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.

Regional business support platform, North East Growth Hub, welcomes new Connector

The North East’s leading online business support network, the North East Growth Hub, has strengthened its team of Connectors with the appointment of former International Trade Advisor, Craig Harrison.

Focusing on supporting the region’s creative and digital businesses to scale up through access to finance and funding and business support services, Craig brings a wealth of experience from working and supporting global Fortune 500 companies to local SMEs.

A former International Trade Advisor at Department for International Trade, Craig spent 13 years working in China and Japan for an international logistics and mobility company in a senior strategic sales and marketing role. Upon returning to the UK, he has worked within the creative and digital sector.

Craig said: “My role as a Growth Hub Connector is to provide impartial, one-on-one support to businesses working in the digital, creative and tech sectors, who are looking to grow and scale both domestically and internationally.

“As one of the fastest growing areas of industry in the North East, there are lots of businesses that need help and advice on everything from accessing finance and funding to help them expand, or business support services like mentoring, skills and apprenticeships to strengthen their teams.

“I’m able to help them navigate the wealth of support available in the region and find the right solutions for their business.”

Craig joins two other Growth Hub Connectors who provide a personal service from the online North East Growth Hub. The Growth Hub Connectors offer free support and guidance to businesses of any size and at any stage of growth.

Colin Bell, Business Growth Director at the North East LEP, said: “We’re delighted to welcome Craig to the team and benefit from his many years’ experience supporting and working with businesses, which more recently have been focused in the creative and digital sector. 

“More and more businesses in the North East are turning to the North East Growth Hub for advice on topics including exporting, procurement and Brexit. Craig’s experience of working internationally and helping companies to export will be vital as we prepare to the leave the European Union.”

For more information about Growth Hub Connect and to speak to one of the Growth Hub Connectors, visit or call 0191 561 5468.

Multimillion-pound business support programme set to launch

North East businesses will benefit from the launch of a new multimillion-pound programme aimed at those who wish to diversify, broaden their customer base and unlock new market opportunities.

Supply Chain North East will see four key partners joining forces to work with over 800 businesses between 2018-2021 supporting businesses to identify opportunities in new and existing markets. An integral part of the North East Growth Hub, Supply Chain North East will be delivered across the region by RTC North, Generator, North East Automotive Alliance (NEAA) and North East Process Industry Cluster (NEPIC).

Colin Bell, Business Growth Director at the North East LEP and leading the North East Growth Hub, said:

“Supply Chain North East has been created to enable more collaboration across multiple sectors. For example, often we see smaller businesses wanting to work within manufacturing or automotive but don’t know how to penetrate the market.

“Through this programme and the partners’ vast networks, we can give valuable advice delivered both at events and via one to one support to help them on that journey.

“A key benefit that businesses will gain is that they will build more diverse revenue streams, reducing reliance on a few customers and markets, which is particularly important with Brexit on the horizon.

“With new supply chain prospects in the North East, such as the £500 million Nexus Fleet Replacement Programme and opportunities further afield, this initiative has been designed to ensure our region’s businesses are well placed to grow their customer base, strengthen supply chain management and diversify their products and services.

“Supply Chain North East also focuses on helping businesses make the most of new technology to drive higher profits, productivity and innovation in new products and services.”

Alan Whittaker, Programme Manager of Supply Chain, added:

“We’re delighted to be delivering a programme that can make a real difference to local businesses in the North East by tapping into national and international opportunities.“All partners involved in delivering this programme offer businesses access to a vast amount of expertise and wealth of experience. It’s the strength of this partnership that will ensure Supply Chain North East helps businesses to thrive and succeed.”

If you are business that meets the following criteria;

Based in the North East LEP area (Sunderland, Durham, Gateshead, Newcastle, North Tyneside, South Tyneside, Northumberland) and are in the following sectors:

  • Advanced manufacturing
  • Subsea, offshore and energy technologies
  • Automotive and transport
  • Health and life sciences
  • Digital, tech and creative
  • Process, chemical and pharmaceutical

Then join us for the launch event on Thursday, 24th January at the Crowne Plaza, Newcastle. To register visit here >>

Visit for more information or call 0191 516 4400.

If you have any further questions about this article, please do not hesitate to contact us directly.


Notes to editor:

RTC services are designed to help clients innovate, compete and grow. Specialising in the commercialisation of new products and services, we work with individuals, businesses and the public sector to help create more innovative and vibrant economies.

Founded in 1989, the company has vast experience of helping organisations with all stages of the innovation and IP commercialisation process and uses this expertise to support partners at a UK regional, national and European level.

RTC is a lead UK partner in the worlds’ largest business support network – Enterprise Europe Network – and has established relationships with partners in Asia as well as North and South America.


