Meet the Team

Meet our dynamic team

Estelle Blanks

CEO

With over 20 years’ experience in economic development through regeneration and innovation in the North East of England, and working across the UK and Europe, Estelle has a thorough understanding of the national and local innovation and access to finance ecosystems.

Operations & Compliance

Alison Freer

Head of Operations & Development

Alison leads on people and partnership development across the Innovation SuperNetwork. She has also developed a niche in enabling innovation thinking from boardrooms to front line teams and helps mobilise new projects and programmes for our people, partners and innovators.

Elaine Dinsley

Finance Manager

Elaine is a qualified ACCA accountant with over 20 years financial experience in a variety of public and private sector businesses, including SME and corporate.

Kevin Collier

Business Process Officer

Kevin’s expertise lies within data integrity & accuracy, performance reporting and impact of funded projects. Kevin also holds experience in partner liaison and creation of new digital systems to improve business efficiency & efficacy.

Communications & Engagement

Shelley Armstrong

Head of Communications & Engagement

Shelley takes a strategic and holistic approach to engaging audiences, changing perceptions and building communities. She has a track-record of delivering often complex communications projects in the non-profit sector working with high-level stakeholders.

Jenny Forrester

Events Manager

Jenny has substantial experience in end-to-end event management delivering high-profile events across the corporate, non-profit, education, arts and business-to-business sectors. At the SuperNetwork she leads the delivery of our headline events programme, including VentureFest North East.

Jen Taylor

Communications & Engagement Manager

With a background in business event delivery and communications, Jen takes a holistic approach to engaging audiences. At the SuperNetwork, Jen leads the delivery of campaigns to support both the Innovation Finance and Digital Cluster programmes.

Natalie Barras

Digital Marketing Officer

Natalie is a knowledgeable digital marketing specialist and works across the SuperNetwork’s full programme of activity to ensure our digital campaigns land with our audiences in an engaging and informative way.

Innovation Finance

Jordan Dargue

Head of Access to Finance

At the Innovation SuperNetwork Jordan is responsible for leading the Regional Angel Accelerator programme, an Innovate UK Accelerator to help stimulate Angel investment in the North.  She is also instrumental in bringing together investors from across the region to build an active investment syndicate and co-investment network through the Newcastle Angel Hub.

Parveer Pannu

Access to Finance Manager

Parveer works on our Digital Cluster Development project, providing specialist support to North of Tyne-based businesses seeking investment and funding for digital and tech innovation projects.

Innovation Support

Graeme Miller

Head of Innovation

With experience working across all five regional universities, the public and private sectors and a role with the North East Satellite Application Centre, Graeme has significant strength of knowledge across the regional innovation landscape and leads our Innovation Support team working across the region’s key clusters.

David Lynch

Energy Innovation Partnership Manager, North East Energy Catalyst

Based in the North East LEP, David is is leading on the North East Energy Catalyst programme, a ground-breaking partnership to unite the North East’s leading energy innovation demonstration and delivery capabilities. For the SuperNetwork, he helps innovating businesses in the energy sector, connecting them with opportunities and funding support through our Catalysing Innovation project.

Ryan Siddall

NEPIC Innovation Manager

Working across both the Innovation SuperNetwork and cluster organisation, NEPIC, Ryan facilitates collaboration between SMEs and larger companies to encourage growth for the benefit of the North East’s chemical and process sector.

Christine Jordan

Health Network North Innovation Manager

Christine works across the Innovation SuperNetwork and the Academic Health Science Network and is responsible for developing and expanding the Health Network North initiative – a programme of activity designed to connect businesses with innovation opportunities in the NHS.

Peter Lillie

Innovation Manager

Pete has spent the last several years focussing on developing innovative commercial models that prove profitability and sustainability work hand in hand. At the SuperNetwork he works across our the Healthcare cluster with AHSN to help drive sustainability in the NHS.

Laura Kemp

Dynamo Cluster Engagement Manager

Laura works across both the Innovation SuperNetwork and the region’s tech cluster, Dynamo North East. Laura leads the Service Delivery Centre and Future of Entertainment clusters, she explores challenges in these areas and works with North East businesses to create and develop solutions.

Hermina Ely

Dynamo North East Cluster Manager

Hermina delivers innovation support to businesses through Dynamo’s Health & Social Care Tech cluster and is also supporting the delivery of the Challenge North Tyne project. A qualified architect, she brings creativity and a developed network to help SMEs by growing business collaboration with industry partners and each other.

Fareeha Usman

Dynamo Cluster Engagement Manager

Fareeha is working across Innovation SuperNetwork and Dynamo North East to foster better understanding of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) in the North East Tech Sector. She has been actively promoting digital and social inclusion in Northumberland through her work and is one of 100 Tech Up Women Programme by Dr Sue Black.

Phil Jackman

Dynamo Cyber Security Manager

Phil leads CyberNorth, Dynamo North East’s cyber security cluster supported by Accenture, the Innovation Supernetwork and recognised by DCMS and NCSC as representing the region.

Anne Fry

Deputy Chief Executive, VONNE

Anne is Deputy Chief Executive at Voluntary Organisations Network North East (VONNE), who are working with Innovation SuperNetwork to provide innovation support to social enterprises, charities and the voluntary sector. LinkedIn.

Laura Elliot

Membership and Communications Support Officer, VONNE

Laura provides support for VONNE’s membership and communications activities, as well as supporting the project delivery of innovation support in the cluster as part of the SuperNetwork’s Catalysing Innovation project. LinkedIn.

Innovation Challenge

Sarah Cox

Innovation Challenge Programme Leader

Sarah is a passionate Open Innovation specialist with  a breadth of knowledge in the development of successful innovation programmes and interventions across a range of sectors. She leads the delivery of Challenge North Tyne and her work combines best practice from design-led innovation, agile project management, lean start-up and systems thinking.

Digital Cluster Project

Leanne Miller

Digital Programme Manager

Leanne has delivered publicly-funded business support programmes across the North East helping hundreds of businesses adopt and adapt digital for business growth. She leads our Cluster Development Project, bringing specialist innovation support to North of Tyne SMEs.

Angela Lynch

Innovation Manager

An expert in design-thinking, Angela supports innovating businesses to connect, collaborate and tap into new market opportunities as part of the Digital Cluster Development project. 

Wayne Bryant

Innovation Manager

With specialisms in innovation, intellectual property & technology transfer, Wayne works with North of Tyne-based businesses to support their adoption of, and work to develop, innovative tech solutions. He delivers across both the Digital Cluster Development project and the North of Tyne Innovation Recovery Grant.

Lynda Sale

Innovation Manager

Lynda has a background in the creative industries and brings with her expertise in brand and marketing to support innovating businesses as part of the Digital Cluster Development Project.

Our work is developed in Partnership and is led by our board of directors:

  • Simon Green – Chair: CEO, Edge Innovation / Rural Design Centre
  • Estelle Blanks: CEO, Innovation SuperNetwork
  • Paul McEldon: Chief Executive, North East BIC
  • Alan Holmes: Business Coach

Board Observers

  • Sarah Slaven: Chief Executive, Business Durham
  • Colin Hewitt: Managing Partner, Ward Hadaway

The Innovation SuperNetwork is part of the North East LEP’s ambitious Innovation Strategy focused on Open Innovation and Smart Specialisation and led by the Innovation Leadership Board. Our programme is delivered by a highly experienced team of innovation and communication professionals, based in Sunderland and serving the whole region.

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