North East Business Growth Board welcomes five new members

Five new appointments have been made to the Business Growth Board of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), supporting the LEP in achieving its aim of creating 100,000 more and better jobs in the North East.

Liz Bromley (Chief Executive of Newcastle College Group); Paul Butler (CEO of the North East Automotive Alliance); Yvonne Gale (CEO of NEL Fund Managers); Darren Laybourn (Director of Construction Management Consultant Turner & Townsend); and Steve Underwood (Managing Partner for Dentsu Aegis) have all joined the Board, which is chaired by entrepreneur Ammar Mirza CBE.

Colin Bell, Business Growth Director at the North East LEP, commented: “The role of every member of the Business Growth Board is to support the North East LEP and its partners to build an ambitious and thriving economy in our region.

“As businesses across the North East begin to look at how they can recover from the impact of COVID-19, the Business Growth Board will play an important part in supporting businesses and helping to secure the long-term economic recovery of our region.”

Ammar Mirza CBE, Chair of the Business Growth Board, said: “The Board is made up of individuals with significant experience, expertise and endorsement, representing the public, private and academic sectors, all with a shared ambition of making the North East a better place where we create more and better jobs, which is clearly even more important now.

“The LEP has always acted as an enabler, recognising that we must create a community underpinned by a collaborative campaign to develop an effective eco-system that will help our region restart, revive and ultimately thrive.  It is this partnership approach that will help us progress to a better place.”

Liz Bromley, Chief Executive of Newcastle College Group, has held a number of senior roles in education, including at the University of Salford and Goldsmiths, University of London. She has also been a board member of the National Centre for Entrepreneurship in Education, the CBI North West and a governor and trustee of the Sir John Brunner Foundation, among many other non-executive roles.

Paul Butler established the North East Automotive Alliance in 2015 and it quickly became the leading automotive cluster in the UK. As a cluster benchmarking expert for the European Secretariat for Cluster Analysis, Paul brings insight into business support eco systems from across Europe. Paul has extensive knowledge of the region’s business base, having previously spent 10 years with the North East Process Industry Cluster and has supported the delivery of the UKTI Trade services across the North East. He has also previously run his own publishing business.

Yvonne Gale is CEO of NEL Fund Managers, a North East impact investment firm where she is responsible for its strategic direction and leadership. Yvonne is a finance specialist passionate about improving access to finance for small businesses and enabling economic growth.

Director of Construction Management Consultant Turner & Townsend, Darren Laybourn has more than 32 years’ experience of delivering many of the region’s most complex real estate and infrastructure programmes. The business has circa 7000 people across 115 offices working with clients on the world’s largest projects and programmes.

The fifth new appointment to the Board is Steve Underwood, Managing Partner for Dentsu Aegis, a global marketing services group that employs over 45,000 people across 143 countries, delivering solutions for clients that enable them to succeed in the digital economy.

Colin Bell added: “The Business Growth Board brings together some of the most skilled and ambitious people from our business and academic communities and I’m looking forward to working with our new Board members to support businesses of all shapes and sizes to grow, create new jobs and bring positive changes to communities in our region.”


Notes to editors

The members of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership Business Growth Board are:

  • Ammar Mirza CBE (Chair)
  • Toby Bridges (CEO of the NBT Group Ltd, Chair of The Exchange North Tyneside, Founding Director of Vytech Solutions Ltd)
  • Liz Bromley (Chief Executive, Newcastle College Group)
  • Paul Butler (CEO, North East Automotive Alliance)
  • David Coppock (North East Head of Trade for Department for International Trade)
  • Tom Frater (Policy Team Leader of the Government’s Cities and Local Growth Unit)
  • Yvonne Gale (CEO of NEL Fund Managers)
  • Councillor Peter Jackson (Leader of Northumberland County Council)
  • Darren Laybourn (Director of Construction, Turner & Townsend)
  • Ryan Maughan (Managing Director of AVID Technology Group Ltd)
  • Councillor Graeme Miller (Leader of Sunderland City Council)
  • Jane Robinson (Dean for Engagement and Place at Newcastle University)
  • Steve Underwood (Managing Partner for Dentsu Aegis)
  • Kate Wickham (Managing Director of Gate 7)


Thinking of starting a business – are you crazy?

Colin Bell, Business Growth Director at the North East LEP, looks at why right now might just be the right time to take the leap and launch a high potential startup.

We are in lockdown, demand has been extinguished, we are going to enter a recession that makes the financial crash look like a pussycat and you are thinking of starting a business?

“What on earth are you thinking about – the lock down has made you crazy,” would be a typical and perhaps understandable response.

