Previous winners, sponsors and high profile supporters gathered to mark the launch of the 2013 Oxfordshire Business Awards.

A special party was staged in the historic surroundings of Blenheim Palace at Woodstock to mark the occasion and invite entries to the competition from successful businesses and entrepreneurs across the county.

Brendon Cross, the current Oxfordshire Business Person of the Year and managing director of Witney-based telecoms firm STL Communications, said: “Winning has been great for our profile and it was the highlight of the year for our staff, especially when the awards are judged by our peers.”

The current 2012 Oxfordshire Business of the Year is Oxford Instruments, based at Tubney Woods, near Abingdon.

Jim Hutchins, managing director of the company’s Nanoscience division, said: “Winning this title highlights the marketability of a rapidly growing company.

“It is also a very competitive local employment market so having this award illustrates the culture of the company and helps to recruit good local staff.”

Jenny Fox, chief executive of Oxford-based Aspire which helps disadvantaged people back into work, said winning the Charity and Community Award had given the organisation a major boost.

She added: “We are developing and working with establishments such as Bullingdon Prison to help reduce the reoffending rate of prisoners.

“The awards have helped boost our credibility, raised awareness of what we do and helped with funding bids.

“Being able to use the winners’ logo on our communications has opened a lot of doors for us. “We can now approach businesses and they listen.”

David Richards, chairman of Banbury-based motorsport organisation Prodrive, also highlighted the importance of the awards for building recognition among the local business community.

Mr Richards, who picked up the Lifetime Achievement Award at this year’s ceremony, said: “We have all had difficult times but looking at the companies in the awards we seem well prepared for the future.”

About 100 people attended the ceremony which also saw the unveiling of new sponsors the Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership and Milton Park, home to hundreds of businesses near Didcot.

Awards chairman Paul Lowe said: “The year 2012 was a record year for entries which were the best quality we have seen.

“We look forward to attracting even more in 2013 as the awards continue to go from strength to strength.”

l For more details or to enter the awards, see the website