Six days before the announcement by Prime Minister Tony Blair of the first batch of Millennium Products, the final list of 200 was still not complete.
With less than a week to go, many of the winners did not even know that their products had been successful.
Some winners found out about their success through a phone call from The Engineer which had obtained a provisional list of selected products in advance.
The last-minute nature of the awards announcements is a reflection of the late submission of many of the applications. One thousand products were entered for the first tranche of Millennium Product selection, and about 400 of them arrived at the Design Council on deadline day.
‘The major administrative responsibilties have led to a log jam,’ admits Design Council spokesman Luke Blair.
Despite the 1,000 hopeful entrants, only one in five were selected. But Blair believes the inital goal of 2,000 Millennium Products by the new Millennium is still within reach.
‘We’ve had 1,000 submissions in just six months. There should be no problem,’ he says.
There will now be three further deadlines for entries, with three corresponding announcements of the next batches of products. What is most likely is that the announcements this week will prompt rival manufacturers to enter for the next wave.
Engineering group Renishaw took the highest number of awards. It entered 11 products, and managed to walk away with seven of them carrying the Millennium mark, including its spectroscopy system and scanning probe.
‘This couldn’t have come at a better time,’ said spokesman Michael Sykes, pointing out that the award will coincide with the company’s 25th anniversary celebrations.
‘It’s a bit like a Queen’s Award,’ he said. ‘All the employees like to feel they have contributed.’
Ford entered two cars the Ka and the Puma and got both selected. The Ka was the first vehicle to demonstrate Ford’s so-called ‘edge design’ which looks set to define the looks of new Fords over the next decade. The replacement for the big-selling Escort the Ford Focus is a further example of this style.
‘One of the reasons they chose the Puma was that it was the first car to be designed entirely on computer,’ said a Ford spokeswoman.
The only other passenger car selected was the Lotus Elise, an easy choice thanks to its revolutionary extruded aluminium chassis.
The biggest group of winners by far were to be found in the medical and life sciences categories, making up a fifth of the total Millennium Products awarded.
Computer and IT products accounted for 11%, followed by buildings and transport products which each took 10%.
The remaining 50% of the products were a diverse mix. Manufacturing and production products accounted for just 2.5% of the total.
The Judging panel was made up of representatives from industry, design and media, and included such famous names as Jonathan Porrit, Professor Stephen Hawking, Dr Germaine Greer, Stephen Bayley, James Dyson and Janet Street-Porter.
Industrialists on the panel included Sir Anthony Cleaver of AEA Technology, John Neill of Unipart, and David McMurtry, chairman and chief executive of Renishaw.
‘Judges don’t sit on panels that judge their own products,’ says a spokesman for Millennium Products. ‘The Design Council are extremely hot on this and it is strictly regimented so that they don’t even know when their own products are being judged,’ he adds.
The deadline for the next batch of Millennium Product hopefuls is 31 July 1998. More details about how to enter can be found from the Design Council on 0171-420 5200.