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Queen’s Award for Enterprise – Could You Be a Winner?

The UK is full of exciting and innovative businesses and the Queen’s Awards for Enterprise is a great way of celebrating their success. Whether a small business with a great innovative product or service, or a larger company running an impressive social mobility programme, the awards are a prestigious way to recognise your contribution to enterprise.

We want to encourage eligible businesses to apply and understand the process, and realise that the different challenges that the business communities have faced in the last 12 months from floods to the Covid 19 crisis will not stop them from being considered. We understand these challenges and have adapted the award process for the coming year (2021 Awards process) to allow for these challenges so businesses are still able to demonstrate their enterprise even in adversity.

The Queen’s Awards for Enterprise are awarded to businesses for outstanding achievement in four categories; International Trade, Innovation, Sustainable Development and Promoting Opportunity (through social mobility), to recognise businesses who promote social mobility. Could your business be one of these businesses and earn the exclusive right to hold the Queen’s Award for Enterprise award and mark? With considerable prestige attached to this highly acclaimed award both in the UK and worldwide, take a look at the other reasons for entering, rules, benefits, history and more below and consider applying for 2021 Awards.


Key facts

  • The 2021 application round opens on 1 May and closes at midday on 9 September
  • There are four Award categories which UK businesses, charities and public authority units can apply for: Innovation, International Trade, Promoting Opportunity (through social mobility) and Sustainable Development 
  • We are currently refocussing the Promoting Opportunity (through social mobility) Award category and applications will open at a later date.
  • Applicants do not need to be an exporter in order to apply for Innovation, Promoting Opportunity and Sustainable Development.
  • Applicants can – and often do – apply for more than one Award category.
  • UK subsidiaries of foreign owned companies can apply if they meet the eligibility criteria.
  • It’s free to enter although some shortlisted applicants may be charged a fee by their independent accountants/auditors to verify the commercial figures.
  • There are a range of promotional items such as leaflets, a PowerPoint presentation and speaking note to help you to promote the Queen’s Awards. You can access them here: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1WMXxcHBxNXUmXfUL2ld1rM4hLm1A4SYE
  • We are here to help! Please get in touch with us so that we can respond to queries: Helpline telephone no: 020 7215 6880 available Monday – Friday 9-5pm

Email: queensawards@beis.gov.uk  We aim to respond to your enquiry within two working days.


Encouraging businesses to apply during the pandemic: Why should businesses still apply for a Queen’s Award for Enterprise in 2021?

  • During these challenging times, it is important that we still take the time to reflect and celebrate the success of outstanding British businesses.
  • The Queen’s Awards for Enterprise are the most prestigious awards for UK businesses and is a globally recognised royal seal of approval for UK companies.
  • We want to ensure that businesses can still apply for a Queen’s Award, despite factors which could have prevented them from doing as well as they had originally predicted for 2020.
  • We appreciate that businesses may have been affected in many shapes and forms by uncontrollable circumstances in recent months such as flooding and Covid-19. Despite these situations, we want to encourage successful businesses to apply and can provide the necessary help and guidance.
  • That is why for the 2021 round, we have not changed the eligibility criteria and have instead made some changes to the application system to enable businesses to manually input their financial years. This means that applicants could wind back a year if their last financial year has been affected by Covid-19, storms, or flooding. For example, if they are applying for International Trade and their overseas sales growth was affected in 2020, they can now wind back a year and provide their figures for 2017, 2018 and 2019, rather than up to 2020.
  • Alternatively, they may prefer to submit figures over a shorter period of time. For example, for Innovation, they can select a two or five year period to demonstrate their commercial success. Similarly, with International Trade, they can opt to demonstrate overseas sales growth over a six or three year period. We assess applications on a case by case basis and will evaluate commercial success and challenges by uncontrollable, external factors. It is important for us to see the trends and patterns of each business’ commercial success, to see how well they have performed before these challenging times.



