It was a proud moment for Exa Network's director Mark Cowgill when his team collected the trophy for SME of the Year.

Founded in 2003, the internet service provider started out in a small office space in Dean Clough Mills, in Halifax, before moving back into its Bradford home town in 2005.

The co-founder, who is Bradford born and bred, said: "Of all the awards we’ve ever won it’s the one I’m most proud of. It’s just about crying out what we’re doing.

"We've won national awards, we're up for two internet service awards next month - they're fantastic.

"But, as a Bradford lad, it makes you sort of proud inside to get that recognition as a local company."

The business is an internet service provider and software development house.

The team focuses on the education and business market places.

Trio Mike Cowgill, Thomas Mangin and Michael Syree set up the business to help educators understand how they can use computers, programming and online safeguarding in the working lives.

Mr Cowgill said: "Pretty much every type of society is touched by needing the use of internet and that's gone really quick.

"It's only over the last two decades that it's become so important to so many people.

"It's myself, Thomas and Michael that started the company 16 years ago.

"We are all techies, we are all nerds. It used to be sort of looked down to say you were a geek but I've always been a geek. The reason I got into this is because I loved video games as a kid."

Edd Grinham, marketing manager for Exa Networks, described Mark's role in the company as "pivotal".

He said: "We’ve been building Bradford up for the past 16 years."

Lewis Aird, head of technical support, was humbled by the win which left him feeling "surprised and overwhelmed".

He said: "I wasn’t expecting to win."

SME finalists included Keighley-based Global Precision Ltd, a contract manufacturer of industrial and consumer products, and Titus Learning, which gives tailored online learning platforms from its Saltaire hub.