Northern Ireland’s leading business awards, the annual AIB Business Eye Awards, have been launched for their 18th year at a networking event held at Custom House.

Richard Buckley, Editor of Business Eye and Brian Gillan, Head of Retail and NI at AIBhosted the launch event which was attended by category sponsors and key business guests.

Headline awards once again include the coveted Company of the Year, Business Personality of the Year and Lifetime Achievement awards. With a wide range of categories, the AIB Business Eye Awards recognise qualities and success across different specialist categories and sectors.

“We work very hard each year to fine tune and improve these awards and to maintain their reputation as the very best awards of their kind in Northern Ireland,” says Brenda Buckley of Business Eye. “2023 produced a record number of entries, and really high-quality entries. Despite all of the challenges facing business here, we’re confident that the bar can be raised once again this year.”

AIB, a key supporter of the Northern Ireland business community, is a long-standing partner of Business Eye and its award programmes. Speaking at the launch,

Brian Gillan, Head of Retail and NI at AIB said;

“Northern Ireland is home to innovative, creative and resilient businesses and the AIB Business Eye Awards is the perfect showcase of their success. Through the awards programme, we shine a light on the traits and qualities that support business growth, helping inspire others to embark on their own growth journeys.  In partnership with Business Eye, we look forward to celebrating the remarkable achievements of local businesses, and encourage companies of all sizes, from all industries to enter.”

Last year’s awards showcased an impressive array of winners at a memorable awards night held at the ICC Belfast venue in front of a 700-strong audience. Belfast & Derry/Londonderry based FinTrU, one of the leaders in the dynamic fintech sector in Northern Ireland, lifted the coveted Company of the Year award, while Niall McKenna, proprietor of James ST & Waterman House, was named Business Personality of the Year.

Other key winners included Malplas as Manufacturer of the Year’, Derry Brothers as Small Business of The Year and top law firm Wilson Nesbitt as the Professional Services Firm of the Year.

The closing date for entries to the 2024 AIB Business Eye Awards applications is Tuesday 1st October, with the judging panel due to meet shortly afterwards. The gala awards night will be staged at the ICC Belfast on Thursday 24th October 2024.

Company of the Year

Northern Ireland’s overall company of the year in the opinion of the judging panel. Companies can be of any size/scale, number of employees, and must be able to exhibit exceptional performance, especially but not exclusively during the 12 month period to 30th May 2023.

Sponsored by: AIB

Young Business Personality of the Year

The category is open to senior managers and leaders in businesses and organisations across the private, public and voluntary sectors, whose leadership and achievement can be clearly demonstrated.

Sponsored by: Ulster University

Tourism & Hospitality Award

The company or organisation making the most valuable contribution to the continued development of tourism & hospitality here in Northern Ireland. Possible entrants might include hotels/hotel groups, other forms of accommodation, tourism development organisations, restaurants, travel facilities, etc.

Sponsored by: Visit Belfast

Employer of the Year

This category sets out to recognise those local organisations exhibiting best practice in terms of people management. The judging panel will look for clear evidence of class-leading initiatives designed to make the organisation a better and more caring employer.

Sponsored by: Labour Relations Agency

Medium/Mid-Sized Business of the Year

This category will recognise a leading player in the 50-250 employee sector of the Northern Ireland economy, a key sector which includes a number of our leading private sector companies. As with Company of the Year, entrants must demonstrate exceptional performance across the board.

Sponsored by: TLT

Innovative Company of The Year

Open to any Northern Ireland-based company of any size able to demonstrate evidence of significant innovation in products, services or processes resulting in demonstrable gains for the business as a whole.

Sponsored by: Queen’s University

Family Business of the Year

The Northern Ireland economy includes a high proportion of family-owned enterprises. This category sets out to recognise the very best. Open to all family-owned enterprises based in Northern Ireland, irrespective of size, scale or sector of operation.

Sponsored by: Harbinson Mulholland

Community (CSR) Award

Corporate social responsibility plays an important role for NI companies and this specialist category sets out to recognise an organisation from the private, public or voluntary sectors making a clear and impactful contribution to its local community as a whole.

Sponsored by: Biopax

Employee of the Year

Every organisation values its people. This new award category gives employers and organisations the opportunity to nominate their key employees for special recognition. The award is open to any employee of a Northern Ireland-based organisation in any sector as nominated by a direct or senior manager within the organisation.

Sponsored by: 

Manufacturer of the Year

A very important category, this one is open to all manufacturing organisations, of any size and scale, operating in Northern Ireland. The judging panel will look for evidence of innovation, attention to detail, state of the art engineering and product market success.

Sponsored by: 

Green/Sustainable Company of the Year

Once again open to a Northern Ireland-based organisation of any size, this award will recognise an organisation which has made significant and demonstrable progress towards becoming more sustainable and contributing to the wider environmental goal.

Sponsored by: Strategic Power Connect

Business Personality of the Year

The keynote award will honour Northern Ireland’s outstanding business personality over the past 12 months, an individual whose leadership achievements have contributed to business success and to the wider local economy.

Sponsored by: Ardmore

Lifetime of Achievement Award

A premier award on the night, this special award will be presented to an individual who has made a significant and lasting contribution not just to their own business or sector, but also to the Northern Ireland business community and economy as a whole.

Sponsored by: 

Fast Growth Business of the Year

This award will be presented to the local company able to demonstrate significant growth – in terms of turnover and/or employment – over the last 12 to 18 months dating back from the closing date for entries.

Sponsored by: 

Outstanding Leadership & Management Award

This award is aimed at individuals in senior management and leadership positions who have achieved significant results for their organisation as a result of their leadcership.

Sponsored by: UpStream

Diversity & inclusion Award

With diversity and inclusion firmly on the corporate agenda today, this new award will identify a local company which has diversity and inclusion at the heart of its recruitment and human resource management policies.

Sponsored by: AIB

Small Business of The Year

The organisation with 50 employees or less which, in the opinion of the judges, exemplifies best practice and achievement across the board. Evidence of growth and development, clear vision and strategy to deliver growth, commitment to superior customer service, demonstration of innovation across the business.

Sponsored by: 

Professional Services Firm of the Year

This category sets out to honour Northern Ireland’s leading accountancy, legal or other professional services firm working with and providing key advice to clients in the local business community.

Sponsored by: Lockton

Commercial Development Project of the Year

The most significant commercial development across any sector to include tourism and hospitality, office, retail and other key sectors, in terms of innovation, sustainability and contribution to the wider NI economy.

Sponsored by: Alpha

Construction & Property Company of the Year

The construction or property organisation making the most significant contribution to the wider economy through the development of innovative, sustainable and relevant project(s) across any sector, including both residential and commercial development.

Sponsored by: