Good luck to all our 2023 Grand Finalists!
In addition to celebrating the finalists in all the below categories, we'll also be presenting a Prince's Trust Young Achiever and an Outstanding Contribution award on the evening
Global Britain Award
Insulcon Technical is a multi-million-pound global business located in North Tyneside which manufactures, exports and installs high-quality technical insulation systems to protect pipework and complex equipment from jet fires, temperature extremes, noise and corrosion. These award-winning systems are manufactured at the company’s fabrication facility in North Shields and exported to 30 countries worldwide, with 70% of its output distributed abroad. Insulcon Technical uses a unique multi-centre manufacturing process to meet the demands of global markets. Having heavily invested in research and development, the company has been at the forefront of technical innovation and has yielded multiple global product approvals with large organisations such as BP, Shell, Exxon Mobil, SBM Offshore, Suncor Energy, and Chevron.
Reproflex3 is an international pre-press packaging company employing more than 80 specialists worldwide. Reproflex3 was launched in 1996 and is headquartered in Cramlington, now operating sites in the UK, Dubai, India and New Zealand. Reproflex3’s technical approach to problem-solving has received widespread recognition. It is taking the technologies it has developed in the North East and deploying them globally to overcome the challenges faced by brands and printers across the pre-press packaging supply chain. During 2022, its screening technologies played a key role in creating multiple award-winning prints for clients and print partners internationally. Clients have the added benefit of the Reproflex3 Global Partnership Network deploying its flexographic print technologies, optimising their workflows to reduce operating costs.
DME Systems Ltd
DME Systems, based in Jarrow, provides engineering solutions to the marine and subsea sectors in the concept, design and manufacture of bespoke control systems and technical solutions across the globe. DME was founded approximately 15 months ago and has rapidly grown beyond expectations. Seeing revenue skyrocket, doubling its staff and establishing a customer base within the UK and internationally, including the USA, Netherlands, UAE, Turkey and more, DME has been able to support clients in some fantastic projects by solving their problems through the development of innovative engineering solutions. So far in its second year, it has continued its success and continued to grow its team and capabilities, securing and exceeding its very ambitious revenue target, after only four months.
Big Bite is trusted by some of the world's biggest brands to improve how they publish digital content, covering everything from editorial workflows to end-user experience. As one of the world's leading enterprise WordPress development agencies and the only WordPress VIP Gold partner in the UK, Big Bite's reputation spans a number of key products and services on a global level. Big Bite continues to champion and promote Teesside’s technical innovation and expertise on a worldwide stage, and over the last 12 months has added even more household names to its client list while also reporting increased turnover. Its reputation in the US has continued to broaden its portfolio with new companies each year.
Environmental and Sustainability Award
EGGER (UK) Ltd
EGGER’s Hexham facility is integral to its sustainability efforts. 83% of its products possess externally validated Environmental Product Declarations, and the wood is sourced within 150km of the plant, curtailing its carbon emissions within the supply chain. EGGER's wood processing aids carbon sequestration, storing 5.1 million tons of CO2 annually, and at its subsidiary company, Timberpak Ltd, waste is minimised by utilising sawmill industry by-products, saving a substantial 1.56 million tonnes of CO2 annually. By burning unusable wood residue instead of natural gas, the energy plant saves 71,000 tonnes of CO2 each year. An impressive 75% of fuel consumption comes from renewable sources, and it has taken proactive measures to support biodiversity.
Clearly Drinks Ltd
Sunderland-based Clearly Drinks, a soft drinks manufacturer established in 1885, is taking strides against plastic overuse. In 2022, Clearly Drinks reduced its emissions to an industry-leading 0.14kg CO2 per litre and now offsets the remaining scope 1 and 2 emissions through projects aligned to UN sustainable development goals – offsetting 868 tonnes of CO2. It has also planted 8,680 native trees, rendering the company carbon neutral, and has also trained all staff in carbon literacy and environmental awareness. As part of its ESG plan, Clearly Drinks has set out to employ a production process involving recyclable packaging solutions that prevent waste and reduce energy consumption to lower the company’s overall environmental footprint.