Entrepreneurs however see things differently. They make quick sense of ambiguity, they see opportunity, they see areas of demand, they see new problems that need to be solved, they see an opportunity to draw together disparate resources to create something new, something exciting, something that will make the world a better place.

At times like these an entrepreneur’s mind is in overdrive, their levels of energy are through the roof – it’s their time to make something special happen!

If you find yourself strangely energised by the current situation, if you are coming up with new ideas and see a route through the confusion, then the chances are you are an entrepreneur and perhaps there has never been a better time to start a new business.

We’re about to launch the next cohort of High Potential Startups, a programme of support which can help you grow, develop and test your ideas and connect you with the support and resources required to get your business off the ground.

Now delivered virtually, we’re looking for expressions of interest right now, so why not take the leap and visit for more information.


North East LEP bolsters Supply Chain North East to rise to PPE challenge

The North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has bolstered the North East Growth Hub’s Supply Chain North East programme to help regional businesses rise to the ongoing UK-wide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) challenge.

A flagship North East LEP business growth scheme, Supply Chain North East is delivered by RTC North in partnership with NEAA, NEPIC and Generator/Digital Union.

Capital grants programme enhancements have been made in recognition of the constraints faced by many businesses at present.

They include the ability for the Supply Chain North East scheme to make payments at the start of a project. SMEs can also access up to 60% in grants (increased from a cap of 40%) towards stalled pipeline projects due to COVID-19 or activities aimed at developing the supply chain.

Critically, grants up to 80% are available for organisations which can potentially support supply chain needs relating to the health and social care sectors, for example in the provision of PPE, respirators and other products. The funding has been made available from Government’s Local Growth Fund via the North East LEP.

Colin Bell, Business Growth Director at the North East LEP, said: “The changes to the Supply Chain North East programme are significant because they provide the ability to speed up the supply of PPE and other products and services needed in the fight against COVID-19.

“We are determined to give businesses the support they need to unlock projects that will allow them to thrive in the future and this is big step towards that goal.”

Jamie Ollivere, Managing Director at RTC North, said: “In response to COVID-19, it’s vital businesses know that through the Supply Chain North East programme they can get immediate support. Our team is poised to help businesses respond directly to supply chain demands in healthcare and to support other projects that will help them build resilience and put them on a path back to growth.”

Supply Chain North East is a multi-million pound programme aimed at revolutionising the way SMEs diversify their offering and embrace new markets. The programme is receiving £3,148,513 of funding from the England European Regional Development Fund, as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020. Funding of £800,000 has been made available for the grants from the North East LEP’s Local Growth Fund from Government.

For more information, please visit Supply Chain North East.



About the Local Growth Fund:

Local Enterprise Partnerships are playing a vital role in driving forward economic growth across the country, helping to build a country that works for everyone.

That’s why by 2021 Government will have invested over £12bn through the Local Growth Fund, allowing LEPs to use their local knowledge to get all areas of the country firing on all cylinders.

Analysis has shown that every £1 of Local Growth Fund invested could generate £4.81 in benefits.

In conversation with Colin Bell about how the North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group is helping to keep businesses moving

A North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group has launched to provide business resilience and get the region ready for recovery throughout the COVID-19 outbreak. It has a five point plan in place.

Colin Bell, Business Growth Director at the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), explains how the North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group is leading the response in terms of business continuity. 

The North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group has come together to mitigate the shock created by Coronavirus, think about what the recovery looks like, and harness the collective energy and ability of the business community to make that upturn happen.

Now is an extremely challenging time and the biggest issue facing everyone is cash flow. Most self-employed and business owners are doing everything they can to keep their heads above water until they can access some of the support Government has made available. 

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and Self-Employed Income Support Scheme are the most significant measures that have been put in place but there is a period of time before people will be able to access these so it’s about buying time.

A partnership approach

Being able to draw upon the knowledge and expertise of the CBI, which is part of the North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group, along with the North East and North of Tyne Combined Authorities, is crucial right now as we look at the issues facing large organisations.

These companies have similar issues to smaller companies but on a much larger scale, for example they may be furloughing staff and / or have seen a big drop in demand. Wider challenges for some management teams who continue to operate include trying to manage a reduced workforce where perhaps people are having to take time off to self-isolate, along with the need to reassure those who are still in work and their families about their safety. Where products and services are being supplied to the NHS there is a particular need for business as usual. 

It’s important to recognise that in terms of safety, North East businesses have really stepped up to the plate here. Many could technically still be trading right now but have taken the moral decision to furlough staff and place people before profits and that is to be commended. 

Government is listening

For the self-employed, it was a big win when the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced the introduction of the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme, a vital lifeline we had been lobbying on and it reinforces that Government continues to listen and respond. The big challenge is we won’t really understand how people can access this until June, however on the plus side, it seems this group should still be able to generate income in the interim.

