The Highland Business Awards is one of the flagship events of Inverness Chamber of Commerce that celebrates the achievements of businesses throughout the region.

The Awards recognise the success of organisations large and small, new and well established, and across all sectors, while offering our business community the chance to socialise with colleagues, rekindle old connections and make new business relationships.

This year there are ten diverse categories to choose from, so enter or nominate now to recognise the businesses and individuals that are integral to sustaining a strong Highland economy.

Nominations are open until 5.00pm on Friday 9 August. Please note there will be no extension to this deadline.

Principal Sponsor – The Highland Council

Highland Business Award for Innovation
A business that has implemented new ideas, products or processes which have contributed to its success, whether in terms of profitability, new customers and/or new markets.
Download nomination form

Highland Business Award for Resilience
sponsored by Caithness Chamber of Commerce
A business that has adapted its operations to overcome a short-term difficulty or challenge, enabling it to deliver on its objectives and continue to prosper.
Download nomination form

Highland Business Award for Positive Environmental Impact
sponsored by Ri Cruden
A business that takes responsible decisions to reduce its negative impact on the environment, actively promoting the benefits and bringing about efficiencies in its operations.
Download nomination form

Highland Business Award for Global Growth
A business that is achieving commercial success by developing its activity in overseas markets, whether for the first time or as part of ongoing international expansion plans.
Download nomination form

Highland Business Award for Digital Initiative
A business that has introduced new digital activity to drive growth in its operation and change how it delivers value to its customers.
Download nomination form

*NEW* Highland Business Award for Best Marketing Campaign
A business that has engaged in standout marketing activity to support a clear business objective. Whether via social media, traditional platforms or an integrated campaign, entries must demonstrate creativity, alongside communications results and impact on the business such as increased sales, a drive in footfall, increased engagement or new business referrals.
Download nomination form

Highland Business Award for Community Engagement
sponsored by Vattenfall Wind Power
A business that demonstrates ongoing commitment to and support for its local community through its activities, helping to improve the lives of others and making the community a better place in which to live.
Download nomination form

Highland Business Award for Employer of the Year
An organisation that demonstrates dedication to its workforce, by continually investing in upskilling and training and putting staff wellbeing at the heart of its activity, resulting in a collaborative and inclusive culture and a stimulating and supportive work environment.
Download nomination form

Highland Business Award for Young Employee of the Year
sponsored by The Springfield Group
A young person who makes a positive impact in the workplace thanks to their dedication, talent and can-do attitude.
Download nomination form

Highland Business Award for Business Leader of the Year
sponsored by Saffery
Someone with a track record of leading and inspiring others, who makes a difference to the Highland business economy through their commitment and passion for the area as well as the industry in which they operate.
Download nomination form

Plus one business selected from the category winners will also be announced overall Highland Business of the Year. 

The winners will be announced at the Highland Business Awards Ceremony and Lunch which takes place on Friday 27 September at the Kingsmills Hotel, Inverness. Tickets cost £67.50 + VAT per person and may be booked individually or for tables of 10. Ticket price includes welcome drink and three course lunch with tea/coffee. Click here to reserve tickets.

HIAL Procurement Tenders for 2024

Between June and October 2024, 31 contracts for maintenance work at airports across the Highlands and Islands will be available for businesses to tender for, including Wick John O’Groats.

The contracts, with values of between £50k and £15 million include a range of services to support HIAL airports across a number of locations. A full list of the contracts and values is available by clicking here. Further information can also be found on the HIAL website by clicking here.

HIAL is encouraging all businesses with the skills and experience to apply for the contracts through the open tender process, with Mechanical, Electrical & Plumbing at Barra, Campbeltown, Islay and Tiree competed through the invitation to quote process.

HIAL is committed to promoting and enabling sustainability outcomes to benefit not only HIAL but also society and supporting local economies while minimising damage to the environment. HIAL will be looking to ensure that bidders can provide sustainable benefits whilst also ensuring that response times are met to keep our airports operational.

Interested businesses must:

Information to inform and support businesses through the tender process is available to help as many companies as possible to participate. An online information session about the 31 contract opportunities has been organised and full details of this session is included within the PINs.

A video has been produced to help guide businesses through the process – click here to view.

Head of Procurement at HIAL, Sarah Shelley said, “These contracts are a fantastic opportunity for businesses to work with HIAL to provide day to day, routine and reactive maintenance services across our airports. We would encourage any company, small or large, to register their interest as a potential supplier and tender for relevant contracts as they become available on the Public Contracts Scotland website.”