Vianet is a one-stop solution providing a comprehensive vending management system and contactless payment solution. The SmartVend system offers insights that can help customers reduce waste, unnecessary journeys and smart restocking. Last year, Vianet was proud to have been highly commended for its Corporate Social Responsibility and has since continued to demonstrate further changes. Vianet is aiming for net zero carbon consumption by 2030. Two core areas influence this – its office carbon emissions, and the fleet of vehicles it runs for service, engineering and customer installation. In 2022, it launched a sustainability project that will see consumption fall by around 86% by the end of 2023, reducing its 78 tonnes of carbon consumption to be nearer to 11 tonnes.
Transmission Dynamics is an engineering and innovation company specialising in delivering Internet of Things solutions for complex industrial challenges. Its future-proof bespoke IoT sensors extract, analyse and automatically report critical parameters via a cloud-based user interface and automated SMS/email alerts. By utilising machine learning and AI, these solutions enable proactive maintenance, reducing operations and costs, whilst simultaneously improving asset performance, safety and life. Transmission Dynamics has been at the forefront of developing innovative technologies for the rail sector for nearly two decades. Its latest award-winning offering, Trains with Brains®, which has been purchased by Network Rail and Angel Trains, networks innovative devices together to enable a comprehensive understanding of the interactions between the rail and overhead line infrastructure.
Wootzano, situated in Sedgefield, is a pioneering robotics firm. Its adept robotic system, Avarai™, targets the post-harvest sector, aiding in labour-intensive tasks within delicate produce packaging. The award-winning electronic skin provides a greater sensory awareness to the robotic hands and enables it to know the precise force needed to delicately pick and pack soft produce without causing damage to the fruit. Paired with vision technology, sophisticated machine learning algorithms and cloud updates, the systems are able to learn and see in real time. Implementation curtails labour by 60%, yielding 30% savings. As Wootzano’s system is fully protected with over 25 patents, it is able to dominate the market and ensure that Avarai can go global with minimal competition.
Tracerco, part of Johnson Matthey Plc, is a global industrial technology company with over 60 years of experience. Using innovative technology, Tracerco provides companies all over the world with the insights they need to make informed decisions about their operations. To prevent oil or chemical companies from needing to shut down production to see what is happening inside their refining columns, Tracero’s Process Diagnostics team uses radiation to scan towers while still in operation so they can stay productive. Following collaboration with customers, it created the PD Portal to further increase productivity. Customers can now receive a same-day report and have complete control over all the data in the scan, as well as ask Tracero experts about any queries.
Leighton is a software development business that builds high-performing teams and creates software products that make money, save money, create efficiencies, integrate systems and solve problems for its customers. Founded in Sunderland in 1992, Leighton employs some of the country’s top specialists and works with some of the UK’s biggest brands, growing by diversifying its client base and creating new revenue streams. In the last year, the business has seen its highest revenue ever, growing by 90% following a 62% revenue growth the year before - setting it up for another strong year ahead. With this steady growth, Leighton has continued to recruit and invest in its teams, growing the team by 48% in FY23.
Previously known as Oil Consultants, Visuna transformed to become a provider of workforce solutions in energy and tech recruitment. This rebrand allowed it to begin recruiting for roles in the hydrogen sector and in offshore renewables in addition to technology roles, as well as start filling permanent roles rather than contract only, which was a big change for the company. Visuna has seen steep year-on-year growth over three years, with substantial short-term growth since 2022 due to its new senior leadership team. It opened an office in Texas to grow its offering within the renewables market in North America and continued to grow business in its core locations, including Saudi Arabia and Australia.
