In Innovation

A high ranking team of top business, academic and civic talent has been unveiled by the North East Local Enterprise Partnership as the first Innovation Board for the North East. The board will support the LEP in driving innovation systems across the region to propel economic growth and investment.

The new board will be chaired by the North East LEP’s innovation champion Professor Roy Sandbach. The private sector is represented by Dr Alan Lowdon, Neil Hemming and Dr Peter Simpson, all of whom have established international reputations for innovative work in their fields.

They are joined by senior university figures, Professor Peter Fidler, University of Sunderland and North East LEP board member; Professor Nick Wright, Newcastle University; Dr Tim Hammond, Durham University and Prof George Marston, Northumbria University. Government agencies are represented by Innovate UK and Research Councils UK.

Two North East LEP board members from the business community, Gillian Hall, former senior partner of Watson Burton and Arnab Basu, CEO of Kromek, have also joined the high powered board. Mayor Norma Redfearn, North Tyneside and Cllr Iain Malcolm, Leader of South Tyneside Council will represent the North East Combined Authority.

The North East LEP’s innovation strategy is a key element of the regional Strategic Economic Plan for “more & better jobs”. The aim is to drive the region ahead as a global innovation eco-system, in which corporate organisations can find innovation solutions, and smaller businesses in every sector, including social enterprise, can grow quickly.

Progress is already being made. Five priority innovation-hub projects across the region secured over £26m investment from the government’s Local Growth Fund in July. A further investment of around £100 million,  including European funding, has been allocated to the area for innovation initiatives that relate to the region’s areas of business strength or in the context of broad community need. The new Innovation Board will oversee dynamic and effective use of these investments.

The North East is also building a powerful national innovation profile. Recent announcements that the Space Satellite Catapult and the Digital Catapult will locate centres in the North East are linked to the innovation programme, and are just the start.

Prof Sandbach said: “We have created a hugely talented, nationally and internationally experienced board to drive innovation in the North East. It was important that we put the right people in place to help deliver the strategic leadership of this important focus on innovation for the region.

“Clearly, through this leadership group, we’ll need to engage, consult and collaborate broadly across many sectors. I’m absolutely convinced that we will be able to do this. I’m looking forward to working with the Board to achieve real innovation momentum for the North East.”

The new Innovation Board’s members, who have been appointed for an initial two-year period by the enterprise partnership’s board, will direct and oversee the region’s innovation strategy. Members, who are unpaid, will meet up to four times a year, with the first meeting on December 1.

North East LEP chair Paul Woolston said: “The newly formed Innovation Board is a fundamental part of driving forward a new era in North East innovation and ultimately delivering more and better jobs for the North East. The appointment of board members allows us to push ahead with our innovation strategy.

“The members we have recruited will help the North East to engage on a regional, national and global level with those businesses and agencies able to help us to achieve our ambitions of economic growth through innovation.”

The North East LEP is also close to appointing an executive Innovation Director to directly manage the programme, and expects to make an announcement in the near future.

For more information about the North East Local Enterprise Partnership Board Members, visit here.

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