WINNING an award makes a real difference, business people from around the county heard.

At this year’s Oxfordshire Business Awards launch party, past winners told how it boosts trade and impresses clients.

Mike Lawton, chief executive of Harwell-based Oxford Space Systems which makes parts for space satellites, said major international investors showed interest when his firm scooped last year’s OBA Innovation gong.

Mr Lawton, who founded his firm three years ago, told an audience of fellow business people at the Oxford Science Park’s Sadler Building on Thursday: “Last year was the first time we could justify taking a table at the Oxfordshire Business Awards, as it was the first time we had enough people to fill one.

He added: “If you are a start-up firm, winning an award like this is absolutely critical collateral for getting your brand name out there.”

Oxfordshire Business Awards chairman Paul Lowe said preparations are going well for what will be the 23rd year of the event.

More than 500 business leaders and staff are expected to attend a glitzy gala evening on June 16, to hear winners announced.

It will take place at the Kings Centre in Osney Mead.

Mr Lowe said: “Oxford has some great, innovative world-leading businesses and this is a great way to showcase it.”

Thirteen categories span innovation, charity, start-ups, big business, apprenticeships, marketing and tourism.

Sponsors include The Oxford Times, which backs the charity and community award.

Others include law firm Knights, Nat West, Oxfordshire Apprenticeships, recruitment firm Hays, heart radio, Shaw Gibbs, The Oxford Science Park, electrical contractors Darke & Taylor and Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership.

New sponsors for this year are Abingdon-based marketing agency The Syndicut [correct] and Brita in Bicester which is backing a new Green award.

Henley-based marketing agency Perfectly Pickled is a double winner, having walked away with a top prize in 2013 and again last year.

Director and co-founder Simon Barnett [correct] told the audience winning had given his firm confidence when pitching for new work.

He said: “We often reference the awards when talking to potential customers and asked clients to come with us to the Awards last year.”

Closing date for Oxfordshire Business Awards entries is March 17.

For a full list of categories and details of how to enter, see