More details are available by emailing procurement@hial.co.uk

Trudy Morris, Chief Executive, Caithness Chamber of Commerce:

The chamber network serves as a unified voice, representing the interests of its members worldwide. In Scotland, this network comprises 30 local chambers, advocating for 12,000 businesses and over half of the private sector workforce. Engaging in proactive lobbying and policy initiatives at Holyrood and Westminster, the chamber network ensures that the concerns of Scottish businesses are heard on a national stage. Here in the North Highlands, Caithness Chamber plays a crucial role in amplifying the voices of our region’s businesses within this narrative.

A cornerstone of the UK’s economic analysis, the Scottish Chambers of Commerce’s Quarterly Economic Indicator survey, painted a sobering picture at the outset of 2024. The report, covering quarter 1 2024, highlighted pervasive challenges across Scottish industries. Significant cost pressures and recruitment issues are creating a tough operating environment, impacting companies across all sectors. High operating costs are affecting cash flow and profitability, with potential long-term implications for the economy.

Geopolitical tensions, both national and global, underscore the need for government action to ensure smooth trade. Economic uncertainty continues to dampen investment, with over half of firms reporting no expected changes in this current quarter.

There is discontentment among businesses with government tax policy, with concerns about the impact of income tax differences between Scotland and the rest of the UK, and its impact on the ability of businesses to attract and retain talent, something that’s particularly close to our hearts here in the Noth Highlands.

Locally, our members in the North Highlands are reporting inflexibility from some banks and a struggle to maintain necessary liquidity for asset replacement, growth, and seizing new opportunities. This hampers growth and frustrates business owners striving to survive in turbulent conditions.

The challenges highlighted in the survey are a perfect storm impacting investment decisions: recruitment challenges, tax burdens, weak cashflow and declining profits.

Despite these challenges, Scottish businesses are showing resilience, with business confidence and recruitment plans holding steady. Locally we have seen this with an increased number of businesses recruiting apprentices.

With a change of leadership in Holyrood and a UK general election now called for early July, businesses face further uncertainty and change.

It’s important to remember that these obstacles are not new; inflation and political uncertainty have always been realities for businesses, and there are strategies to navigate them successfully.

Business resilience is never tested more than during challenging economic circumstances. Building a more resilient business, with more resilient processes, can be the difference between surviving and going under.

In times like these, finding the right advice is crucial. Seeking expert financial advice can help optimise tax strategies, manage debts, and ensure long-term stability.

In April, during our Members Insight Session, we welcomed Kevin Philip, Director and Financial Advisor at Phil Anderson Financial Services, where following our motto of “stronger together” Kevin provided expert advice and knowledge sharing on financial planning for businesses with our members, including commercial lending, tax-efficient protection for business owners, retirement planning, tax advantages of salary sacrifices and investment planning.

Kevin also discussed the need for business protection against unforeseen events, such as illness, disability, or death of key personnel, and covered key person insurance, shareholder protection insurance, and business loan protection.

In times of uncertainty, solidarity and knowledge-sharing among our members become essential, we are pleased to be here as a Chamber facilitating these connections and supporting businesses in our region.

Business Insight, Phil Anderson, Phil Anderson Financial Services:

In today’s rapidly changing financial landscape, the need for personalised and accessible financial advice has never been more crucial. At Phil Anderson Financial Services, we are committed to providing the local business community with the financial guidance and advice they need to navigate these challenging times.

One of the significant advantages of having a local financial adviser is the ability to meet in person. This face-to-face interaction fosters a deeper understanding of our clients’ financial situations and goals. It allows us to build trust and offer bespoke solutions that might be overlooked in more impersonal settings. In an era where several banks have closed local branches, having access to local advisers becomes invaluable. We are trying to fill the gap left by these closures, ensuring that the people of Caithness continue to receive the financial planning they deserve. Our office in Wick is home to two exceptional advisers: Kayleigh Ross, our financial adviser, and Louise Cormack, our mortgage adviser.

We offer comprehensive financial planning, including tax planning, investment advice, retirement planning, and protection advice which is often seen as the cornerstone of financial planning. Tax planning, in particular, is an area where many businesses can benefit significantly. By working with a financial adviser, you can ensure that you are making the most of available tax allowances and reliefs, ultimately enhancing your financial position. Businesses can take advantage of capital allowances on equipment and machinery, claim research and development (R&D) tax credits, and ensure that they are utilising annual investment allowances.

Tax-efficient structuring of a business, such as choosing the right business entity (sole trader, partnership, or limited company), can also significantly impact the amount of tax payable. Properly planning for VAT, managing payroll taxes efficiently, and taking advantage of any available local business grants or incentives can also significantly enhance a business’s financial health.

Businesses in the North Highland region should also be aware of specific nuances that could impact their tax planning and financial strategies. The region’s unique economic drivers, including renewable energy projects, tourism, and agriculture each come with its own set of financial opportunities and challenges. Understanding these local characteristics allows us to provide tailored advice that maximises the financial benefits.