Another welcome step forward is the extension of the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme to smaller businesses who would previously have met the requirements for a commercial facility but not have been eligible to apply. Equally, the removal of personal guarantees for facilities under £250k, and capped recoveries for loans over this figure, is a big game changer and will help big and small companies alike.

As a Group, one of our biggest priorities is ensuring businesses exist in three months’ time. As before the crucial factor in that is the need for working capital so we are signposting hard. 

Diversification can help

Where businesses can trade, for example online and in distribution, we are working flat out to support them as much as possible. Alongside this we are trying to point those in industries where demand may have flattened to those where it has spiked, in case they can capitalise by putting core competencies to use in a way perhaps outside the norm. 

It’s a complex arena but we are trying to identify and share opportunities wherever we can and facilitate that diversification. Similarly we are putting lots of effort into rerouting skilled labour where it can be best utilised during this time of crisis.

There is one area in which people can help us. We’re gathering as much data as we can right now to ensure we’re providing the right support and so we can share this intelligence with Government to help inform what next. This is why we’re asking all businesses owners to complete this survey. If you haven’t done this yet, please do so now. 

To stay up to date with progress, follow @northeastlep on Twitter or visit the North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group page. Lots of helpful support can also be found on the North East Growth Hub.

Scaleup Annual Review 2019 showcases North East business success

The North East LEP’s ambitious goal of increasing the number of scaleups in the North East by 50% by 2024 through its multimillion pound Scaleup North East programme has had a significant boost.

According to the Scaleup Annual Review 2019, the region has 27% more scaleup companies than in 2016 and the increase in the density of scaleups is ahead of the national average.

The definition of a scaleup is an organisation that has increased turnover or employment by more than 20% annually.

Local businesses that have recently achieved scaleup status include ABCA Systems Ltd; Atom Bank; Crafter’s Companion; Cussins Ltd; END.; Lanchester Wines; Mailprotector; Oil Consultants; and Tharsus.

The Scaleup Annual Review 2019 provides oversight of the national scaleup business landscape and drills down into the local scaleup ecosystem and regional performance.

The page related to the North East states that: “ONS data for 2017 shows that there are 820 scaleups in the North East LEP: 290 are classified as scaleups due to rapid growth in their employees, 680 are classified as scaleups due to rapid growth in their turnover and 150 are scaleups that are increasing both employment and turnover simultaneously.

“The ONS data reflects that across the four-year period from 2014 to 2017 the density of scaleups has increased by 4.13 per 100,000 of population per year, which is above the median of +3.90 per 100,000 of population.”

The Scaleup Annual Review 2019 attributes this success to interventions made by the North East LEP, from bespoke packages of Scaleup North East support delivered by established Scaleup Partners and its Mentoring Programme, through to work with the Entrepreneurs’ Forum’s established Scale-up Leaders’ Academy.

It also cites the North East LEP’s Supply Chain North East programme, which is designed to empower North East businesses to diversify their offer, as well as the High Potential Startups programme launched in July 2019 to increase the number of businesses reaching £1m turnover in three years.

Through High Potential Startups, support is facilitated through peer-learning plus coaching, mentoring and investor relation activities.

Colin Bell, Business Growth Director at the North East LEP, said: “The results within the Scaleup Annual Review 2019 show we have made strong progress to achieving our goal of increasing scaleups in our region by 50% by 2024.

“It also reflects the strength and ambition of our scaleup businesses who continue to drive ahead with focused expansion plans despite the current political uncertainty. These results should be celebrated but will not distract from our longer-term goal and we look forward to welcoming a whole new cohort of scaleups in 2020.”

For more information on Scaleup North East, please visit

North East Local Enterprise Partnership reaction to ONS regional labour market statistics

North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) Senior Economist, Victoria Sutherland, has commented on today’s regional labour market statistics, released by the Office for National Statistics.

“Today’s data shows a mixed picture for the North East region, which covers the North East LEP and Tees Valley LEP areas.

“We are pleased to see that the number of people in employment has increased by 6,000 over the last three months. The North East was one of five English regions to see employment increase, with only the North West and West Midlands having larger increases.

“Whilst the number of people in employment has increased, the number participating in the labour market has grown even faster. As a result, unemployment has also increased, with 7,000 more people unemployed than last quarter. The North East continues to have the highest unemployment and economic inactivity rates in England.

“It is important that partners across the North East continue to work together to create the conditions for a stronger economy which delivers employment growth. The North East LEP will continue to work with its partners to deliver the North East Strategic Economic Plan’s ambition of more and better jobs.”