  • Instituted by Royal Warrant in 1965, the Queen’s Awards to Industry scheme was recommended by a committee chaired by HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, and the first Awards were made in 1966.
  • In 1975, recommendations of a review which The Duke also chaired led to the scheme becoming the Queen’s Awards for Export and Technology, with separate Awards for outstanding achievement in each field. An Environmental Achievement Award was created in 1992.
  • Following a review in 1999, led by HRH The Prince of Wales, the scheme became the Queen’s Awards for Enterprise, creating three of the four categories that still exist today:
  • Innovation, International Trade, and Sustainable Development.
  • In 2005, the Enterprise Promotion Award was created to recognise individuals who played an outstanding role in promoting entrepreneurial skills and attitudes. However, in 2016, this Award was paused, with permission from HM The Queen. The QAO provided in-house analysis which showed that the quality and quantity of nominations were in decline and the Award was considered too similar to an Honour and followed a broadly comparable nominations process.
  • A new category, Promoting Opportunity (through social mobility) was introduced in 2016 and the first winners were announced in 2017.
  • The Royal Reception is now hosted by HRH the Prince of Wales. The event format is carefully planned by Clarence House, Buckingham Palace and the Queen’s Awards for Enterprise Office. The event no longer includes a formal meet and greet.



  • To be eligible for a Queen’s Award a company must
    • be based in the UK
    • have at least 2 full-time UK employees or part-time equivalents
    • file its Company Tax Returns with HMRC
    • be a self-contained enterprise that markets its own products or services under its own management
    • demonstrate strong corporate social responsibility
  • Each award category has additional criteria – see here for more details:https://www.gov.uk/queens-awards-for-enterprise
  • Awards are free to enter
  • Applications need to be submitted online.


Award cycle

  • Winners are announced on 21 April (HM The Queen’s birthday) and the new application round opens on 1 May
  • The closing date for applications is midday on 9 September
  • Shortlisted applicants are informed and asked to provide verified commercial figures in October
  • Winning organisations and unsuccessful applicants are informed in March – Lord Lieutenancies with winners in their counties are informed in early April and asked to check the winners have correctly allocated their county.
  • Grants of Appointment and Trophies are sent to Lord Lieutenancies from June/July onwards.
  • The Royal Reception, hosted by HRH The Prince of Wales, usually takes place during June/July. In line with current Government advice on social distancing during the Covid-19 pandemic, we will keep winners informed of any developments.



  • Winners are invited to a Royal Reception at Buckingham Palace
  • The Grant of Appointment and a commemorative crystal trophy are presented to winners at their company by their local Lord-Lieutenant
  • Winners are permitted to fly the Queen’s Award flag at their main office, and use the emblem on their products and marketing materials for five years
  • Winners have potential opportunities to work with government on developing and testing policies and initiatives


2020 facts

  • There were 665 applications
  • 220 awards were granted to 216 winners (there were four double award winners)
  • There were 66 Innovation awards, 128 International Trade awards, 7 Promoting Opportunity awards and 19 Sustainable Development awards
  • 90% of 2020 winners were SMEs (i.e. had less than 250 employees)
  • In 2020 the highest proportion of winners were in London and the South East
  • The majority of applicants came from the manufacturing sector.
  • We managed to treble the number of applications in some counties thanks to the excellent promotion of Lord Lieutenants and we have trebled the number of Sustainable Development Awards from 6 in 2019 to 19 this year.


Additional Facts

  • The aim of the awards is to promote business excellence and drive growth
  • Nearly 7000 companies have won a Queen’s Award so far
  • JCB, a construction equipment manufacturer, has won 30 Queen’s Awards between 1966 and 2016, making it the company who has won the most Queen’s Awards
  • The Queen makes the Awards on the advice of the Prime Minister, who is assisted by an Advisory Committee that includes representatives of Government, industry and commerce, and the trade unions
  • Unsuccessful entrants receive feedback on the strengths of their application and guidance about how to improve future entries.