Supply Chain North East project is supported by the England European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020.

About the North East LEP

The North East LEP is a public, private and education sector partnership that covers Durham, Gateshead, Newcastle, Northumberland, North Tyneside, South Tyneside and Sunderland local authority areas.

The £270.4m Local Growth Fund, secured as part of the North East Growth Deal, supports the North East LEP’s delivery of the Strategic Economic Plan, which aims to create 100,000 more and better jobs by 2024.

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.


Generator is the leading sector specialist development agency in the North of England.

The flexible and agile approach to supporting both businesses and creatives in the digital and music industries has kept it ahead of the curve when supplying business and talent development for over 25 years.

Starting out as an organisation seeking to navigate pathways for musicians, songwriters and bands to the national music industry and help strike meaningful careers in their chosen direction Generator has evolved into one of the only sector specialist business support agencies for the creative digital tech and music sectors in the UK.


The North East Automotive Alliance (NEAA) is an industry-led cluster group, established to support the economic sustainable growth and competitiveness of the sector in the North East of England.
Launched in March 2015, with over 330 cluster participants, the NEAA is the largest automotive cluster in the UK and one of the fastest growing clusters across Europe. The NEAA provides a single unified voice to key stakeholder groups and promotes the true value created by the North East Automotive sector.


NEPIC works with chemical-processing and supply chain companies to help them become successful and sustainable organisations in a business environment that enables them to grow. Through its established network, NEPIC provides business growth support to companies small and large via networking, events, mentoring, best practice, promotion and signposting.



£500m contract opportunity attracts over 100 businesses

More than 150 businesses attended an event at the Stadium of Light in Sunderland today (8 October) to find out how they can be part of the supply chain to deliver a contract worth £500m that will see a new fleet of trains for the Tyne and Wear Metro designed, built and maintained.

Organised by the North East Growth Hub in conjunction with Transport Executive Nexus, businesses had the chance to meet the five bidders shortlisted for the contract and the other companies who could form part of the supply chain. Businesses were able to pitch to each of the five bidders and showcase how they would make a valuable contribution to the contract.

The five bidders are Bombardier Transportation UK Ltd; Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles, S.A. (CAF); Downer EDI Rail Pty Ltd – a joint venture between Downer EDI Rail and CRRC Changchun Railway Vehicles Co. Ltd; Hitachi Rail Europe Ltd; and Stadler Bussnang AG

A whole host of opportunities are potentially up for grabs as the fleet replacement programme moves forward, from the manufacture and supply of 42 news trains to the construction of a new maintenance facility. There will also be contracts available for the decommissioning and removal of railway assets and the disposal of the current fleet.

The contracts are due to be awarded by Nexus, which owns and operates Metro, by the end of 2019.

Colin Bell, Business Growth Director at the North East LEP, opened the event by talking about the North East Growth Hub and wider business support on offer.

He said: “This is an important contract for the North East, which has a well-established transport sector served by a thriving supply chain. Bringing these companies together with the bidders is a fantastic way to raise awareness of the opportunity; helping organisations build their networks and find new ways to partner on lucrative contracts.”

Neil Blagburn, Metro Development Director at Nexus, said: “Our investment in new trains will transform passengers’ experience of the Tyne and Wear Metro. We have issued an Invitation to Negotiate to five bidders who, between them, are building trains for many of the world’s biggest cities and rail networks.

“This event, organised by the North East LEP, has been an opportunity for our short-listed bidders to meet supply chain companies they could work with in the construction and maintenance of both trains and depot in the next few years, but also their ongoing maintenance for decades to come.”

Invest North East England (INEE), the first point of contact for companies looking to invest in our region, also attended on the day to discuss inward investment opportunities with the bidders.

Guy Currey, INEE Director, said: “We have a comprehensive package of free support available to organisations seeking development opportunities in the North East of England. This event showcased the talent and supply chain infrastructure in the region, demonstrating exactly why this is a good place to live, work and grow a business.”

North East LEP appoints Growth Hub Connectors to help region’s businesses grow

Businesses in the North East will benefit from expert advice and guidance on how to access support to grow their company following the appointment of two Growth Hub Connectors at the North East Local Enterprise Partnership.

Ken Arnold and Karl McCracken will connect business support, and finance and funding providers with businesses in the region in a bid to boost the local economy and create more and better jobs.

This enhances the North East Growth Hub – the region’s online business support platform, by adding experienced, hands on support.

Ken Arnold, Growth Hub Connector at the North East Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “The North East Growth Hub is a fantastic place for businesses to access information, advice and guidance on how to grow their business.

“As Growth Hub Connectors, it will be our job to identify the help firms really need, and connect them to the business support providers, initiatives and resources that can help them on their journey.

