The countdown has begin to the grand finals of the Oxfordshire Business Awards. And in terms of the quality of entries received, organisers say the class of 2011 is the strongest line-up in the competition’s history.

All of which has made the judging process a very demanding job, but one that will ultimately be rewarding for the companies and individuals involved. After weeks of deliberation, the awards committee has produced an impressive shortlist of 39 companies across 13 categories, with the winners named at a glittering ceremony next month.

And one firm will go on to be given the ulitmate accolade of the Business of the Year for 2011, the 16th year the awards have been operating.

Paul Lowe, chairman of the awards committee, said: “The 2011 awards have been another great success. The judging process was the most competitive and challenging in my time on the committee, and I believe that we have the strongest list of finalists ever.

“As ever, the list comprises some of the more well-known Oxfordshire business names, along with a large number of less well known organisations.

“The dinner promises to be another fantastic evening with a likely waiting list for tickets.”

The list of finalists includes Oxford United chairman Kelvin Thomas in the Young Business Person of the Year category, while former winner James Woollard and his Witney-based packaging business Polythene UK have been shortlisted in three categories.

Other well-known names include the Williams F1 team in Grove, shortlisted in the Tourism, Hospitality and Leisure category, while Oxford-based Jack FM has made the cut for the new Social Media award.

Other less well-known businesses include the Bushcraft Company in Cornbury, which arranges survival expeditions for youngsters in the New Business category; high-tech Oxford University spin-out Mirada Medical in the Innovation shortlist, and Frilford-based catering firm Elegant Cuisine among the finalists in the Sustainability award.

The winners will be revealed at the ceremony at the Four Pillars Hotel, Sandford, on June 17.

About 500 people are expected to attend the sell-out event which is the highlight of the county’s business calendar.

THE SHORTLIST: n The Locus/Oxfordshire County Council Sustainability Award: Maylarch, Eynsham; Beckstone, Burford; Elegant Cuisine, Frilford n The Oxford Brookes University and Business School Innovation Award: Mirada Medical, Oxford; Stewart Milne Timer Systems, Witney; Real Time Health, Oxford n The Oxford Times Charity and Community Award: Henley Festival Trust, Henely; Restore, Cowley; Special Effect, Charlbury n The Bottle PR Social Media Award: SEO Optimise, Oxford; Jack FM, Oxford; Open Doorz, Oxford n The Four Pillars Tourism, Hospitality and Leisure Award: West Oxfordshire District Council, Witney; Aston Pottery, Aston; Williams F1, Grove n The Blue by Darbys New Business Award: Quadsys, Kidlington; Bushcraft Company, Cornbury; Polythene UK, Witney n The Heart Small Business Award: Polythene UK, Witney; Clark Howes Group, Bicester; Sporn Construction, Stratton Audley n The NatWest Large Business Award: The Marketing Practice, East Hendred; Roof Light Company, Shipton-Under-Wychwood; Allmakes, Milton Park n The Ice Energy Renewable Business Award: Energymyway, Forest Hill; Lime Technology, Milton Park; Solar Solutions, Eynsham n The Champion Recruitment Training and Staff Care Award: Integration Technology, Upper Heyford; Clark Howes Group, Bicester; CPM UK, Thame n The B-Line Customer Care Award: STL Communications, Witney; Chris Lewis Security, Cowley; RM Education, Milton Park n The Shaw Gibbs Business Person of the Year Award: Brendon Cross, STL Communications Witney; Richard Howe, Allmakes, Milton Park; Paul Lindley, Ella’s Kitchen, Henley n The Shaw Gibbs Young Business Person of the Year Award: James Woollard, Polythene UK, Witney; Kelvin Thomas, Oxford United, Oxford; Robin Ashby, Ashby Precision Engineering, Abingdon.