The region's best inventors and innovators have a chance to turn their dreams into reality with the launch of the Best Business Innovation Awards 2006.

Run by Coventry-based business consultancy Rowan and The Birmingham Post, the awards aim to celebrate the West Midlands' reputation for entrepreneurship and help put people on the road to success.

Individuals or companies with a great new product can win up to #7,000 worth of support and advice to get their business idea to market.

"The region has had a tough time recently with the job losses in manufacturing," said Chris Rattigan, co-founder and managing director of Rowan. "But its future lies in inovation and diversification."

Mr Rattigan said some of the biggest barriers to launching new products were time pressures and the need for entrepreneurs to be a 'jack of all trades'.

"The UK is generally very good at inventing new prod-ucts," he said.

"However, the individual who comes up with an idea - whether a managing director or an individual entrepreneur - usually ends up having to develop the product, source the finance and do the marketing as well.

"The winner of the Best Business Innovation Awards will have the benefit of Rowan's team of experts who will support that process and help them achieve their goals."

The awards - also supported by Advantage West Midlands - are open to all innovators and inventors in industry, academia and professional institutions in the region.

There are two categories, the first for individuals and businesses trading less than 18 months and the second is for businesses over 18 months old.

Both have to submit an idea for a innovative new product or service that has the potential for commercial success.

The two winners, who will be picked by a panel of regional business experts, will each receive up to #7,000-worth of help from Rowan to get their idea to market. Their progress will also be followed by The Birmingham Post.

Mike Cherry, chairman of the West Midlands policy unit of the Federation of Small Business, welcomed the launch of the awards.

He said: "Anything that can support a company or individual to develop a new innovative product and bring it to the right market must be positive.

"Too often companies have innovative ideas, but they are too busy running their business hands on and do not have the time to develop them.

"Initiatives like the Best Business Innovation Awards can only help small business in particular to succeed."

John Kelly, president of Birmingham and West Midlands Society of Chartered Accountants, said it was vital that fledgling businesses got the right financial and business support when launching new products.

"Ideas people aren't necessarily the right people to take a product to market and it is excellent that the Best Business Innovation Awards are assisting people in this area," he said.

Kul Sanghera, project director of which supports high-growth new and young businesses in the West Midlands, also praised the awards' commitment to innovation. "Entrepreneurship is the lifeblood of the West Midlands," he said.

"Any project that helps people create a profitable new b usiness or product is extremely laudable.

"The Best Business Innovation Awards will also be a showcase for the entrepreneurs in this region and I hope it encourages others to take the step."