Belfast Telegraph

Awards remind us of our strengths in these tough times

This year Invest NI is sponsoring the awards for Excellence in Innovation and for the Outstanding Business Team of the Year. Invest NI's chief executive Alastair Hamilton explains why it is important to honour innovative Northern Ireland companies

Invest Northern Ireland is delighted to continue our sponsorship of two categories in the 2012 Belfast Telegraph Northern Ireland Business Awards in association with bmi.

These awards provide an opportunity for us to recognise and celebrate the success of businesses, large and small, which display excellence across a wide range of criteria.

Studies consistently demonstrate that there is a clear relationship between the level of research and development carried out in a region and the rate of productivity growth. So our sponsorship of the Excellence in Innovation category recognises the central role that innovation plays in both business success and economic growth.

In the last two years, Invest NI has channelled more resources into support for research and development and, in particular, made it easier for smaller businesses to take the first step into product or process development. As a result, we have helped Northern Ireland achieve record levels of business expenditure on research and development.

But continuing to push up the level of innovation in Northern Ireland is vital to the future of our economy and therefore, it remains a core priority for Invest NI and a key part of the Programme for Government. Investment in innovation results in more competitive businesses, enabling growth.

By showcasing how even the smallest innovation can deliver real business benefits, more companies might be encouraged to engage in innovation, and Invest NI offers a range of advice and support to help them.

Business success also relies heavily on the people behind the product or service and so it is right that successful business teams should be recognised in the Outstanding Business Team of the Year award.

The most successful businesses know how to bring together different talents, skills, roles and responsibilities into a team that will drive the business forward and maintain a shared focus and shared objectives. This award will go to a company that has demonstrated how co-operation and teamwork have contributed to business success. Teamwork means collaborative working, yet individual contribution.

Businesses that have a strong management team tend to have momentum and energy and the ability to deal with challenges and difficult trading periods. It's also important that there is a sense of a team spirit throughout the whole business as new ideas can come from any level.

A successful business team might be a unit within a large company, like last year's winner, Almac, or only a few people that make up a small company. What is important, is that by working together they are delivering excellent business results.

Invest NI's specialists also can work as part of a company's team to help it achieve success. Our trade advisors provide insights and practical advice about entering overseas markets, our technical specialists can advise on everything from sourcing materials to CE (conformity with European law) marking, while our ICT advisors offer non-partisan guidance on hardware and software systems. And we have many business advisors, who can help with strategic and operational planning.

Awards such as the Belfast Telegraph Business Awards are reminders that despite the ongoing economic difficulties, there are many resilient, determined and talented people in our business community, who are showing that success comes from seeking out opportunities and solutions, regardless of the challenges.