North East Local Enterprise Partnership reaction to ONS regional labour market statistics

North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) Senior Economist, Victoria Sutherland, has commented on today’s regional labour market statistics, released by the Office for National Statistics.

“Today’s statistics show that the number of people in employment in the North East region – which includes both the North East and Tees Valley LEP areas – has increased by 6,000 over the last three months.

“Combined with statistics released last month that showed between March and June, the North East was the region in the UK with the largest increase in filled jobs, this suggests the regional labour market has begun to strengthen after a period of declining employment earlier in the year.

“Whilst the number of people in employment has increased, the number participating in the labour market has grown even faster. As a result, unemployment has also increased with 3,000 more people unemployed than last quarter.

“As the UK prepares to leave the European Union, there remains significant uncertainty in the economy.

“The North East LEP will continue to work with partners in the region, as well as Government, to create more and better jobs for our region and to support residents to access good quality employment opportunities.”

For the latest information and guidance on how businesses can prepare for Brexit, visit the North East Growth Hub’s free Brexit Toolkit.

Entrepreneurs with big ideas invited to join new business support programme

Budding entrepreneurs in the region are being given the chance to turn their notepad doodle into the next Google with support from the North East Growth Hub’s new High Potential Startups programme.

Giving would be entrepreneurs access to expert advice and support to help them create the high growth businesses of tomorrow, High Potential Startups provides the introductions and the business support needed to bring business ideas to life, bigger and better than people can alone.

Colin Bell, Business Growth Director at the North East LEP said: “High Potential Startups is all about finding new, ambitious businesses with the potential to grow fast and make a real impact on the economy.

“Scaleup business generate one third of new economic and job growth, which is why it’s so important we help North East entrepreneurs turn their ideas into viable businesses that create more and better jobs.

“In the Strategic Economic Plan we set a target to increase the density of scaleup businesses in the North East by 50% by 2024. We currently have 17% more scaleups in the region than we did in 2017 and High Potential Startups will help us deliver more of these important, fast growing growing businesses.”

As well as targeting entrepreneurs, High Potential Startups will educate businesses on the benefits that come from supporting existing staff members to launch new ventures.

Intrapreneurship allows staff to develop new business ideas that often add value to their current place of work. Organisations can use staff spin offs to improve productivity, reach new markets and adapt faster to changes in the economy.

Investing in intrepreneurship has been to shown to improve staff motivation and morale, as well as drive business growth.

Colin continued: “Speaking as someone who has launched a business, I know what a scary prospect it can be. We want people with a great business idea to know support is on hand to turn that idea into reality.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re working full time for another business or working on your idea at home in your spare time, if it has the potential to create jobs and generate £1m or more by its third year, High Potential Startups can help you test market ideas, fill knowledge and skills gaps, and find cofounders to take your business to market.”

To find out more about High Potential Startups and to apply, visit

Being mentored by some of the North East’s most successful business people is proven to unlock business growth

Aspirational businesses owners from across the North East are accelerating their growth thanks to mentoring from some of the region’s most successful business people.

Fulfilling the North East’s strategic economic aim of creating 100,000 ‘more and better jobs’ is reliant on more businesses making the jump to their next level of growth. Many businesses in the region have a turnover that typically fluctuates between 750k and £1.5million with few breaking through to the next stage of growth. This scenario can be driven by many reasons; some decide that this is the right level for them and accept that some years are better than others, whilst others aspire to grow but for various reasons can’t quite make it happen.

Having access to a mentor who has walked the path and has proven invaluable in helping businesses owners to reach their next level of growth. The North East Growth Hub’s Mentors offer their time voluntarily and are motivated by altruistic endeavour, giving back and making a positive contribution to the North East economy.

They have all experienced the pleasure and pain that comes with scaling a business, they’ve got things wrong and made mistakes and got things right and achieved success. It’s this insight and learning from experience that when passed on has enabled other business owners to short cut barriers and accelerate results. Mentees have typically benefited through:

  • Improving their leadership style
  • Developing a more sustainable business model
  • Accelerating their growth
  • Developing better business skills and planning
  • Achieving better sales and lead generation.

Quality of experience is key. We take great care in selecting suitable mentors and mentees and go to great lengths to ensure strong, trusting and effective matches are made.  It would be great to think that this could be facilitated by a clever database, however, experience shows that a great match can only be achieved by gaining a good understanding of the business and the motivations, interests and personality of both mentor and mentee.

If you are interested, email us at [email protected] to book your space.

May I end by saying a big thanks to all our mentors and mentees – you are amazing! Thanks for helping others reach their full potential.

Colin Bell, Business Growth Director, North East Local Enterprise Partnership.