B A Joinery
B A Joinery is a specialist joinery manufacturing company established in 2008. Located at a 40,000-square-foot premises in Billingham, B A Joinery has built a strong reputation on traditional values of craftsmanship. The company has seen significant growth and success over the past year, with revenue rising by 31%. B A Joinery has increased its turnover, expanded its customer base, created new jobs and launched several successful new products and services. This involved investing in a digital transformation for greater efficiency, developing its employees and bringing in new talent, and introducing more environmental schemes. B A Joinery has a clear vision for the future, including plans to expand into new markets and launch more new services.
Best Place to Work
Muckle LLP, a thriving Newcastle-based law firm, employs 174 and champions junior talent with 16 trainee and apprentice solicitors. In 2022, it achieved Investors in People Platinum, ranking second globally in legal services and 69th overall. Founding the North East Solicitor Apprentice scheme in 2017 highlighted its commitment to accessible legal careers, creating opportunities for school leavers to enter the legal profession without the burden of university fees. The company has introduced various initiatives to upskill and develop its employees: "The Muckle Way" framework, co-created with staff, unifies vision, values, and client service; "Lead the Muckle Way" cultivates leadership via a 360 tool; "Crafting your Career" tailors roles and training, while "Return...The Muckle Way" aids comebacks.
Voicentric, a medium-sized telemarketing firm in central Durham, specialises in life and material sciences. With notably approachable leadership, it values every staff member's input, irrespective of hierarchy. Its global marketing of life science products requires a diverse workforce adept in various languages and attuned to cultural nuances, therefore Voicentric embraces diversity and inclusion, considering them to be the bedrock of its success. Creating a motivated culture through ambitious and dynamic staff, Viocentric views itself as a launchpad rather than a final stop. Voicentric's commitment to upskilling employees for future roles fosters a vibrant work environment, seeing it nurture talent to reach their full potential. The transition to an employee-owned trust has furthered employee trust, respect and empowerment.
Big Bite, a thriving WordPress agency, has used its global triumph to create local prosperity, employing 28 professionals in Middlesbrough. Prioritising staff well-being, the agency has augmented benefits in recent years to improve its already gratifying package. Perks include opportunities for professional development, social events, counselling and even healthy food. Big Bite nurtures a culture of trust, allowing flexible hours and locations as long as goals are met so that employees can prioritise their own personal well-being. The agency's well-rounded well-being programme underlines its commitment to acknowledging employees' contributions through generous compensation and bonuses, including above-average salaries. In fact, in May 2023, Big Bite won a place on the Sunday Times Best Places to Work list.
Jordan Scott - Insulcon Technical
Jordan Scott joined Insulcon Technical in February 2019, at the age of 17, as a trainee CAD designer to assist in the front-end design of our technical insulation systems. He has worked in every department from commercial to design, engineering and manufacturing, site surveys and installation meaning he can adapt quickly should additional support be required in any area of the business. During his time at Insulcon Technical, Jordan has successfully achieved several additional qualifications. He is responsible for the production, testing and assembly of equipment for clients from all over the globe and always delivers. Going above and beyond at work is the norm for Jordan, despite facing personal difficulties that could limit him.
May James - May James Ltd
Since graduating in 2020, May James has successfully set up two businesses and scaled them significantly. May James Ltd is a strategy consulting company that helps fast-growing SMEs globally to scale their revenue sustainably and run more efficiently. May has helped to generate multi-million pounds for her clients' businesses, serving clients from 13 different countries across 5 continents with an above-industry-average leading client retention rate. In addition, May also runs a small pre-loved fashion e-commerce business that stops clothes from going to landfill and gives them a new life, building over 1,000 positive reviews. May has reached these impressive achievements in spite of hardships in her personal life, showing how truly inspiring she is.
Marc Walker - Low Digital Ltd
Marc Walker left his role leading a digital department when he was 26 to launch his own digital marketing agency. Low Digital Ltd specialises in digital marketing strategy and implementation across paid media channels including Google Ads, Paid Social, Programmatic Display and YouTube. It uses innovative, integrated marketing solutions to drive incremental growth for businesses, currently collaborating with 20+ local businesses in the North East. Marc has developed multiple intricate systems and processes enabling bespoke offerings to his clients. Word-of-mouth recommendations have played a pivotal role in the development of Low Digital, with the company delivering substantial growth. Prior to Low Digital, Marc had seen previous entrepreneurial success with various successful online ventures such as second-hand reselling companies.
