This year's Ecommerce Awards, officially launched last week by e-commerce minister Stephen Timms, will give SMEs the chance to win a slice of the £182,000 prize fund for innovation in the application of IT and communication technologies.

The awards, a joint initiative between government-backed UK Online for Business and non-profit e-business organisation InterForum, are open to any firms with up to 250 employees which can demonstrate a business transformation through IT applications in one of the following four areas: e-business startups, e-trading, e-business and achievements in the voluntary and community sector.

"It is essential for companies to move beyond using e-commerce as simply an add-on. The Ecommerce Awards are looking for businesses that have transformed themselves by bringing these technologies to the heart of their business," said Timms.

This year four new categories have been introduced, forming the National Innovation Awards, for those organisations which can demonstrate business excellence in use of mobile and wireless technology, use of broadband technology, use of TMB (technology means business) accredited advice and advance supply chain integration.

The overall winner will receive a top prize of £30,000, with £2,000 each for regional winners which will be selected through 11 heats across the country.

Over the past four years over £1.9m has been awarded to 3,500 small to medium businesses in recognition of their achievements in these areas.

The nomination process in now officially open on the Ecommerce Awards website. With a submission deadline of 31 July, applicants have plenty of time to choose carefully. The awards gala dinner will be held at London's Grosvenor House on 8 October.