The search is on to find and celebrate companies in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland that have strengthened their competitiveness through a focus on innovative products, processes and management techniques.

Companies are now invited to compete for the prestigious All-Island Innovation Awards 2003 being organised by Invest Northern Ireland (Invest NI), Forfás and InterTradeIreland with sponsorship from the Irish Times and BT. The awards, held on an all-island basis for the first time last year, are designed to highlight and celebrate the achievements of innovative companies throughout the island.

The award winners will be chosen by an independent panel of judges and will be announced at a gala event in Belfast in November.

Launching the search for industrial innovators, Leslie Morrison, chief executive of Invest NI, said: “The awards recognise the importance of strategic innovation as the engine of long-term economic growth and wealth creation throughout the island of Ireland. Faster economic growth will be achieved by more companies investing continuously in innovation.”

Martin Cronin, chief executive, Forfás, said: “These awards provide an excellent opportunity to highlight the contribution that innovators make in driving competitiveness and creating opportunities for the wider community particularly in terms of employment, new business formation and international reputation. It is only through the creation of a strong innovation culture, in which new thinking and bright ideas prosper, that we can continue to compete in the global economy.”

Liam Nellis, chief executive, InterTradeIreland, added: “We were impressed by the quality of the innovative projects which were put forward last year. The event demonstrated that more companies of all sizes across a broad range of business sectors are investing in innovation.”

The overall award in last year’s event was won by Ulster Carpet Mills of Craigavon, now widely respected as an international leader in design, manufacture and customer service. The company gained the award for its innovation in developing a new form of carpet weaving which makes custom-made carpets more cost effective and increases the range of colours and designs.

Michael Austen, Deputy Managing Director of The Irish Times, said: “A willingness by companies to embrace a culture of innovation is central to our continued economic prosperity. As The Irish Times is the only newspaper with a full-time science correspondent we have a leading role in the science sector and this is why we are delighted to be involved in these awards. It is a natural way to reinforce our commitment to innovation and encourage others in their innovative endeavours. “

Bill Murphy, Managing Director, BT Regions, said: “Innovation is the defining difference. It alters the shape and success of a community. From the critical decision to joining multiple pieces of material to off the wall fixes it can transform applications, business and society.

“Innovation is about belief, inspiration and the demonstration of ability. The consequences of embracing or ignoring innovation for individuals, organisations and society will be immense."

Urging companies to enter the awards, Mike Mills, managing director of Ulster Carpet Mills, said: “As well as providing a tremendous boost for everyone within the company, the publicity associated with the award enhanced market awareness of Ulster Carpet Mills as a customer-focused business committed to creativity and service.”

The closing date for applications is 12 September 2003

Further information about the awards may be obtained from:
Simon Bamford, Invest NI, telephone 028 9262 3162 or
Stephanie O’Neill, Forfás, Tel 00 353 1 607 3082 or
Visit the website http://www.investni.com