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Small companies show the way

Once again, the British Engineering Excellence Awards (BEEAs) have shown that UK companies are up to the challenge of competing and holding their own on a global stage. And the Awards are showing just how good small companies are: for two of the first three years of the Awards, the Grand Prix has gone to a company with 10 or fewer employees and the Judges' Prize has gone to equally small companies over that period.

That's no real surprise as the vast majority of UK technology businesses are small operations. But being small doesn't disqualify you from being creative or commercially astute, as our winners demonstrate.

Let's highlight the stars of the show. Grand Prix winner ICS Electronics was established in 1982 and, within its niche market of marine radio communications, has grown to become a market leader, with more digital selective calling systems installed in Coast Stations worldwide than any other company.

ICS has kept a precise focus on three niche areas within the marine communications market to maintain a highly competitive position for a quarter of a century – a classic example of how to operate as a small company.

The judges described ICS Electronics as 'a company whose size belies its influence' and were particularly impressed by its influence over industry best practice. One judge admitted that it would be easy to forget this is a small company, such is its influence and global reach.

Meanwhile, when Peratech entered the BEEAs in 2010, the judges had doubts about the commercial viability of its Quantum Tunnelling Composite technology. Those doubts have been answered emphatically with an entry that demonstrated impressive commercial success and which promises great things for the future.

Both of these winning companies show that engineering skill and entrepreneurial management can drive success. Congratulations to them and to all those who reached the shortlist.

Author
Graham Pitcher

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