Introducing our Innovation Programme

Alan Welby
Alan Welby, Innovation Director

Innovation encompasses the development of new ideas, products, processes and services (no matter how big or small!) which deliver new approaches to challenges faced by businesses, individuals and communities.

Innovation is central to the Strategic Economic Plan’s long-term ambition to build a more productive North East: stronger innovation delivery will improve our productivity performance and catalyse growth in ‘better’ jobs

Alan Welby
Innovation Director

Meet the Innovation team
Alan Welby Alan Welby
Innovation Director
[email protected]
Rebecca Furness Rebecca Furness
Programme Support Officer: Innovation
[email protected]
Dinah Jackson Dinah Jackson
Programme Manager
[email protected]
Andrew Leigh Andrew Leigh
Project Coordinator
[email protected]

Here’s how the Innovation Programme links into the key areas of the Strategic Economic Plan:

We are curating an open innovation programme, Challenge North East, based on global best practice and drawing on existing regional strengths. Open innovation is fundamentally about collaboration with people and organisations. Our aim is to grow the culture of open innovation in the region to increase commercialisation and productivity.

We work with partners across the region, to identify and develop an evergreen pipeline of game-changing regional innovation projects.  We support the pipeline projects to produce compelling and robust propositions which are best placed to attract national funding and grow the North East asset base.

Our aim is to accelerate investment into the region by winning a greater share of national innovation funding competitions and supporting private sector co-investment.


We support the cohesion of the North East innovation ecosystem in a variety of ways including through the development of emerging projects, providing support through steering groups, collaboration with the Business and Sector Growth team and the North East Growth Hub and engaging regional assets such as universities and catapults to foster collaboration and alignment.

Visit the North East Growth Hub

With the North East LEP’s Business and Sector Growth team, we work with partners to lever private funding and have developed a roadmap for increasing the levels of private sector finance invested in the region’s innovative businesses, which is recognised as an area in which the North East falls behind the rest of the UK.

We are testing a novel concept of ‘Innovation Delivery Partnerships’ (IDPs) with regional partners to grasp opportunities in emerging markets in areas of regional strength. IDPs will be self-governing partnerships of businesses and organisations across the stages of innovation cycle. IDPs will focus on specific market opportunities and will support the growth of the North East’s competitive market share in these areas.

In this space we have developed an economic input-output model which calculates the potential economic impact of investment made across a range of innovation and business growth activities. This enables us to demonstrate the importance and benefit of public finding.  At a pan-northern level, Innovation Director, Alan Welby, chairs the NP11’s Innovation Group.

Meet the Innovation board
Gillian Hall Gillian Hall
Chair of Innovation Board, member of Investment Board
Tony Appleton Tony Appleton
Innovation Board Member
Estelle Blanks Estelle Blanks
Executive Director, Innovation SuperNetwork
Professor Michael Capaldi Professor Michael Capaldi
Dean of Innovation and Business
Dr Colin Herron Dr Colin Herron
Innovation Board Member
Patrick Melia Patrick Melia
Chief Executive of Sunderland City Council
Lee Viney Lee Viney
Regional Manager at Innovate UK
Dr Nicola Wesley Dr Nicola Wesley
Innovation Board Member
Professor Michael Whitaker Professor Michael Whitaker
Innovation Board Member
Councillor Nick Forbes Councillor Nick Forbes
Leader of Newcastle City Council

Latest Innovation news

Investing in Innovation for a greener UK

Alan Welby, Innovation Director discusses today’s announcement of the Chancellor’s plans for UK to be the world’s first net zero aligned financial centre.  Put simply, net zero refers to the balance…

North East LEP supports National Innovation Strategy

The North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has welcomed the National Innovation Strategy, published today 22 July 2021. The UK Government has developed the Strategy…

Energy Innovation Challenge: Jumping Rivers

Esther Gillespie, Director of data science consultancy Jumping Rivers, explains how taking part in the Energy Innovation Challenge has opened up opportunities and funding for…

In conversation with Gillian Hall, North East LEP Innovation Board Chair, about the LEP’s annual review and the importance of creating an innovation culture in the region

The upheaval of the COVID-19 pandemic has led to increased levels of innovation across the North East. But how do you build on that, and…

Support available to develop innovation projects in preparation for future funding opportunities

North East organisations are being offered support from a team of innovation experts to prepare projects for future funding opportunities. Alan Welby, Innovation Director at…


Ground-breaking solutions to the COVID-19 crisis will become reality thanks to the Challenge North East open innovation programme. Challenge North East called on North East…

Challenge North East: the story so far

Challenge North East is an innovation programme, launched to identify solutions to issues created by COVID-19 and to enable SMEs to develop and test these…


A challenge that called on North East businesses to generate innovative solutions to the Covid-19 crisis has reached a milestone moment. The North East Local…

How university collaboration, Northern Accelerator, is driving an innovation-led COVID-19 recovery

A collaboration between four North East universities – Durham, Newcastle, Northumbria and Sunderland – Northern Accelerator commercialises research to create sustainable businesses in the North…

Get in touch

If you want to know more about how the Innovation Programme can support your business, you can call us on 0191 561 5420 or email [email protected]