This year’s Queen’s Awards for Enterprise have been revealed, on the birthday of Her Majesty The Queen.

More than 230 winners have been recognised, including 20 from the North West. That compares with 16 companies honoured last year.

Small Business Minister, Paul Scully, said: “This country is renowned for its entrepreneurial achievements and there is no greater showcase for it than The Queen’s Awards.

“It’s vital we celebrate the success of our businesses and recognise the contributions they make to communities across the country.

“I congratulate this year’s winners for their hard work and commitment over the last year and I wish them every success for the future.”

There are 12 North West companies listed in the international trade section, five in innovation, two in sustainable development, and one in promoting opportunity.

This year’s honours list comprises:

International trade


Based in Alderley Edge, Apconix was established in 2015, and is a consultancy group that advises clients on drug safety, a laboratory that screens new compounds for cardiac safety effects and a target safety assessment (TSA) product that identifies and evaluates potential safety concerns with a new drug target.

Overseas sales now represent 73% of total sales and have grown over three years by a total of 113.4%. The company’s client base is truly global and includes many of the world’s top pharmaceutical and biotech companies, research Institutes, venture capitalists and governmental bodies. It has associates based in Sweden, Germany, Canada and Israel and has opened an office in Gothenburg.

Its principal markets are the US, Germany, France, Belgium and Switzerland but it has more recently engaged new clients in less traditional markets such as Turkey, Poland, Singapore and Australia. The company wins the Queen’s Award for International Trade for Outstanding Short Term Growth in overseas sales over the past three years.

Bancroft Soft Furnishings

Bury-based Bancroft Soft Furnishings has seen overseas sales rise by 44% over three years. It sells a variety of decorative blackouts, Textured Woven Fabrics, Sheers, contract linings and FR Upholstery fabrics. It is now a supplier of soft furnishings to the hospitality, cruise, education, healthcare, and domestic sectors.

Its main markets are the United Arab Emirates, Germany, Sweden, Norway, and Croatia. Its future strategy is to build sales to £5m per annum. For its overseas marketing, it will continue to exhibit at the Heimtextil Show in Frankfurt each year in January. This will enable it to increase the company’s profile to existing and new customers and countries. The company wins the Queen’s Award for International Trade for Outstanding Short Term Growth.


IPEC is based in Stockport and has been trading since 1995. It has world-leading technology in on-line Partial Discharge testing of medium voltage, high voltage and extra-high voltage plant, cables, switchgear and accessories, monitoring more than 3,500 assets worldwide.

Products include simple to use instruments to sophisticated permanently installed systems that can be used to monitor every joint and termination on a cable. It provides leasing, training courses, support packages, testing and value-added services such as installations, warranty and data hosting.

Overseas sales grew by 54% in the three-year period with top markets including Saudi Arabia, Austria, China, the United States and South Africa. To provide quality customer support it developed remote services using local distributors and by hosting webinars to maintain contact with existing and potential customers. It won the Queen’s Award for International Trade in 2016 and the company wins the Queen’s Award for International Trade for Outstanding Short Term Growth.

Oliver Valvertek

Oliver Valvetek is based in Knutsford and has been trading since 1994. It is a leading supplier of high performance oil and gas valves to the world’s biggest energy companies, providing engineered-to-order gate, ball and needle valves and instrumentation products for subsea applications.

All products are designed, built and tested at the site with remote customer inspection, before being shipped to locations across the globe. All products are qualified to highly regulated operating conditions to ensure at least 25 years’ operational use in the most demanding environments, including operation at 10,000 feet water depth at 20,000 psi and be completely maintenance free.

Overseas sales grew by 101% in the three-year period with top markets including Malaysia, Singapore and Asia Pacific, North America, South America, Norway and Europe. It won the Queen’s Award for International Trade in 2012 and the company wins the Queen’s Award for International Trade for Outstanding Short Term Growth.

Xpel Marketing

Xpel Marketing was established in 2008 and is based in Widnes. The company manufactures household and personal care products for both UK and international markets. Over three years to March 2020, overseas sales have grown by 306%.

With manufacturing in both China and the UK, the company has been trading for 14 years and supplies the majority of discount and pharmacy retailers in the UK. Overseas, it sells predominately via distribution networks and currently has live listings with: Normal (Denmark), NOZ stores (France), Postie (New Zealand), Viva (Dubai), Dealz (Poland), DI (Belgium).

Export turnover now accounts for approximately 20% of the company’s turnover and is growing each year. The company wins the Queen’s Award for International Trade for Outstanding Short Term Growth.

Cheese Matters

Cheese Matters was founded by John Carr in March 2017 and is based in Garstang, near Preston. With more than 30 years’ experience in the speciality cheese industry, the company has successfully grown export businesses for numerous small producers.

Over the three years from 2018 to June 2021, overseas sales have grown by 80% with exports growing on average by 35.2% per annum and making up 100% of all sales. It aims to maintain its existing wide supplier base and develop sales primarily through its Dutch subsidiary to increase the company’s EU market penetration. It is introducing a range of vegan dairy substitutes, and has also created a new limited liability subsidiaries for two UK-based companies in the USA. The company wins the Queen’s Award for International Trade for Outstanding Short Term Growth.

