Entrepreneurial businesses flying high for Aer Lingus awards in London

Aer Lingus TakeOff Foundation Business Awards judges at the Fitzwilliam Hotel. From left - Kirsty McManus, national director, Institute of Directors NI; Bob McGowan-Smyth, investment director, Crescent Capital; Roseann Kelly, chief executive, Women in Business; Jeremy Fitch, executive director (business & sector development group) at Invest NI; John Mulgrew, editor, Ulster Business; Richard Sherriff, business editor, News Letter; Andrea Hunter, business development manager, Aer Lingus NI; Kieran McGarrigle, partner and head of finance at Arthur Cox; Wendy Austin, presenter of BBC Inside Business; Gary McDonald, business editor, Irish News; and Margaret Canning, business editor, Belfast Telegraph.

THE finalists have been revealed in the new-look Aer Lingus business awards initiative, which has been renamed this year as the TakeOff Foundation Business Awards.

The awards celebrate and reward companies which have contributed to the Northern Ireland economy and made significant progress in global export markets, and the impressive short-list was drawn up following deliberation by an 11-strong panel of judges.

Among the nine contested categories, Fortress Diagnostics, Environmental Street Furniture and Brookvent vie for the title of Exporter of the Year, while Cyphra, FinTrU and UForm battle for the Fast Growth Business Award.

Short-listed companies will be flown by Aer Lingus from George Best Belfast City Airport on Tuesday May 8 to a prestigious awards ceremony in at the IoD Headquarters on Pall Mall in London.

Andrea Hunter, business development manager at Aer Lingus said: "The Aer Lingus TakeOff Foundation is proud to support and celebrate outstanding businesses across Northern Ireland.

"Every year the calibre of entrants seems yet more impressive than the one before. It wasn't easy to arrive at our list of finalists, but each one of them deserves their place on the short-list."

"The companies and individuals we're rewarding have demonstrated a true commitment to innovation and have achieved remarkable growth both here in Northern Ireland and across the globe.

"They are playing a pivotal role in the economic growth of Northern Ireland and their achievements, their entrepreneurship and business acumen act as a benchmark to the rest of the business community here."

Ms Hunter sat on the judging panel, where she was joined by John Mulgrew, editor Ulster Business; Gary McDonald, business editor Irish News; Margaret Canning, business editor Belfast Telegraph; Richard Sherriff, business editor News Letter; Wendy Austin, presenter BBC Inside Business; Bob McGowan-Smyth, investment director Crescent Capital; Kieran McGarrigle, partner, head of finance, Arthur Cox; Kirsty McManus, national director, Institute of Directors NI, Jeremy Fitch, executive director, business and sector development group, Invest NI and Roseann Kelly, chief executive, Women In Business.

The full short list (more details at is:

• Best Business Start-Up - Groundswell Growth, Titanic FX, AG Electrical NI.

• Best SME - STATSports Group, CGDM Construction, TS Foods.

• Fast Growth Business - UForm, Cyphra, FinTrU.

• Excellence in Marketing - Henderson Wholesale, Danske Bank, Babocush.

• Exporter of the Year - Fortress Diagnostics, Brookvent, Environmental Street Furniture.

• Innovation of the Year - See.Sense, Rolltack, OKTO Technologies.

• Business Person of the Year - Keith Graham (Selective Travel Management), Cathal Grant (CGDM Construction), Gareth Loye (Mascott Construction).

• Overall Excellence - IPC Mouldings, Selective Travel Management, OKTO Technologies.

• The recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award will be announced during the awards ceremony luncheon in London.

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