Queen's choice

First published in News Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author by , covering business. Call me on 01865 425433

The Queen's Awards, established more than 40 years ago to promote British enterprise as a force for good in the world, are becoming ever more finely tuned to the changing needs of modern business.

This year's crop of Oxfordshire winners includes a green printing company, a firm which trains people how to taste beer and the nanotechnology subsidiary of Oxford Instruments, NanoAnalysis.

Announced this week on the Queen's birthday, the prestigious awards for innovation and sustainable development go to companies Seacourt, of Cowley, and FlavorActiV of Chinnor.

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh will invite directors of the two Oxfordshire companies to attend a reception at Buckingham Palace thrown for winners from across the kingdom.

Winner of the sustainable development prize, Seacourt, which employs 22 people at Horspath Road Industrial Estate, was also the 2005 winner of the environmental prize in the Business of the Year Awards.

Managing director Gareth Dinnage said: "It's great to win this award. We feel we are leading the charge in Oxfordshire to encourage more businesses to become sustainable." He explained that sustainability was a major selling point at the old-established print company, which has been pursuing a green policy since 1997.

He said: "In the last three years we have reduced waste going to landfill by 80 per cent. Now we use 100 per cent renewable electricity and we use 85 per cent recycled material.

"On top of all that, our premises are now carbon neutral."

FlavorActiV, employing 12 people at its Oakley Road headquarters, is a Queen's Award winner for the second time. In 2005 it won an award in the export category. About 95 per cent of its sales are made overseas.

Founded in 1996, the company exploits research by its director Dr Bill Simpson to identify and stabilise flavours in beers, helping brewers maintain consistency in their product or even to design new drinks.

The company targets the world's 12,000 largest brewers and trains their tasters.

It makes 39 flavours and has produced chemicals to help tasters identify positive and negative beer flavours - all of them named, the most unattractive being 'baby vomit .

Marketing manager and beer flavour consultant Adam Fenton said: "Brewers have to achieve consistency of quality for each batch, each site, and over time; and whenever they introduce new machinery."

Another winner of a prize for innovation is Air Products, which has a depot in Didcot. The award is for its Integra gas cylinders.

Technology director Prof John Irven said: "We have been listening to our customers' requirements and developed cylinders that are lighter, easier to handle and safer with their integrated valve and gas control functions."

Oxford Instruments, founded by leading Oxfordshire innovators Sir Martin and Lady Wood, has moved away from its previous core business of manufacturing magnets.

Chief executive Jonathan Flint told The Oxford Times: "The vast majority of conventional industry will move towards nanotechnology in the years to come, ranging from the microelectronics in a washing machine to paint, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals all being contructed at a nano level."

NanoAnalysis is pioneering ways to push back the frontiers of microscopic analysis. Its instruments could be useful in tackling threats such as the bird flu virus.

The Queen's Awards celebrated their 40th birthday in 2005. Government-funded and organised by the Department of Trade and Industry, they were brought up to date by a 1999 committee chaired by Prince Charles.

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