“What form that help takes will be unique for each business; from access to finance and funding, to recruitment and training. By understanding the business needs, we can match companies with providers or recommend programmes delivered by the North East LEP that can help them grow.”

The North East Growth Hub has successfully helped thousands of businesses to get business support advice and access vital finance and funding, both through the growth hub portal itself and the associated helpline, web chat and e-mail facilities

Part of the North East LEP’s business growth strategy to make the region a place where businesses invest, grow and prosper to create more and better jobs. The introduction of new Growth Hub Connectors aims to build more direct engagement between businesses and support providers.

Karl McCracken, Growth Hub Connector at the North East Local Enterprise Company, said: “Both Ken and I have experience of running businesses and understanding the links between different areas of a business. So we can help owners and senior managers identify their business needs and make sure they access the right kind of support.

“It’s our job to really get under the skin of a company and understand what help they need to grow. There’s so much support available to businesses in the region but that can make it hard for business owners to find the support that’s right for them. We’ll be helping bridge that gap, with impartial and transparent advice to bring businesses and providers together.”

Prior to joining the North East LEP, Ken worked as a Senior Knowledge Manager at the Business and Enterprise Group supporting the work of the Business Support Helpline and Growth Hubs across the North of England. He has also provided freelance management and business support advice to organisations including the North East Business and Innovation Centre and Raytec.

Karl has run a number of businesses including a manufacturing consultancy and copywriting business. An experienced business coach, Karl worked for Enterprise Agency, Go Wansbeck, before joining the third sector where he worked for sustainable transport charity Sustrans and North East charity, Recyke y’bike.

To speak to the Connectors, call 0191 338 7468 or visit the North East Growth Hub at

The ScaleUp Institute’s 2018 Scaleup Survey

The ScaleUp Institute’s 2018 Scaleup Survey is the UK’s largest survey of its fast-growing companies.

The Survey is now in its fifth year. Its influence and importance has grown rapidly, as it focuses attention on what high-growth firms most value and need.

High-growth businesses are invited to complete the survey, which should take 15-20 minutes, to share views on the main barriers to growth and what businesses need from the private and public sectors in order to continue to scale.

Complete the survey.



In conversation with Business Growth Director, Colin Bell

In May 2018 Government launched a Business Productivity Review. The review considered the ‘firm-level’’ factors that impact productivity and how firm level interventions by the public and private sector can support business growth and productivity improvement.

Here the North East LEP’s Business Growth Director, Colin Bell, explains why this is a critical piece of work and how a collaborative approach has led the response.

Why is this review important to the North East?

The economy has been great at creating jobs, but what we are not seeing is such vibrancy in the jobs market being reflected in people’s living standards and pay packets. Central to the North East’s vision of creating More and Better Jobs is making people’s lives better. Tackling the underlying causes of low levels of productivity is therefore an essential focus for the Government and the North East LEP.

Finding the solution together

In the North East we have been working with a range of partners including the business community, academia and third sector to develop a depth of insight and evidence as to what drives firm level productivity and the approaches to business support that have generated the best results.

Our joint evidence supports the notion that higher levels of leadership skills and the adoption of technology are key drivers of productivity improvement. One of our most powerful findings is that the biggest influence on businesses is exposure to and connectivity with peers who have undergone leadership development, invested in new technology and are now realising the benefits.

This is an important review and we now look forward to working with Government and partners to mobilise our ideas through the creation of the North East’s Local Industrial Strategy.

Access the Business Productivity Review call for evidence here

Access the North East LEP’s response here

The bid to make 5G North East a reality: In conversation with Alan Welby

In the next few weeks, one city in the UK will be chosen to be the testbed for the next generation of 5G technologies, which have the potential to transform the way we live and work.

The North East LEP is part of the partnership, led by the North East Combined Authority (NECA), which has submitted the North East’s bid to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS). 5G North East is our bid to place the North East at the heart of the UK’s 5G revolution.

If we’re successful, it could make a massive difference to the regional economy, with conservative figures pointing to a potential £500m productivity increase by 2025 and the possible creation of 1600 job equivalents by 2025.

These are modest estimates and it’s likely that the actual figures would be a lot greater as new channels to global marketplaces open up and 5G increases the status of the North East as a place to live and do business. In addition, there would be up to £200m direct investment in digital infrastructure capability between 2019 and 2021.

The range of applications for these new technologies is vast. Every area of business and society could benefit – the way our children learn in the classroom could be transformed by the use of Augmented Reality (AR); we could see the advent of smart factories with increased connectivity allowing smart supply chains and production lines; the management of traffic flow and electricity in our smart cities could be transformed; and there are many ways we could unlock opportunities for improvements around social care and ageing.