By working closely with a local financial adviser who understands the regional landscape, businesses can navigate these complexities more effectively and position themselves for long-term success. Our goal is to make financial advice accessible to all, providing clarity and confidence in making informed financial decisions.

Scottish EDGE is a large competitive fund to support home-grown entrepreneurial talent comprising a Dragon’s Den style pitching competition for ambitious entrepreneurs who wish to grow their business. Round 24 will launch on 14 August and close on 11 September 2024.

The competition is open to limited companies, social enterprises and charities in Scotland who have been trading for up to five years who wish to apply for up to £100,00 (max £30,000 grant, max £70,000 loan) to accelerate growth of their business. To date there have been 46 Highlands and Islands winners gaining combined monies in excess of £2.1m.

This webinar is open to HIE staff and Highlands and Islands businesses and social enterprises. Alistair Murray and Mike Muir of M2 Procurement and Commercial Services Ltd (who facilitate the programme on behalf of HIE), and a previous Scottish Edge winner will explain the methodology and benefits so that you can potentially explore if you would be suited to and may benefit from entering the competition.

Register for the GoTo webinar: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/2313201380997131351

Celebrating the North Highlands’ Entrepreneurial Spirit

We are thrilled to announce that the prestigious Young Entrepreneur of the Year and Young Business of the Year Awards are now open for entries! These awards are a remarkable opportunity to celebrate and honor the entrepreneurial spirit that drives the North Highlands forward.

Whether you’re a rising young entrepreneur or a dynamic young business, this is your chance to shine, boost your profile, and gain well-deserved recognition for your hard work and achievements.

Awards Details

Entries are open until 5pm on 30 July 2024, and winners will receive the following exclusive benefits:

Young Business of the Year (Less than five years old)

  • 2 FREE places worth £160 at the Chamber’s annual dinner for the award presentation.
  • 1 year’s FREE membership of Caithness Chamber of Commerce.
  • Media coverage through press and the Chamber’s digital and social channels.
  • Highlighted profile on the Chamber’s website.
  • Young Business of the Year 2024 Trophy.

Young Entrepreneur of the Year (Younger than 30)

  • £500 cash prize, generously sponsored by Saffery Champness.
  • 2 FREE places worth £160 at the Chamber’s annual dinner for the award presentation.
  • 1 year’s FREE membership of Caithness Chamber of Commerce.
  • Media coverage through press and the Chamber’s digital and social channels.
  • Highlighted profile on the Chamber’s website.
  • Young Entrepreneur of the Year 2024 Trophy.

For more information or a friendly chat before applying, or to request an application pack, please contact us at info@caithnesschamber.com or call 01847 890076.

With the need for culture organisations to diversify and expand their skills more acute than ever, Culture & Business Scotland have unveiled a series of training opportunities and events designed to help the nation’s creative professionals equip themselves with new knowledge.

The charity, which works to facilitate mutually beneficial connections between the culture and business sectors, will host a series of upcoming events giving organisations well-rounded education in a range of subjects including fundraising through storytelling, legacy giving and the principles of board membership.

Next week, a short course on board membership taking place on Tuesday 4th June will give new trustees and board members access to two informative, hands-on sessions introducing them to their new roles and responsibilities.

On Tuesday 4th and Tuesday 11th June two sessions will explore the five stages of the copywriting process, while additional training courses will help participants to deeper their understanding of corporate sponsorship and discover the benefits and possibilities of legacy giving campaigns.

Along with full-length courses, Culture & Business Scotland run a series of Insights Webinars designed to empower individuals and organisations in the culture sector with knowledge and expertise from industry experts, and networking events, allowing attendees the chance to connect and collaborate with like-minded professionals in the culture sector.

David Watt, Chief Executive of Culture & Business Scotland said: ‘Our programme of events is designed to help both members and non-members to expand their skillsets and knowledge and empower them to feel confident in all aspects of their work. Thanks to expert guidance and structured, practical sessions, participants will gain a solid foundation in skills that are crucial in the evolving landscape of Scotland’s culture environment’.

Individuals and organisations interested in attending an event can find further information here: https://www.cultureandbusiness.scot/training-events/

Farr North Community Development Trust and Caithness Chamber of Commerce have teamed up to reach out to businesses in the northern Highlands to raise awareness of opportunities for receiving support when hiring apprentices.

The Farr North Apprenticeship Scheme is managed by the Trust and is supported by a grant of around £100,000 from the SSE Renewables Strathy North Community Fund.  The scheme offers eligible businesses up to £15,000 over a three-year period towards the costs associated with employing and training an apprentice.  In some cases this can be combined with the Caithness Business Fund to bring the overall level of support to over £24,000.

