Five Northern Ireland companies are recognised in annual Queen's Awards

Economy Minister Diane Dodds with PAC Group business development director Darren Leslie outside Stormont. Picture: Francine Montgomery / Excalibur Press
Economy Minister Diane Dodds with PAC Group business development director Darren Leslie outside Stormont. Picture: Francine Montgomery / Excalibur Press

FIVE companies in Northern Ireland are among 205 from across the UK confirmed as latest winners of the Queen’s Awards for Enterprise.

The focus of this year’s awards is on promoting opportunity through social mobility, an especially important theme given the challenges that have been faced through the pandemic, with businesses playing a valuable role in their local communities.

Among the Northern Ireland awardees it Environmental Street Furniture (ESF), a designer and manufacturer of innovative, high-quality furniture, which exports to 26 countries and has been recognised in the International Trade category.

ESF was established in 1998 and uses technology, creativity and modern materials to produce furniture for outdoor spaces for private homes, street displays and brands which has helped boost UK exports and earned the company a global reputation for excellence.

It has established itself globally as a high-quality and experienced provider of street, themed, solar, smart and more recently, security products, and has worked on projects including the Coca-Cola Arena in Dubai; Disneyland Hong Kong; Ta Qali Craft Village in Malta and Gilbert Recreational Parks Arizona.

Three other local companies were recognised in the International Trade category - InspecVision in Mallusk, which develops a range of precision inspection machines for industrial applications and whose products are sold in over 30 countries; AES Global in Cookstown, which designs innovative security technology and manufactures one of Europe's largest range of wireless audio, video and GSM wire free intercom systems; and Antrim-based Texthelp, which provides literacy and language learning software solutions to the education and corporate market sectors.

The only company from the north to receive a Queen's Award in the Innovation category (and the first in three years) is Belfast engineering specialist PAC Group, named in recognition of the outstanding innovation and commercial success of its carbon composite Hot Drape Former technology and machines, which are used to manufacture components for the aerospace, automotive, and marine sectors.

Established in 2018, the electrical and mechanical engineering company has had a remarkable growth journey, doubling its turnover and employee numbers since 2019.

Last year PAC invested almost £500,000 in a new premises in Dargan Crescent, and now employs 40 people.

Its business development director Darren Leslie said: “It is a fantastic endorsement for our company to be recognised as world-class, and it is welcome recognition of our team’s capabilities and hard work.

“It also recognises how innovative our carbon composite preforming technology is, which brings significant benefits to industries seeking to lightweight their structures to tackle climate change and in response to the Green Agenda.”

Holding 42 patents on the hardware and software, the company’s preformer machines have been purchased by companies such as Spirit AeroSystems, the Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre in Sheffield, and McLaren Automotive.

UK Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said: “The past year has been a tough time for many businesses across the UK, which is why it is more important than ever to celebrate the achievements of our wealth creators and recognise the contributions they make to our communities.

“In the last 12 months, businesses showed the entrepreneurial spirit that this country is renowned for, continuing to drive social mobility, find new markets to export to and produce innovative products and services.

“I congratulate this year’s winners and I wish every business that applied for an award this year every success in the future as we build back better from the pandemic.”