Innovation and expansion were hallmarks of all the shortlisted firms but WSP had that bit extra. This category was sponsored by Marshalls
WSP Group

WSP is a company on the move. Already a truly global concern, it is the fifth largest consultant in the UK with no fewer than 21 industry awards to its name. It is a listed company whose UK turnover for 1999/2000 expanded 55% to £155m. Operating profit grew 35% to £7.2m, boosted by two key US acquisitions: the structural engineer Cantor Seinuk and M&E outfit Flack + Kurtz. However, expansion has not distracted the firm from its staff and clients. A centralised unit has been set up to offer personalised training programmes for staff and, with the help of a third-party consultancy, a bespoke review of all clients is being introduced. Currently, half of all the firm's workload is procured through partnering agreements and 80% of work is repeat business. Finally, the firm has tried to synthesise its divisions by investing £1.5m each year in a group-wide system of knowledge management and process improvement.

Whitby Bird & Partners

The practice's Divinity Faculty building at the University of Cambridge shows off its "total" approach to engineering. Here, teams from its core engineering division combined with those from facades, building physics and modelling to get the best possible fit between design and functionality. The firm has addressed IT issues, with an investment of 7% of turnover, and an expansion of the firm's e-commerce engine,

Aukett Europe

Aukett Europe is a practice in the process of rapid expansion, both in terms of its geographical coverage and its financial performance. In 2000, it opened offices in Frankfurt, Warsaw and London, and stepped up its presence in Milan and Paris. All of which was justified by a doubling of the firm's European workload and its operating profit. The firm has shown a willingness to invest in IT and has introduced voice-activated software.

Oscar Faber

The DETR, the CBI and the Department of Trade and Industry all agreed that Oscar Faber was a best-practice construction company. Last year, it became a founder member of the Whole-Life Cost Forum, developed a new BREEAM assessment service and completed the second phase of its review of Part L of the Building Regulations for the DETR. And best practice is compatible with best performance: profit increased 42% to £3.2m.