Idem Safety Switches

Idem Safety Switches is based in Wigan and has been trading since 2003. It designs, develops and manufactures a range of Safety Switches, Guard Machine Interlock Switches, Emergency Stop switches and Monitoring Devices.

It also produces Trapped-key Interlocks and the world’s largest range of grab-wire Rope Safety Switches and Belt Alignment switches for use on conveyors. Sectors include factory automation, robot cells, food production, pharmaceutical, oil and gas, automotive and aerospace.

Overseas sales grew by more than 200% in the six-year period with top markets including the United States, the Netherlands, Brazil, Sweden and Germany. It remained open throughout the pandemic to serve ‘essential’ products for use in Pharmaceutical, Food and Beverage and the Packaging Industries.

Innovating new products for complex applications is key, with a robust pipeline of new products and expansion into under-served markets. The company wins the Queen’s Award for International Trade for Outstanding Continuous Growth in overseas sales over the last six years.

Samuelson Wylie Associates

Established in 2010 and based in Lancaster, Samuelson Wylie Associates is a PR and events agency that specialises in the automotive sector. The company has long worked with UK-based automotive manufacturers but it soon became apparent that expansion into Europe was the best option to grow the business.

International automotive brands’ marketing budgets are centred at their European headquarters and, after testing the market in 2015, the positive impact on the company led to further growth. Overseas sales have increased over three years by 158% and now account for 63% of total sales.

The company concentrates on premium automotive brands operating in the UK, Europe and US. Starting with car manufacturers and their offices in the UK and then Germany, followed by the US, SWA is now also working for Swedish and Czech car brands. The company wins the Queen’s Award for International Trade for Outstanding Short Term Growth in overseas sales over the past three years.


Microbiological Solutions, trading as MSL, is based in Bury, and has been trading since 2001. It specialises in the microbiological testing and regulatory compliance of cosmetics, personal care products and biocides.

Its customer base spans five continents, including manufacturers, brand owners and raw material suppliers. Expertise include claims substantiation, auditing, consultancy, user trials, disinfectant testing, US Food, Coronavirus testing on textiles, and Drug and Cosmetics Act compliance service with regard to both EU and UK Cosmetic Regulation that came into force in January 2021.

Overseas sales grew almost 100% in the three-year period with top markets including the United States, France, Germany, Spain and Italy. Acting for European and US companies requiring testing and regulation of products sourced from China it is evaluating opportunities and market entry costs in China. The company wins the Queen’s Award for International Trade for Outstanding Short Term Growth.


S+B UK is based in Swinton, and has been trading since 2006 after a management buyout. It is a world leader in the innovative design, quality manufacture and installation of modern educational, laboratory, office furniture and accessories.

It is the dominant player in the UK and has a fast growing international reputation, built on its highly successful export strategy. Educational supplies are its biggest sector and it provides high quality science laboratory and food technology fittings to every educational authority in the UK as well as many independent schools and colleges.

Overseas sales grew by more than 400% in the three-year period with top markets including Dubai, Thailand, Hong Kong, the United States and Vietnam. It won the Queen’s Award for International Trade in 2016 and the company wins the Queen’s Award for International Trade for Outstanding Short Term Growth.

Global Beauty Products

Established in 2015 in Liverpool, Global Beauty Products, trading as Beautiful Brows and Lashes, is a specialist cosmetics company which develops, manufactures and sells a range of products to professionals in the beauty sector.

Its products include a range of eyebrow and lash products for professionals to carry out beauty treatments, including microblading, brow lamination, and lash lift. It now sells its products to 200+ brands around the world. The beauty industry has been using PPE and hand sanitiser long before COVID-19 so it has been manufacturing a range of products to meet this need which expanded in response to the pandemic.

Overseas sales have grown by 159% and the company currently exports to 27 countries. During the past three years, it has identified and established 15 new overseas markets which include USA, Mexico, Sweden, Slovakia, and Greece. The company wins the Queen’s Award for International Trade for Outstanding Short Term Growth.

Roberts Recycling

Roberts Recycling, established in 2012, is based in Huyton, in the Liverpool City Region. The company is an award winning exporter of used clothing, buying and selling unwanted apparel and textiles.

Initially trading within the UK market selling to exporters, the company developed its own international trade by exporting goods directly into Europe. Over three years to August 2021, overseas sales increased by 327% with exports now representing 82% of all sales.

Poland provides by far the most demand for its products. It previously won the Queen’s Award for International Trade in 2019. The company wins the Queen’s Award for International Trade for Outstanding Short Term Growth.



Antony Allen

Data8, formed in 2005, and headed by managing director Antony Allen, is a software company that has created Duplicare, software that is integrated with Microsoft Dynamics 365 to de-duplicate and merge records to improve data quality, save resources, and increase data accuracy.

Many companies have large databases containing customer and client records that are incomplete or which contain duplicate records. The large number of records held by some organisations were too big for existing software to manage.

