The Norfolk Business Awards Changing Lives Special Recognition Award, sponsored by Norwich Research Park, was created to celebrate those who used their initiative to respond to the Covid-19 crisis for the benefit of their community.

Eastern Daily Press: David Parfrey, chief executive at Norwich Research ParkDavid Parfrey, chief executive at Norwich Research Park (Image: Joe Lenton)

Recipients of the Norfolk Business Awards Changing Lives Special Recognition Award have received their trophies in recognition of their inspirational responses to the challenges of the pandemic.

Sponsored by Norwich Research Park, the inaugural Norfolk Business Awards Changing Lives Special Recognition Award was created in 2020 to recognise local businesses and individuals who adapted in the fight against Covid-19 to put their community first.

Normally, each Norfolk Business Awards category receives only one winner, but due to the extraordinary circumstances and the exceptional efforts of those nominated for the Changing Lives Special Recognition Award, four recipients have been announced: Iceni Diagnostics, Jark Norfolk, Norwich City Football Club & Community Sports Foundation, and Panel Graphic.

Entries for the award demonstrated the wide variety of inspiring community action our local businesses mustered the courage to provide. A shortlist of 16 individuals, teams, businesses and organisations from the Norfolk business community was put to a public vote before a panel of judges selected the four recipients after completing judging meetings with the finalists.

The new award champions those who interrupted their business-as-usual operations and generated novel and ingenious solutions to help others negatively impacted by the coronavirus crisis. All four recipients have demonstrated innovation and altruism by repurposing their services for the greater good rather than profitability.

David Parfrey, chief executive of Norwich Research Park, said: “After another lockdown, it is more important than ever to support each other in any way we can to make life that little bit easier while Covid-19 continues to disrupt normal life. The recipients in our Changing Lives Special Recognition Award are fantastic examples and role models for what you can do in a crisis to help people in your community.

“Whether as an individual or a group of people in an organisation, they identified an issue, recognised that they could do something to help and took the initiative to contribute,” David adds. “We celebrate their efforts because I am sure we will need more people to follow in their footsteps during this lockdown and in future events that hit our communities.

“I would like to send my heartiest congratulations to our four recipients and would also like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has made the effort – or will make the effort over the coming weeks – to help their community and change people’s lives for the better.”

Eastern Daily Press: Iceni Diagnostics developed a test capable of detecting coronavirus within 15 minutesIceni Diagnostics developed a test capable of detecting coronavirus within 15 minutes (Image: Iceni Diagnostics)

Iceni Diagnostics

Iceni Diagnostics developed a point-of-care test that is capable of detecting coronavirus within 15 minutes from a non-invasive sample. The test has the potential to transform disease management of the pandemic as it can be performed in any field-based situation by non-skilled operators.

Chairman Dr Berwyn Clarke said: “We are genuinely delighted and honoured to win this award alongside the other exceptional companies who were finalists in this category. We would like to thank everyone who voted for us, the judges who made the process hugely enjoyable and, most importantly, all the staff and service providers who have helped the company to progress to where it is today.

“It has become clear that rapid, regular, inexpensive testing outside specialist labs combined with vaccine acceleration is key to managing and eventually eradicating the disease,” Dr Clarke adds. “Our technology addresses the key clinical needs which, together with vaccine progress, offers great optimism for 2021.”

Iceni Diagnostics will continue to develop its pipeline of products using similar technology, as well as investing in programmes to develop carbohydrate-based vaccines.

The judges said: “This technology is globally unique and could have massive life-saving impact on global populations. A local science business normally concentrating in other diagnostic areas, Iceni Diagnostics stopped all ongoing projects to focus on delivering a point-of-care coronavirus test as soon as possible.”

Eastern Daily Press: “I am so proud of everyone within this category for everything they have done throughout the pandemic,” says Kelly Cartwright, managing director of Jark Norfolk“I am so proud of everyone within this category for everything they have done throughout the pandemic,” says Kelly Cartwright, managing director of Jark Norfolk (Image: Jark Norfolk)

Jark Norfolk

Jark Norfolk Ltd is a specialist construction recruitment agency that applied its existing knowledge of face-fitting masks to the protection of those working in environments with elevated Covid-19 risk.

Managing director Kelly Cartwright said: “To be able to help our local community through the pandemic is an honour. It wasn’t about winning but about standing together when we needed to most.

“I am so proud of everyone within this category for everything they have done throughout the pandemic,” Kelly adds. “Every individual has strengths and can add value to their local community – and without all these wonderful people stepping up in times of need we wouldn’t be in the strong position we are now in. This is an experience that I will never forget. Thank you.”

The judges said: “The construction industry routinely uses masks to protect workers from harmful dusts, but when normal business ceased in lockdown, Kelly Cartwright contacted hospitals to offer her services in ensuring that those working on the front-line could be as well protected as possible.”

Eastern Daily Press: NCFC Community Sports Foundation raised £200,000 to support charities and the vulnerableNCFC Community Sports Foundation raised £200,000 to support charities and the vulnerable (Image: Norwich Community Sports Foundation)

Norwich City Football Club & Community Sports Foundation

Initially, £200,000 was raised to support the most vulnerable, as well as charitable organisations in Norfolk negatively impacted by the pandemic. NCFC and CSF went on to create a smartphone app with content such as quizzes, skills videos and weekly challenges, with a functionality for young people to report safeguarding concerns. Season ticket holders also received regular phone calls to check in on them and organise anything they needed, while 2,500 food parcels were delivered to those in need.

“This award means so much to the 100 plus staff members across NCFC and CSF who each played a part in this rewarding project,” said business and project director Zoe Ward. “We are extremely proud of them all. It goes without saying that we are all winners, as we each played a part to make a difference to the local community at such a difficult time.”

The judges said: “A group was quickly formed with three main objectives: support fans and undertake community engagement initiatives, support the most vulnerable in the wider community by working with local charities and community, and support NHS and care workers.”

Panel Graphic

Panel Graphic mobilised its entire staff as well as an army of volunteers in a very short period of time to produce non-reflective and lightweight visors to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Managing director Steve Earl said: “Winning this award recognises all the hard work done not only by Panel Graphic, but our 200 plus volunteers. I strongly feel by working together, great things can be achieved. This award belongs to the whole team.”

The proactive approach of Panel Graphic gave valuable support at a time when no advice or government support was available. “We have learned that there are many other businesses like Panel Graphic that are capable of uniting at extremely short notice to make a difference when it is needed most.”

The judges said: “Within two weeks, production was at 10,000 per day, which meant Panel Graphic was the UK’s largest producer of face shields. With all 40 staff working on the project supplemented by volunteers from the community, production moved to a 24-hour shift system. The shields were supplied at no profit and, with additional support from the Norfolk Masonic Charities Committee, the company donated many thousands of shields to the local community.”