If you're looking for technical ingenuity, business acumen or sheer inspiration in the construction industry you need look no further than the pages of this supplement.

For more than ever before, the 38 finalists of the 2006 Specialist Contractor Awards demonstrate these qualities in spades, whether they're providing essential site services, demolition or cladding.

These firms have not just grasped the opportunities of a buoyant market in terms of growing their companies, they have also used this time to invest more in R&D, in training, in improving health and safety and increasingly focusing on sustainability. Take the winner of our essential site services award, Elliott Thomas. Since 2003 it has grown five times in size and makes six times as much profit. It spotted a gap in the market this year and launched a separate hoist operation, which in just six months had turned over half a million pounds and had forward orders worth a further £2m. All of this in addition to having an exemplary accident record and a target to recycle 70% of construction waste across all its projects each year.

Or take Yorkon, the winner of the innovator of the year award. Not content with doubling its profit to £3.8m in just three years on the back of providing modular units for housing and healthcare, it's rising to the challenge of making off-site construction more versatile than ever. Its clients, which include Tesco Express, Carillion and Cartwright Pickard, rave about Yorkon, and so did our judges.

Many of these judges are themselves clients who recognise that specialists are the lifeblood of the industry. As most of the main contractors have become managers of projects, so the skills that are needed to actually put a building together at the component level have transferred to the specialists. These firms, like Cementation Foundations Skanska, the winner of our design integration award, can be the linchpins of a project and whose ability to work closely with the rest of the team and come up with innovative solutions to technical problems can make a huge difference. In Cementation Foundations Skanska’s case, that was saving £1m and three months of time in the construction of a central London project. The judges were so impressed that they also made it the winner of the best of the best award.

So congratulations to Cementation Foundations Skanska and all the other winners in our awards. You are the best in the business.

The judges

Roger Bayliss, construction director, BAA
Simon Birchall, managing director, Bucknall Austin
Richard Davies, SHES independent assurance manager, National Grid Transco
Paul Fenlon, construction manager, Department of Health
Paul Lewis, director, Stanhope
Steve McGuckin, development director, Land Securities
Tim Peach, managing director, Taylor Woodrow
Bob Simpson, head of sustainable development, Asda
Philip Wade, chief operating officer, Bovis