Apprenticeships provide a cost-effective way to upskill and expand the workforce. Taking on an apprentice can be a smart investment, benefiting both the business and the local skills base.  But as a business in the north, where do you begin?

A good place to start would be Caithness Chamber of Commerce.  The Chamber offers a huge range of help and advice to businesses across the north (not just in Caithness!) and they have links and contacts with agencies that could help you.  Through this network the Chamber can help you to decide if an apprenticeship would be right for your business, help to identify suitable training opportunities for your apprentice and help you find the right person for your company.

Find out more on about The Farr North Apprenticeship Scheme on the Caithness Business Fund website.

David Shearer, SSE Renewables Community Investment Manager commented:

“Investing in young people is a particular focus for our community funds and we have a number of apprenticeship programmes available in Sutherland.  The apprenticeship programmes ensure that there are viable employment opportunities to retain young people in the local area and also helps to ensure that the local economy benefits from thriving local businesses.”

Simon Lee, Manager of Farr North Community Development Trust commented:

“Farr North is working to develop vibrant and resilient communities.  We are delighted to be able to work with the other SSE apprenticeship programmes in Sutherland and working with Caithness Chamber of Commerce brings even more opportunities to support local businesses, develop workforce skills, and encourage our young people to stay in the area.”

CASE STUDY

GMG Energy and Finlay Mackay Modern Engineering Apprentice.

Nestling in the Strath of the river Halladale, GMG Energy is an ambitious timber processing company established by Malcolm Morrison in 2016.

Finlay began his apprenticeship with the company in 2022 whilst studying at the Engineering Maintenance framework at UHI.  He is now working towards his SVQ3 work-based qualification.  Malcolm is delighted with his apprentice:

“He’s a bright kid, learns quickly and is a great asset to the company.” He enthused recently.

Finlay is equally enthusiastic about the experience:

“I feel I’ve really landed on my feet.  GMG Energy has given me a huge range of opportunities to apply the knowledge I get from college.  I’m gaining experience, I’m learning and I’m earning!  What could be better?”

Businesses in the region have opportunities to thrive by investing wisely, upskilling their workforce, and embracing apprenticeships. It’s heartening to see the positive impact on both businesses and individuals

The Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) is pleased to launch a new Themed Competition called Delivering Operational Advantage via Improved Self-Sufficiency and Operational Energy Innovation. This competition is funded by the UK Ministry of Defence Chief Scientific Advisor (CSA).

We are seeking proposals for novel technologies that will enable defence to achieve greater self-sufficiency and operational endurance for a deployed force, allowing the force to be more resilient, agile and self-sustaining.

There are seven challenge areas to be addressed through this competition:

1. Food – feeding the winning edge
2. Water – harvest and recycle water with increasing efficiency
3. Materiel – reducing the supply chain burden
4. Waste – trash into treasure
5. Platform Power & Energy – enduring energy
6. Platform Thermal Management – keeping cool for persistent power
7. Deployed Power & Energy – energy fuels persistence

Recent military campaigns have shown that contested logistics can severely hinder operations and compromise combat effectiveness. Identifying and adopting holistic, efficient and effective support and sustainability solutions quickly is essential to ensure the resilience of defence. Do you have an innovation that could help?

In short:

  • DASA has launched a new Themed Competition: Delivering Operational Advantage via Improved Self-Sufficiency and Operational Energy Innovation
  • Funded by the Ministry of Defence (MOD) Chief Scientific Advisor
  • Total funding available is £3.1 million (excluding VAT)
  • Competition closes 12:00 midday 2 July 2024 (BST)

Learn more and submit a proposal

The Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) is pleased to launch a new Themed Competition called Protecting Physical Assets from UAS Attack. This competition is jointly funded by the National Protective Security Authority (NPSA), the UK Home Office and the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl).

We are seeking proposals that can provide a defensive solution for physical assets as a countermeasure to an Uncrewed Aerial System (UAS) kinetic attack.

The current Counter-UAS (C-UAS) technology market focuses on targeting the UAS in flight. This competition aims to move away from conventional C-UAS methods and instead explores the most effective ways to provide physical protection to various assets from hostile UAS. This includes options for hardening the asset, providing blanket last-ditch defence and deploying automated alerts for incoming hostile UAS.

In short:

  • DASA has launched a new Themed Competition: Protecting Physical Assets from UAS Attack
  • Funded by the National Protective Security Authority (NPSA), the UK Home Office and the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl)
  • Total funding available is £750,000 (excluding VAT)
  • Competition closes midday 13 June 2024 (BST)

Learn more and submit a proposal