NORTH-EAST innovators, exporters and entrepreneurs have been honoured in Her Majesty The Queens annual business awards, announced today.

Inov-8 Limited, which designs and makes running shoes at its headquarters in Crook, County Durham, and Middlesbrough-born Ann Stonehouse, who has inspired women across the region to set up their own firms, are among eight regional recipients of the ultimate business accolade.

Awards for international trade have been handed to Ikon Geopressure in Durham City and Middlesbrough-based Cordex Instruments, as well as to Integrated Display Systems, and Thomas Miller Claims Management in Tyneside.

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Stocktons Catalytic Technologies, which supplies the food and drinks packaging industry, was named in the innovation category.

A Queen's Award, which is held for five years, is given to companies and business leaders who are deemed outstanding in their field.

Northumbrian Water (NWL) has a special reason to celebrate as its place on today's list means it will receive continuous royal endorsement for a decade.

The utility firm first won the Queen's Award for Enterprise, for sustainable development, in 2008.

Heidi Mottram, chief executive of NWL, said: "This recognition reflects our determination to become the best water and waste water company in the UK and our continued effort and commitment to protect and improve the environment, support local communities, contribute to the economy, be innovative and to the well being of our people."

To mark their achievements a royal representative will visit the winners to present them with their awards. They will also attend a celebratory reception at Buckingham Palace.

Cambridgeshire-based subsea firm JDR Cables, which has a plant in Hartlepool, was also recognised for helping to boost British exports.

James Ramsbotham, chief executive of the North East Chamber of Commerce, said: "International trade, innovation and sustainability are three of the great reasons to do business in the North-East because our companies have a fantastic track record in these areas.

"All these companies deserve massive congratulations for these awards and for the way they are enhancing the North-East's reputation even further."

Miss Stonehouse, a self-employed accountant, has been awarded a life-long Queens Award for Enterprise Promotion.

She said: "I was moved to tears when I heard about the award. I am absolutely thrilled. I get real satisfaction from helping other women in business."

After a car accident kept her off work for 10 months, Miss Stonehouse received the additional blow of redundancy. But that was just the push she needed to fulfil her dream of becoming her own boss.

For the past 14 years she has used her accountancy skills to help small firms from her base in Coulby Newham, whilst building a reputation as an ambassador for enterprise.

As chair and co-founder of the Assist Womens Network, she is the leader of a group that encourages businesswomen across the Tees Valley to trade, communicate and share knowledge.