Made in Britain Award
Zentia is the UK’s only major manufacturer of complete ceiling solutions, making a wide range of mineral ceiling tiles, suspension grids and floating ceiling systems at its two factories in Gateshead. Offering a shorter supply chain to the construction industry, Zentia currently trades across the UK and Ireland, as well as Spain, Portugal, Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania. Following a change in ownership, Zentia invested heavily in its manufacturing sites with the intention to be ready to stock-build key products by the end of the year. The aim was to bring more of its product manufacturing to Gateshead which is seeing fruitful results already as the first insourced products are currently being launched to market.
Beanies Flavour Coffee
Beanies is a flavoured coffee company selling a wide range of instant coffee in over 45 flavours, offering coffee lovers a sugar-free and low-calorie alternative. Beanies has enjoyed rapid growth over the past six years, with its products sold online, in high-street stores such as Sainsbury’s and Aldi, and globally, all from its base in the North East. At present, the team exports to over 35 markets, including South Africa, India, Malaysia, and Japan, while a deal in Australia is also in the pipeline. Beanies has also recently further cemented its international outlook by agreeing a strategic partnership with Greek flavour coffee producer, Cafetex S.A. In 2022, its consistent export success was recognised with the Queen’s Awards for International Trade.
Paralloy Ltd has a strong pedigree in the manufacture of static and centrifugally spun castings in a range of stainless steel and nickel alloys primarily for the petrochemical and industrial gas turbine markets. It has three foundries, three machine shops, multiple fabrication, inspection and testing facilities across three sites and three brands. Exporting to over 30 countries around the world, Paralloy has more than doubled in the last three years, with FY24 expected to be even stronger. This has been through its research and development efforts that focus on supporting the net zero transition, expanding partnerships, developing long-term and new relationships with clients, investing to resolve capacity constraints and investing in its people.
Business Person of the Year
Paul Fiddaman - Karbon Homes
Paul Fiddaman has been the Karbon Group Chief Executive since 2017, having been the Chief Executive for the legacy companies prior. Paul’s sound business head balanced with his strong social heart keeps Karbon pushing forward as both a successful business and an organisation with a fierce social purpose. Growing the business and identifying new opportunities to build capacity is one of Paul’s strengths, and despite it being a challenging year, under his leadership, Karbon has successfully driven forward on its three strategic aims. Paul has a strong presence within the organisation and has a reputation as being approachable, honest and transparent. His passion for social housing sees him also dedicating his time to promoting the work of the wider sector.
Gareth Allen - Superior Recruitment Group
Founder and Managing Director of Superior Recruitment Group, Gareth Allen embodies the epitome of a dynamic and inspiring business leader, providing exceptional leadership skills, strategic vision and outstanding communication abilities. Gareth has spearheaded the remarkable success of the company, achieving every goal and target set for 2022 - including exponential recruitment and sales growth. In a rapidly changing market landscape, Gareth has skillfully navigated complex business environments, seamlessly adjusting strategies to capitalise on emerging opportunities. A true advocate for maintaining a positive corporate culture, Gareth places great importance on the well-being and professional development of his employees. His transformative leadership has not only propelled Superior Recruitment Group to new heights but also inspired and empowered his team to surpass expectations.
Victoria Lynch - Additional Lengths
Founder Victoria Lynch set up Additional Lengths in 2003, an award-winning hair extension manufacturer and retailer that has been selling globally for two decades. The business has continued to grow organically with Victoria’s persistence and creativity, without any outside influence or investment. In 2013, Victoria launched ‘Remi Cachet’ which is its own brand of luxury high-end hair extensions and a website for trade accounts to purchase from, with Additional Lengths remaining specifically for consumers. It doesn't just stop at extensions; both brands also cater for a number of needs, supplying haircare products and styling tools. Alongside the store in Stockton and 20 staff across the company, the brand recently increased its online presence by showcasing a new website.
