The shortlist for the 2017 Belfast Telegraph Business Awards in partnership with Ulster Bank has been published, with just one month to go until the most important night of the Northern Ireland business calendar.
A team of nine judges led by economist John Simpson has revealed the results of the first stage of their deliberations after a record number of entries.
Mr Simpson (front row, second left) was joined by (back row, left to right) Colin Stutt, social enterprise specialist, Richard Donnan, head of Northern Ireland at Ulster Bank, Paul Terrington, NI regional chairman, PwC, Dr Joanne Stuart, director of development, Catalyst Inc, and Jackie Henry, senior partner, Deloitte.
Judges in the front row are (from left) NI Chamber of Commerce chief executive Ann McGregor, John Simpson, Edel O'Neill, reader in management, Ulster University Business School, and Siobhan Lyons, head of business development, Belfast Metropolitan College.
Now 40 Northern Ireland businesses of all sizes and sectors have made it to the shortlist, and have a nailbiting wait of exactly one month before the glittering awards ceremony on May 4.
Mr Simpson said the judging process had been painstaking: "Every entry has been scrutinised and, sometimes against a background of business success, testing new opportunities or tackling commercial challenges, finalists have been chosen."
He added: "We wish to thank all of those who took the time to enter and who have helped raise the level of this year's entries to the highest standard we have seen yet." And he said the addition of three new categories helped reflect the breadth of talent in Northern Ireland business.
The new categories are IT Company or Team of the Year, SME Healthcare Business of the Year, and Emerging Business/Start-up of the Year.