Duplicare is designed to work within the Microsoft environment and incorporates fuzzy logic, and custom definitions, enabling the processing of up to 5,000 records simultaneously. The benefits to the organisations that adopt it are clean and accurate databases which help them be more effective and efficient. In addition, it is a key tool in the management and delivery of GDPR requirements.

Informed Solutions

Formed in 1992, Altrincham-based Informed Solutions is a business that helps public and private organisations successfully transform their digital operations. The company has addressed the long standing problem of Change Management and its slow implementation that public/private organisations are often affected by with InformedTRANSFORM an innovative service that accelerates and de-risks digital business change.

It starts with a user-centred approach to design the solution rather than considering each business segment separately. It progresses by making changes iteratively (typically in two week increments) so that user needs can be continually researched and any issues with the design, quickly addressed.

Several unique tools have been developed to assist the process including Blueprinting, to allow the whole transformation to be visualised, Accelerators to reliably assess and deploy technical innovation such as artificial intelligence and data sciences immediately it becomes available, and Agile to assist in the iterative implementation.


Alertacall, established in 2004 and based in Windermere, Cumbria, helps as many people as possible feel safe, connected and informed. It does this by providing people living in sheltered and supported housing with a touchscreen device that users can use to control access to daily human contact, confirm everything is okay, report repairs and also receive video calls from other people, and door entry systems.

The system, which uses wireless technology, can also be used to replace pull cord alerts and provide Internet access to people who otherwise might not have it. This combination of technology and services is innovative and has allowed the business to show strong growth in a market that is understandably cautious with change. There are 103 employees.

Chimney Sheep

Chimney Sheep, based in Maryport, Cumbria, produces The Chimney Sheep device, a chimney draught excluder, based around a thick woollen felt pad with a recycled and recyclable plastic handle.

The device is easily inserted snugly in the chimney aperture, dramatically reducing the airflow by 93%, while still allowing enough flow to combat damp. The device and the company were launched in 2012. There are an estimated 11 million chimneys in the UK. These are typically open all year around but are not usually the primary source of room heat.

When no fire is burning, open chimneys will remove approximately five per cent of household heat. This is a significant loss, contributing to higher heating bills (where other forms of heat are used) and greater overall energy consumption. With no strong competitors and with energy-saving credentials that deliver benefits to customers and the wider environment, this low-tech solution is making a big impact.


Manchester-based OneFile was formed in 2002 and received a Queen’s Award in 2017 for its innovative cloud-based learning and development platform.

Its latest innovation represents continuous innovation within the company’s ePortfolio ecosystem. The Learning Hub is a cloud-based technology for personalised learning that improves teaching quality and learner tracking and engagement. It was created to help organisations adhere to the new apprenticeship standards and solve several significant issues facing training providers and colleges.

Based on detailed case studies of customers, the company estimates that an organisation can save between £110,000 to £170,000 a year by using its software to reduce travel time, accommodation, paperwork, and other administration costs. The innovation has become integral to the applicant’s commercial success.

Sustainable Development

Co-op Group


The Co-op Group is the UK’s largest consumer co-operative, with more than four million active members in every postal area in the country.

It is a food retailer and wholesaler, the largest funerals provider in the UK, and a major provider of consumer legal services, and life planning and insurance products.

The Co-op was founded in 1844 with a clear social purpose that has grown and spread through the wider co-operative movement. Its headquarters is Manchester and it has more than 65,000 employees across the UK.

The Co-op Group is awarded the Queen’s Award for Enterprise in Sustainable Development because it has provided evidence that sustainability is embedded in its governance and business processes, it can demonstrate commitment to change, it provides numerous examples of collaboration and partnership, and can demonstrate that it has had a positive impact.

Used Kitchen Exchange

Used Kitchen Exchange (UKE), is a B-Corp founded in 2015 in Widnes and has 10 staff. It is an online only, buy/sell platform for pre-owned/pre-installed kitchens, appliances and household fitted furniture.

These are sold on behalf of homeowners and industry partners, including photography, measurements, conditional survey, removal and delivery. Directors Helen and Philip Lord have provided inspirational leadership.

The company has normalised reuse in a notoriously wasteful sector where landfilling complete kitchens was usual, and it has built the business to become the preferred digital marketplace for buying and selling preowned fitted furniture including, kitchens, bathrooms, bedrooms, conservatories and fitted furniture. UKE is awarded the Queen’s Award for Enterprise in Sustainable Development because it demonstrates sustainable thinking throughout the whole product process and delivery, including influencing the wider kitchen supply industry.

Promoting Opportunity

Procure Plus Holdings

Procure Plus Holdings, based in Manchester, was founded in 2006 and received a Promoting Opportunity Award in 2017.

This commercial, not for profit company supplies goods and services to registered housing providers. The surplus generated from the business is used to train and develop people from disadvantaged backgrounds, work with local communities, and help individuals into worthwhile employment.

As well as supporting individuals into employment, the company also works with candidates and employers to provide ongoing in-work support for up to three years.

Over the past five years, it has supported 2,534 people into employment, with 90% from disadvantaged backgrounds. The individuals supported are people on low incomes, long term unemployed, those not in employment, education, or training (NEET), Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME), and ex-offenders.


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