At the heart of Britain’s future growth is technology and innovation. Both of these are required for Britain to recover from the global recession; both of these are key to running a successful growing business. The companies below are some of the very best companies to use technology and innovation to improve their business. This is what the judges are looking for: a company that has implemented and is using IT to transform performance. Here is the shortlist for the 2010 Growing Business Awards Technology and Innovation Award: Scott Martin first introduced Britain to gourmet coffee vending machines some 11 years ago, and is still innovating today through his company, Coffee Nation. The company’s Express solution is setting a new standard for the coffee vending industry and how gourmet coffee will be sold in the future. Express’s unique one-touch solution allows coffee lovers to buy bespoke gourmet coffee – from service stations, universities, anywhere – and pick what type, size, strength and syrup flavour they’d like, paying by cash, card or even through contactless wave-and-pay technology. Coffee Nation’s innovative Express vending machine rivals high street baristas, and has helped the business to win service contracts worth in excess of £15m. When you’ve got a fast-growing family-owned business, it can be tough to keep your IT infrastructure up to speed. Although Team24, Britain’s top medical locum agency, faced this challenge, its in-house Galago system ensures the company’s directors can focus on growth rather than worrying about the IT system. At the core of Galago is a single data warehouse which houses over 55,000 candidate’s records, including digital data and images. The system automatically emails forms to candidates, and allows both customers and candidates to track the recruitment process from start to finish. It’s no surprise, therefore, that Galago played a significant role in helping the company to grow by 126 per cent last year, adding an impressive £17m in turnover. Ticketmedia has been around since the 1990s, when it produced plain and low quality advertising rolls, which retailers used as a simple branding exercise. But Jeremy Burbidge, the company’s managing director, spotted an opportunity: why not use the reverse of ticket rolls as an advertising space for third parties? Starting with bus tickets, Ticketmedia soon created a new market for advertisers. Today, the £1.8m turnover business continues to use technology to stay ahead of its competitors, with Burbidge developing new print methods for tickets and receipts that are more environmentally friendly, more cost-effective, and improve print quality by around 30 per cent. Customers – which already include London Dungeons, O2, Yell.com, and Odeon – are today lining up to use Ticketmedia’s unique technology. Webmart is the brainchild of British entrepreneur Simon Biltcliffe, who founded the company in 1996. The company is now the UK’s third-largest print management company, consulting, buying and managing printing services for businesses. What makes Webmart special is its in-house software, which enables the company to fully automate sales and project management, reducing the potential for human error to a tenth of the industry average. As the CEO of the British Print Industries Federation said: “What these guys do just blows me away.” Customers can go to Webmart for all their printing needs, from page design to production and distribution. Now boasting a £32.6m turnover and 94 per cent customer retention rate, Webmart’s innovative and fresh approach to printing makes it a strong candidate for the Technology and Innovation Award. Buying consumer electronics from large brands such as Cisco and TomTom, and supplying to large retailers such as Dixons, Amazon, Argos, Staples and Tesco, can be a logistical nightmare. This is the problem that Widget faced before bringing in the Maginus distribution system. Maginus works magic: it allows both suppliers and customers to see, at any given time, how many units Widget holds in stock, their buy price, how many units the customer has sold, and how many units they should buy. In a £32m distributor, stock levels are hugely important, and good allocations and pricing of stock is critical to the business running smoothly. The company is now developing a Widget iPhone app that will give customers instant access to stock level information and sales. The company has seen its business double in the three years that it has managed its business using Maginus. Xcam may be the smallest company of the shortlist in terms of turnover; but its technological prowess and innovation makes it a worthy contender for the award. This £0.5m-turnover company sells custom-built scientific digital cameras to world-leading science experiments all over the world. It boasts an impressive client list: University of Cambridge, the Institute of High Energy Physics in China, and the European Space Agency amongst others. The key to the business’s international expansion is its product: thanks to its low overheads, Xcam builds bespoke scientific digital cameras at a tenth of the price of its competitors (£25,000 against an industry average of £250,000), and in much shorter timescales (four months versus 18 months). Its strong projected growth – it expects turnover to grow by 35 per cent next year – and innovative product makes Xcam stand out from the crowd. Join us at the 2010 Growing Business Awards on November 25 at the London Marriott Grosvenor Square, where you can meet Britain’s finest business leaders and entrepreneurs. You’ll also be able to rub shoulders with business minister Mark Prisk! All of the booking details for the awards can be found on the Growing Business Awards website. We’ll also bring you the inside story on all of our Growing Business Awards shortlists in a special edition of Real Business in December.
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