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

Estelle Blanks


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

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

Shelley Armstrong

Head of Communications and Engagement

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

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

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

Jordan Dargue

Access to Finance 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.

Christine Jordan

Health Network North Innovation Manager

Christine has recently joined the ISN and the AHSN NENC as the Health Network North Manager responsible for developing and expanding the Health Network North initiative. Christine has significant experience of working at a senior management level in public health both in the NHS and Local Government for over twenty years. Christine is highly skilled in leadership and inspired and developed creative and effective health improvement teams. Christine has provided public health leadership working in partnership with a wide range of stakeholders and lead on the strategic direction of key public health areas. Christine has played a key role in determining, influencing and advising on local service investment and planning service reform. Prior to working in the NHS Christine gained an MSc in Public Health and a postgraduate diploma in Management Studies.

David Lynch

Energy Innovation Partnership Manager

David has 15 years’ experience working in the energy sector and attained a MA by Research at Durham University in 2014.  Having worked at National Energy Action (NEA) and the Energy Systems Catapult David is skilled in business planning, environmental awareness and project management. David look up the position of Energy Innovation Partnership Manager at the North East LEP in October 2019 and 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. LinkedIn

Laura Kemp

Dynamo Cluster Engagement Manager

Laura has been worked with leading North East organisations as a Business Development Manager and now works across both the Innovation SuperNetwork and their 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.

Dawn Dunn

Dynamo Cluster Engagement Manager

Dawn is responsible for working across the Innovation SuperNetwork and it’s tech cluster, Dynamo North East. Dawn manages the Fintech sector and helps raise awareness, drive engagement, and support North East SMEs working in this remit.


Ryan Siddall

NEPIC Innovation Manager

Ryan has a master’s in chemistry from Newcastle University and is in the final stages of completing a PhD from Durham University, studying semiconductor physics and materials science. Working in partnership with cluster organisation, NEPIC, Ryan’s role as Innovation Manager is to facilitate collaboration between SMEs and larger companies to encourage growth for the benefit of the North East’s chemical and process sector. LinkedIn

Alison Freer

Innovation Manager

Alison is Innovation Manager for the Challenge North East Open Innovation programme designed to unlock rapid solution prototyping to address some of the pressing challenges faced by our Region’s businesses as a result of the pandemic. Alison’s career started in corporate HR before she moved into consulting, specialising in leadership and organisation development. Since then, Alison has worked with leaders in central government departments, NHS, the Tech Sector and Higher Education, entrepreneurs, SMEs and Sales organisations. A specialist in leadership coaching for technical experts, Alison has also developed a niche in enabling innovation thinking from boardrooms to front line teams. linkedin.com/in/thinkfreer