Senior business leaders offer free intensive leadership course for North East SMEs

Invest NewcastleGateshead and Common Purpose have teamed with some of the region’s high profile business leaders to help SMEs grow

Lucy Armstrong Chief executive, The Alchemists, Newcastle
Lucy Armstrong Chief executive, The Alchemists, Newcastle

Invest NewcastleGateshead and Common Purpose are offering North East SMEs the opportunity to explore innovation and grow their businesses with some of the regions high profile organisations and business leaders.

The two organisations have developed an intensive leadership course – called Innovation, Building your Leadership Ambition – which will feature keynote speakers, Lucy Armstrong, chief executive of The Alchemists, and Professor Roy Sandbach, chair of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership, as well as business leaders from SMD, Zerolight, Greggs and Nestle who will share their experiences of growing a business through innovation.

The course – which is fully funded for ERDF eligible SMEs based in the North East region – will take place 18-19 March 2015 at The Core Newcastle and on-site at the participating organisations’ premises. The practical activities have been designed to help decision makers improve leadership thinking, build networks and share expertise with regional peers as well as focus their thinking around the challenge of innovation.

Keynote speaker Lucy Armstrong said: “Innovation is not necessarily about being an ‘inventor’, it’s about solving customers’ problems. Innovative businesses are solutions driven and grow their businesses by being tuned in and responsive to the changing needs of their customers.

“On this course, I’ll be encouraging people to examine and discuss what innovation means to SMEs while providing tools and tips on encouraging innovation and developing better leaders - things that they can take away and apply to their own growth strategies. This is also a great opportunity for businesses to hear first-hand from some of our region’s most successful businesses and learn how innovation can help them realise their own ambitions for growth.”

Eutechnyx and ZeroLight chief executive Darren Jobling believes that placing innovation at the core of his business has yielded big returns for the real-time 3D visualisation specialists.

He said: “Innovation isn’t just something you can force onto your business – it has to be one of your core values. To achieve this you have to work hard to create the culture in which creativity thrives, and this is no easy task. By emphasising innovation in ZeroLight we’ve grown from start-up to world leader in real-time 3D visualisation within 2 years, producing solutions for companies such as IBM. I’m looking forward to delivering some practical advice to the SME leadership course on how to drive innovation as an attitude and a business value”.

SMD’s chief technology officer Chris Wilkinson, sees the pace of change for a business to compete and survive in a global market accelerating.

He added: “It is important for an organisation to have the ability to comprehend its current and future environment and to be able to translate and navigate this into a successful commercial opportunity. Selecting the optimum processes, technologies and business models and applying them faster and better than your competitors is key.

“However whilst this change is being accelerated by an emerging set of capabilities, these are also becoming increasingly democratised,acting as a double edge sword. On one hand it facilities new opportunities to be pursued faster than ever before whilst on the other hand these very capabilities lower the barriers for new entrants to exploit.

“SMD is embarking on its next phase of evolution and the trajectory of where it is heading and why it believes this is important will be shared and explored as part of SMD’s support to this programme. Many of these opportunities and challenges are generic to a wide range of businesses.”

:: For more information call Julie Dodds, senior investment manager at NewcastleGateshead Initiative on 0191 440 5754.


David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer