DORSET Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI) has confirmed that the number of entries for 2017’s Dorset Business Awards has increased by 23 per cent compared to figures from last year.

The surge in applications is testament to the introduction of a fresh new marketing approach for this year’s awards, put in place to allow engagement with a wider audience across Dorset.

A new online award entry platform was also created for the first time by DCCI, to make the application process as simple and easy to follow as possible, to encourage more people to enter.

There are five new categories in this year’s line-up, ensuring that the categories continue to evolve and remain relevant to the local business community.

Entries are now closed for the annual awards, organised by DCCI, and judges have until the end of September to decide which local businesses or individuals are to be announced as the winners of the Dorset Business Awards 2017.

In association with the Daily Echo and Dorset Echo, and backed by Wave 105, the awards programme is searching for winners across 12 categories:

* Business Leader of the Year Award, sponsored by DCCI and Pure Networking

* Brand of the Year Award, sponsored by RT Brand Communications

* Creative and Digital Impact Award, sponsored by Liz Lean PR and Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP)

* UK Health Insurance Investing in Dorset Award

* Lester Aldridge and Santander Company of the Year Award

* PKF Francis Clark Family Business Award

* Outstanding Contribution to Apprenticeships Award, sponsored by Sunseeker International

* Outstanding Customer Service Award, sponsored by Beales Gourmet at The Italian Villa and Luxurycare

* Retail and Leisure Experience Award, sponsored by the Dolphin Shopping Centre

* Team of the Year Award, sponsored by TeamJobs

* Young Chamber Award, sponsored by Blue Sky Financial Planning

* UK Exporter of the Year Award, sponsored by REIDSteel

A team of three judges will analyse entries against each award criteria set out for all categories. Judges have until Saturday September 30 to shortlist three finalists for each award.

The Meet the Finalists drinks reception will be held on Monday, November 6, and will bring together finalists and award sponsors to celebrate business achievement in Dorset. The winners will be announced at the Gala Dinner Awards ceremony at the BIC on Thursday, November 23.

Stuart Dixon, organiser of the awards for DCCI, said: ‘‘Year on year we receive a diverse range of entries and once again businesses from all over Dorset have shown they have the skills and accomplishments worth celebrating.

‘‘The quality of entries has been extremely high, reflecting our dynamic and thriving business community. The rise in entries proves that the awards continue to grow from strength to strength and now that judging is underway we are looking forward to recognising the wealth of business excellence that is present here in Dorset.’’

Tickets for the gala dinner cost £85 plus VAT for Chamber members, £95 plus VAT for non-members, or £800 plus VAT for a table of 10 for members, £900 for non-members. Call 01202 714800.