Why should the North East be chosen? I believe we have everything needed to make the region a successful test area for these new technologies. We have the partnerships in place, with public and private sector buy-in. We have a strong culture of innovation here, with significant assets – the Stellium data centre in North Tyneside and the National Innovation Centre for Data in Newcastle city centre, plus CPI’s National Centre for Printable Electronics at NetPark in Durham.

Our large scale ‘open innovation’ approach would see businesses, universities, public institutions and communities working together with communication service providers and mobile operators, trialling and developing 5G solutions to a range of challenges in the urban, industrial, business, social and environmental sectors.

Another USP is our project-ready team which is led by 5G expert Xavier Priem who has extensive experience working for multiple telecom suppliers, their customers and network operators and who has established specialist 5G research and innovation centres and projects across Europe.

From a practical point of view, the region is the right size and has the right mix of cities, rural areas and transport infrastructure with our ports, rail links and airports providing opportunities to test how 5G can be applied to importing, exporting and the tracking of goods.

We’re ready to go and we have a strong and compelling case for the North East to be at the forefront of the UK’s drive to become a global leader in 5G enabled communications.

We know there is great support in the region for this bid and we want to take advantage of this exciting opportunity for the North East.

Alan Welby, Innovation Director
North East LEP

£120m fund for the North East goes live

£120m North East Fund goes live

A £120m investment fund to drive local growth and job creation will now go live after the agreement was signed on 23 March 2018 by the representatives from the European Investment Bank (EIB) and The North East Fund Limited (TNEFL).

The North East Fund, supported by the European Regional Development Fund, will offer a range of investments including equity, debt and mezzanine funding in the North East LEP area, which covers County Durham, Gateshead, Newcastle, North Tyneside, Northumberland, South Tyneside and Sunderland.

It will provide financial support for over 600 businesses, creating around 3,500 jobs over the life of the fund and delivering a legacy of up to £80m for further investment over the next decade.

Experienced Fund Managers have been appointed to manage five separate funds which will cater to the needs of businesses at different stages across different sectors. Details of the Fund Managers are expected to be announced in early April.

Helen Golightly, Executive Director for the North East LEP, which led the project team negotiating for the region, said: “We have always believed that retaining investment funds exclusively for North East companies was the right decision and are grateful to the Treasury, EIB and Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government for their efforts and support to the team.

“This is a fantastic achievement for the North East and all the tireless work behind the scenes has now paid off.”

Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, Robert Jenrick, said: “This is an important step in ensuring that growth and opportunity are spread fairly across the country. The £120m investment will be a big boost to small businesses operating in the North East, driving productivity and bolstering the Northern Powerhouse’s economy.

“By generating thousands of new jobs and upskilling people across the region, the positive impact of this fund will be felt for generations to come.”

Jake Berry MP, Minister for the Northern Powerhouse and Local Growth, said: “With over £120m of investment flowing into the region, strengthening local businesses and creating thousands of new jobs, the North East Fund signals another major economic boost to the Northern Powerhouse.

“It will provide welcome finance for smaller businesses across the North East to reach their full growth potential while bolstering the Northern Powerhouse’s reputation as a world-beating location to start and grow your business.”

Jonathan Taylor, EIB Vice President, said: “The North East Fund will help to unlock entrepreneurial drive and innovation across Northumbria, Tyneside, Wearside and County Durham.  The EIB is pleased to provide £120m to support this unique initiative that will create thousands of new jobs and improve skills across the North East and replicates the proven success of similar investment across Europe.”

Andrew Mitchell, Chief Executive of the North East Fund, said: “This new Fund is a feather in the cap for the North East and a vote of confidence in our economic potential. The North East LEP’s backing has been critical to getting this across the line and we can now focus on investing on the brightest and best businesses in the region.”


Notes to Editors

The North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) covers County Durham, Gateshead, Newcastle, North Tyneside, Northumberland, South Tyneside and Sunderland.

Our role is to drive economic growth in North East England by supporting businesses and creating more and better jobs for everyone.

Over the next decade, we aim to help the North East create an extra 100,000 jobs. An ambitious target, but one we believe is achievable working with our partners in the public and private sectors.

Our Strategic Economic Plan (SEP) for the North East outlines how we will create more and better jobs including the identification of our areas of strength, referred to as our smart specialisation areas; passenger vehicle manufacturing; subsea and offshore; life sciences and healthcare; and creative, digital, software and technology based services, and our plan to bring investment and funding to the area.

European Regional Development Fund (ERDF)

The project is receiving up to £58,500,000 of funding from the England European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020. The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (and in London the intermediate body Greater London Authority) is the Managing Authority for European Regional Development Fund. Established by the European Union, the European Regional Development Fund helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations. For more information visit