In 2020 we kick-started an important conversation about connecting investment supply with high-quality, innovative opportunities across the region and wider-North. This proved to be a hot topic with valuable commentary suggesting the development of a sustainable finance and co-investment ecosystem was needed alongside a focus on bringing talent to the fore. Twelve months on, we examined just how much progress has been made and discussed how we can continue to move the conversation forward with urgency, and to the benefit of both investors and innovative businesses based in the region.
Estelle Blanks (Chair)
CEO, Innovation SuperNetwork
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 eco-system.
She has attracted and led multi-million-pound high-profile programmes in the North East region aimed at supporting new and growing innovative companies. Estelle has in-depth practical knowledge of open-innovation and challenge-led innovation to help address organisational and societal challenges. An expert in access to innovation finance, she has also supported hundreds of companies on their fundraising journeys.
Alderman William Russell
Lord Mayor of the City of London
Alderman William Russell took office as the 692nd Lord Mayor of the City of London on 8th November 2019. He served as a Sheriff of the City of London in 2016-17 and, in that capacity, supported the then Lord Mayor, undertaking numerous visits and official functions. On 30th September 2020 William was elected to serve a further year in office, to provide continuity of civic governance during the Coronavirus emergency.
His mayoral theme for his time in office is “Global UK – The New Future”, supporting businesses through the COVID19 crisis, speeding the recovery and seizing the opportunities of the new future.
William has over thirty years’ experience in the financial and business City including holding senior positions in the national and international Banking sector. In 1987 he went to work for First Boston Corporation before joining Merrill Lynch in 1992 as an Investment Banker in Institutional Equity Sales, working in Asia, New York and London. William is currently Chair of CDAM, a London based Asset Management business and Senior Advisor to STJ Advisors.
William served on the Board of Innovate Finance, the industry body for the UK based Fintech community and is also an educational entrepreneur, as the co-Founder and Chair of Knightsbridge School and a Director of Knightsbridge School International (KSI). William is a member of the Campaign Board for Durham Inspired, a landmark philanthropic campaign focused on ensuring Durham remains at the forefront of learning, research and education for generations to come.
Enterprise, Leadership & Business Management Consultant
Ammar Mirza CBE, MBA, FInstLM, FRSA, is a multi-award winning, sought after enterprise, leadership & business management consultant. A self-made serial entrepreneur with investments across a number of sectors and industries.
Over a 19 year period Ammar has helped establish several hundred new businesses. Through his various roles including chairman and founder of not-for-profit Asian Business Connexions CIC, chair of the North East LEP’ Business Growth and founder of the SME Centre of Excellence, Ammar has made a significant social and economic impact across the Globe.
Ammar’s many accolades include Maserati top 100 Entrepreneur, English Asian Entrepreneur of the Year 2019 and being appointed a CBE by Her Majesty the Queen.
Jenny is CEO of the UK Business Angels Association, the trade body for angel and early-stage investing, representing over 18,000 investors around the UK. Jenny has over 25 years’ experience of facilitating SMEs’ access to investment, both in the UK and internationally. She ran her own consultancy on access to finance for SMEs, including spending nine years based in Brussels, working closely with the EC. In 2009, Jenny co-founded Angel Capital Group, incorporating London Business Angels, one of the most established and active angel networks in the UK and which was sold to Newable in April 2017.
Jenny is an angel investor and in her role at UKBAA she focuses on building the angel community around the UK and developing an effective and connected ecosystem for the angel and early stage community. She works with Government and major stakeholders and sits on a number of boards in both the public and private sector. Jenny is also an experienced speaker on angel investing and entrepreneurship both in the UK and internationally. She has an MSc in Economics from the London School of Economics and Political Science. Jenny was awarded an OBE in 2015 for services to small businesses.
Chief Executive, North East Fund
Jason has worked in the development of the access to finance infrastructure in the North East for the past 17 years. During this period he has helped to develop and manage over £300m of investment funds, including the £160m JEREMIE Fund that operated in the region between 2010 and 2016. He is currently Chief Executive of The North East Fund, which provides loan and equity finance to SMEs based in the North East.
Having qualified as a chartered accountant with Ernst & Young, he worked at Black & Decker’s manufacturing plant in County Durham, before joining The Health Clinic, a venture capital backed company that successfully floated on the London Stock Exchange, following a period of high growth and a nationwide store opening programme. He currently sits on the investment panels of the North East Investment Fund, the North of Tyne Growth Fund and The Growth Fund.