A heavyweight team representing the cream of regional business, academia and civic talent has been unveiled to drive forward innovation in the North East.
The North East Local Enterprise Partnership (NELEP) has created the first Innovation Board for the region, which will support the LEP in propelling innovative economic growth and investment.
The new board, who have been appointed for an initial two-year period, will be chaired by the North East LEP’s innovation lead Professor Roy Sandbach, while 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 of Sunderland University, Professor Nick Wright of Newcastle University, Dr Tim Hammond from Durham University and Prof George Marston, of Northumbria. 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, chief executive of Kromek – have also joined the high powered board. North Tyneside mayor Norma Redfearn and South Tyneside Council leader Iain Malcolm 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 and better jobs”.
The aim is to develop the region into a “global innovation eco-system” in which corporate organisations can find innovation solutions, and smaller businesses can grow quickly.
Five priority innovation-hub projects across the region have demonstrated how progress is already being made, having secured more than £26m investment from the government’s Local Growth Fund in July.
A further investment of around £100m, 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 these investments.
The North East is also building a powerful national profile in the area of innovation, with recent announcements that the Space Satellite Catapult and the Digital Catapult will locate centres in the North East being 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.”
Members, who are unpaid, will meet for the first time on December 1.
North East LEP chair Paul Woolston added: “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.”