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In conversation: Alan Lowdon on the Global Entrepreneur Programme

In the latest of his regular updates, Alan Lowdon, Chair of our Innovation Board discusses his new role with the Department for International Trade’s Global Entrepreneur Programme (GEP) and his hopes for 2017.

At the end of the first month of the New Year, it’s pretty clear that this promises to be an intriguing 2017 around the world.

Talking about ‘around the world’, it was with great pleasure that in October last year I became an ‘ambassador’ or ‘dealmaker’ for the Department for International Trade’s Global Entrepreneur Programme (GEP), which seeks to identify and attract IP-rich, high-growth-potential start-up businesses to the UK.

A team of circa 25 of us practising entrepreneurs exists – covering various areas of specialisation – as the UK Government’s ‘entrepreneurs in residence’. Whereas the time commitment on paper is only a few days per month, the psychological commitment to promote the UK, and, in my case, the North East of England, as a landing place for such, more and better job-creating, businesses, is huge.

The GEP is unique in the world and I view my participation in it as my ‘National Service’. It meshes superbly with the other elements of my portfolio and allows me so join even more dots – the essence of innovation and entrepreneurship – for the benefit of both the UK and the North East!

In the North East, the innovation ecosystem has developed apace over the last two years alone! In my engagements, I proudly talk to would-be arrivals about the Catapult network, the National Centre for Ageing, the National Centre for Energy Systems Integration, Sunderland Software City, the National Institute for Smart Data Innovation, the Automotive Alliance, NetPark, the LEP Smart Specialisation Areas, Venturefest, The Innovation Supernetwork, the work of the BIC, RTC North, and the emergence of the Innovation Observatory, the North East Investment Fund and the various other forms of investment finance available; I actively promote our superb universities, colleges, schools and training establishments…the list goes on! There are few, if any, other UK region’s which can lay claim to such a rich innovation and knowledge transfer tapestry! Certainly, none has an Innovation Director such as we have in ‘Wor Hans’. However, it is not until one has to articulate it to others that one truly appreciates the innovation leadership and fabric that our region oozes. It makes the NE a very compelling sell to those I engage with.

So, my resolution for 2017 is to continue to positively impact the development of our innovation ecosystem such that the ‘sell’ continues to become even more compelling. I look forward to working with you to achieve this end!! Have a great 2017 and remember that innovation comes in many shapes and forms; innovation in adapting to the new world order will be one of the biggest challenges we face in the coming years. However, if any region can make a success of this, it’s ours!