Accelerating innovation in times of Crisis

In the afternoon we take a pragmatic look at how models of innovation can transform business performance, direction and success. This session will kick-off with a keynote from acclaimed futurist and innovation expert Rohit Talwar.

We’ll then take a closer look at the innovative regional businesses who have disrupted and pivoted throughout the last year, seizing opportunities arising from Covid-19. Joining the panel, chaired by Caroline Theobald, will be Jonathan O’Halloran, CEO and co-founder of QuantuMDx, Dr Arnab Basu MBE, CEO at Kromek, Dr Lucy Foley, Director of CPI Biologics and Matthew Bedford, MD at Dräger and Stuart Miller from Innovate UK.

An Innovation Showcase business, QuantuMDx’ innovative Q-POC technology is enabling rapid-testing for Covid-19 ensuring fast-tracked results are available in a range of industries. Kromek have been awarded an innovate UK grant of £1.25m to customise its biological threat-detection solution for the automated detection of all airborne viruses, including COVID-19. CPI have been a central part of the Government’s vaccination taskforce since the onset of the pandemic last-year and Dräger secured a lucrative contract supplying the Government with respiratory masks.

The panel will discuss how innovation during time of crisis can enable growth and sustainability and will also look at how their innovations are paving the way out of the current pandemic


Caroline Theobald (Chair)

Co-founder and Chair of FIRST

Caroline Theobald CBE is the co-founder and chair of FIRST a learning and skills development agency that has innovated in purpose and practice over the last year.  It now provides accredited enterprise courses for young people and early stage business founders so they can equip themselves better for the changing nature of work. FIRST also  offers a ‘beacon of hope and growth’ through Startup North East, the region’s only dedicated startup competition.

Caroline’s non-executive roles are focused on contributing to a vibrant and sustainable regional economy.  She is a founding director of the North East Initiative on Business Ethics and Teesside’s Power of Women campaign. As chair of the Advisory Board to Newcastle Business School, Northumbria University, she is working with the executive on a new strategy for the School to become a force for good; and in the Tees Valley she is involved in gathering community evidence for the UK2070 Commission’s Teesside Task Force as an associate of Teesside University.  Over the past 14 years she has served as an honorary diplomat to the Swedish Government and as the north east region Swedish Chamber of Commerce’s chapter chair through which she promotes the region as an inward investment destination for Swedish companies.

Rohit Talwar

Global Futurist

Rohit Talwar is a global futurist and award winning speaker who leads Fast Future. He advises global businesses, start ups, NGOs, and national governments on how to anticipate and prepare for the forces and shifts shaping the emerging and the scenarios that could emerge. He has a particular focus on how to use future insights to drive strategy and innovation. His clients include American Express, Aruba, BP, BT, Deloitte, EY,  Heathrow, IBM, Intel, KPMG, Microsoft, Novartis, Pepsi, Pfizer, PwC, Shell, Tata, VW, and the governments of the UK, US, UAE, and Singapore. He is probably the only person in this event who has been on Interpol’s Most Wanted list and has been a stand in for Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Jonathan O'Halloran

CEO and Co-Founder of QuantumDX Group

Jonathan is the inventor of QuantuMDx’s proprietary sample preparation, amplification and detection technologies. After studying for his PhD in genomics, Jonathan began his career working in pathology laboratories in the UK. He was consistently frustrated by the speed at which the laboratory was able to turn tests around, whether that be through the need to batch samples, transportation of samples, or simply the long analysis time. During his time in the pathology lab, Jonathan defined the specifications for a POC MDx device and then set to build and alter the technologies to facilitate his dream in his garage at home. This early work was the foundation for which QuantuMDx’s technology is built upon.

Jonathan spent two years in Cape Town, working to develop QuantuMDx’s technology in the market that will benefit the most from it. He spent many hours a week talking with frontline health workers, who routinely perform POC Dx, to understand the field. This experience with the battle against drug resistant tuberculosis has been channelled into the design of QuantuMDx’s diagnostic devices, making them uniquely suited for the challenges the world now faces due to drug resistant bacteria. Jonathan was recognised for his achievements in 2015 when he was awarded European CTO of the Year. He advised Lord O’Neil’s Review on Antimicrobial Resistance in 2014 and is quoted in the 2018 book “Superbugs – An Arms Race against Bacteria”.

Dr Arnab Basu MBE

Chief Executive Officer of Kromek Group

Dr Arnab Basu is the founding CEO of Kromek Group plc, a supplier of patented radiation detection technologies to the Medical Imaging, Nuclear Detection and Security Screening markets globally with operations in Durham and Huddersfield in the UK, and Pennsylvania and California in the USA.

Dr Basu successfully led Kromek through five rounds of private equity financing of over $40 million, including its first institutional Venture Capital funding in 2005. More recently, he led the successful acquisition and integration of California based NOVA R&D Inc., in 2010; eV Products Inc., in Pennsylvania, US, in 2013 and a successful listing on AIM, at the London Stock Exchange, in October 2013, raising over $65m in the market. Arnab has extensive experience in international business in USA, Europe, Middle East and Asia and has led M&A’s, formed strategic partnerships and raised equity. Arnab has also been part of many trade missions including a Prime Minister led mission to India in November 2016 and has led UK trade missions to Asia.

A prominent figure within the business community, Dr Basu is currently chair of the Academic Health Science Network for the North East and North Cumbria (AHSN) and council member of Innovate UK

He previously served as a Board member of the North East LEP (leading Inward Investment), the Go-Global Partnership (trade contract delivery for UKTI), the North-East Innovation Strategy Board, Business Durham, a member of the International Advisory Board of Newcastle University Business School, chair for the steering group of Health Quest (Grand Challenge) for the North East LEP (Local Enterprise Partnership) and is a founding member of Northern Futures UTC (University Training College in partnership with Sunderland University), in Newcastle.

Dr Lucy Foley


Lucy joined the Centre for Process Innovation (CPI) in September 2013 as Biologics Lead Biopharmaceutical Engineer and was part of the team responsible for the design and build of the organisation’s Darlington-based National Biologics Manufacturing Centre.

Prior to her arrival, Lucy was a lecturer in Biopharmaceutical Engineering in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Advanced Materials at Newcastle University, and had also been a Research Fellow in Newcastle University Business School

A founding member of the ATMP Manufacturing Community, Lucy has a Masters Degree in Biochemical Engineering with Bioprocess Management from University College London, and an Engineering Doctorate in Biochemical Engineering and Bioprocess Leadership from University College London.