisations in Northern Ireland”

The E-Commerce Awards are the only Government-backed technology awards scheme and are sponsored nationally for the third year by Royal Bank of Scotland Group (RBS) and Cisco Systems. Invest NI sponsors the competition in the Northern Ireland region.