Who We Are

We’re a diverse and dynamic team brought together because of a common goal – to improve the economic future of North East England.

Our work is developed by our Steering Group of prominent members of the business support community and shaped by the partner businesses we work with.

    • Alan Welby, Innovation Director, North East LEP
    • Jason Hobbs, Chief Executive, North East Fund
    • Paul McEldon, Chief Executive, North East BIC
    • Lee Viney, Regional Manager, Innovate UK
    • Simon Green, CEO, Innovation SuperNetwork
    • Estelle Blanks, Executive Director, Innovation SuperNetwork

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.

The SuperNetwork Team
The programme is delivered by a highly experienced team of innovation and communication professionals, based in Sunderland and serving the whole region.

Simon Green


Simon’s background is in product development, having run innovation teams in small businesses, corporates and academia. He has worked directly with medical device manufacturers, with NHS trusts and medical schools, and with governmental bodies (especially Innovate UK). Simon’s specialism is in managing relationships between organisations. LinkedIn

Estelle Blanks

Executive Director

Estelle has over 15 years’ experience within senior positions for both public and private sector organisations, including Newcastle Science City, Urban Foresight, North East Access to Finance and One North East. She has primarily led on economic development though innovation and regeneration activities in the UK and internationally. LinkedIn

Peter Riddell

Partnerships Director

Peter has more than 20 years’ experience working in private industry, local authorities and the charity sector and has developed a strong understanding of how successful partnerships are forged in very different landscapes, helping companies build meaningful connections for mutual benefit and to achieve business development objectives. LinkedIn

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. LinkedIn 

Graeme Miller

Innovation Manager

With a degree in Business Systems and IT, Graeme started his career in the commercial world of recruitment before moving into business support. With experience working across all five regional universities, the public and private sectors and a role with the North East Satellite Application Centre, he has significant strength of knowledge across the regional innovation landscapes. LinkedIn

Stephanie Oxley

Innovation Manager

With an in-depth knowledge of the healthcare industry, Steph is experienced in helping SMEs commercialise and market their innovative solutions to address real-world unmet clinical needs.  At the Innovation SuperNetwork, she leads on our Healthcare and Ageing activity, offering her expertise to SMEs navigating through the complex healthcare landscape. LinkedIn

Alison Machin

Innovation Manager

Alison’s strength is in building relationships to establish robust partnerships for collaborative projects. With over 16 years’ experience supporting companies to review their business models and plan for growth, her specific area of expertise is in strategic marketing and business development. Alison is a qualified trainer and experienced facilitator and has delivered innovation interventions nationally and internationally. LinkedIn

Jordan Dargue

Innovation Manager

Jordan is a senior talent and technology leader with over 15 years experience across a diverse range of sectors.  Jordan is an innovative and entrepreneurial professional with a proven ability to drive start up and business growth through raising capital and strategic development.  Jordan has an abundance of experience working directly with investors including angel investors and works with start up companies to connect them with the right source of funding.  

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

Stephanie Carter-Smith

Innovation Manager

Steph is an experienced strategic manager and business development professional with a proven track record in both private and public sector at senior level. She is an expert in operational management, fundraising, growth and innovation engagement, partnership development, enterprise and diversity.

At the Innovation SuperNetwork, Steph is responsible for delivering innovation support to our partner organisations. She uses her in-depth understanding of innovation in practice to spot opportunities for projects in our multi-stakeholder environment. 

Shelley Armstrong

Communications Manager

With an in-depth understanding of the marketing mix, Shelley takes a strategic and holistic approach to engaging audiences, changing perceptions and building communities. Specialising in media relations and PR, she has a track-record of delivering often complex communications projects in the non-profit sector working with a range of partners. LinkedIn

Jenny Forrester

Events Manager

Jenny has more than 15 years’ experience in end-to-end event management, including venue sourcing, hospitality, marketing communications, email marketing, project management and supplier sourcing & liaison. She has delivered high-profile events across the corporate, non-profit, education, arts and business to business sectors. LinkedIn

Hannah Johnson

Digital Marketing Manager

Hannah supports the promotion and implementation of innovation through integrated digital marketing campaigns targeted to growing businesses, with the aim of engaging them with innovation activity and events. Previous to this she spent a number of years supporting the digital marketing output of a leading North East engineering firm across all online channels. LinkedIn

Jena Robson

Compliance Officer

Jena has over 10 years’ experience working in compliance and procurement on a number of publicly funded projects, including European Regional Development Funding. LinkedIn