Small Business of the Year
Based in Wallsend, CJM provides waste recycling services to businesses nationwide. One of the UK’s foremost specialists in plastic recycling, CJM is committed to providing bespoke recycling services that help make the world a more sustainable place. CJM started its journey in the waste recycling sector as a materials broker and now offers full waste management services to businesses throughout the country. With a ‘hands-on’, problem-solving approach, CJM works closely with clients to understand their unique waste recycling goals, offer guidance on compliance and raise recycling rates/landfill diversion. A recent move to a new site is an exciting development for CJM and a precursor to the installation of a plastic recycling facility later this year.
Fairgrieve Compression Moulding
Established in 1913, Fairgrieve Compression Moulding is a UK manufacturing business enjoying a new lease of life after 110 years in business. Thanks to new investment and new managerial direction, over the past 18 months the business has been transformed from a loss-making operation into a profitable manufacturer winning new contracts and finding business in new sectors and markets. This has included new work within the rail industry, with a major UK construction company and for a British military aircraft parts supplier. Heavy investment was made into the working environment and processes to bolster the prospects of the business, with long-serving members of staff included in the decision-making processes due to their expertise and knowledge.
Telcoss is an industrial cleaning specialist, running a fleet of tankers to service clients who require a wide range of work carried out ranging from general blockages to removing hazardous materials. The business is recognised as a big player in a highly competitive sector, working closely with the Environment Agency to dispose of waste in line with Government regulations. Turnover doubled at the end of Year 3 and long-term contracts have been secured with blue-chip companies around the UK. While the company is proud to service customers across the UK, Managing Director Tom Southall has ensured that Telcoss hasn't forgotten its roots and is steadfast in providing jobs and support for the local community.
Business of the Year
Muckle LLP, a thriving commercial law firm in Newcastle, boasts a workforce of 174. In 2022, it secured the coveted Investors in People Platinum award, propelling it to second place globally in legal services and 69th overall across sectors. Working towards B-CORP status, annually, 1% of profits are donated to local causes, totalling nearly £700,000 in 20 years. Initiating the North East Solicitor Apprentice scheme, Muckle LLP facilitates legal careers for school leavers, whilst it also hires and upskills apprentices and trainees to nurture new talent. Its new five-year business plan prioritises profitability, people, plans, performance, process and purpose. Growing further, Muckle LLP has recently expanded to Teesside and Cumbria to help more clients and communities.
Wootzano in Sedgefield is a pioneering robotics firm. Its adept robotic system, Avarai™, targets the post-harvest sector, aiding in labour-intensive tasks within delicate produce packaging. The award-winning electronic skin provides a greater sensory awareness to the robotic hands and enables it to know the precise force needed to delicately pick and pack soft produce without causing damage to the fruit. Paired with vision technology, sophisticated machine learning algorithms and cloud updates, the systems are able to learn and see in real time. Wootzano’s mission of democratising robotics is reflected in its affordable pricing, making its robots just as beneficial for smaller packhouses. Implementation curtails labour by 60%, yielding 30% savings which can be used to increase production or be reallocated.
razorblue, an acclaimed managed IT, cybersecurity, connectivity, cloud and software solutions provider, serves more than 500 SMEs spanning diverse industries. 2022 was the company’s most successful yet, bolstering its growth which has reached a remarkable 363% in five years. razorblue currently has 170 employees across seven offices, including two in the North East. With a steadfast commitment to quality, its in-house, 24/7 staffed Service Desk sets it apart from competitors who outsource, as well as its Microsoft Gold Partner status and hundreds of strategic collaborations with top suppliers. razorblue's emphasis on customer-centricity remains unwavering amid its growth, while a focus on team development, evidenced through recruitment, internal promotions and consistent investment in benefits, training and CSR, drives its success.