Keynote: Using Digital to Drive Resilience and Sustainability

Our morning keynote looks at the role of digital in ensuring business resilience and sustainability.

Speakers include, Dragons’ Den investor and entrepreneur, Piers Linney who will open the event alongside Dr Nicola Millard, Principal Innovation Partner, at BT Enterprise. Together, they bring expertise on shaping the future of work, the role of investment and how digital inclusion and exclusion can have a varying and widespread impact on business resilience and society’s pathway to decarbonization.

Keynote speeches will be followed by a panel discussion taking a more in depth look at digital inclusion, exclusion and the impact on building a green economic recovery for the region. Chaired by Lucy Winskill OBE, Chair of the North East LEP and including, Piers Linney, Fareeha Usman from Dynamo, Jamie Campbell from Rural Design Centre and Peter Baek from NESTA.

Piers is best known for appearing on Dragons’ Den, but he is also an active board member for the British Business Bank and a trustee with the UK’s leading innovation foundation, Nesta. He said: “I have experienced both success and failure, and what I know from this experience is the last year will have presented what will seem like insurmountable challenges for start-up and scale-up enterprises. The good news is there are many varying options for businesses working their way through the current climate. I’m looking forward to sharing my experience and insight on how innovation and collaboration can help businesses to thrive.”

Dr Nicola Millard, said: “We’ve learned during the pandemic that work can be done effectively in places beyond the office. But the future of work is neither about home working or office working… it’s about getting work done. Emerging is a digital first hybrid model – but, for that to work effectively, we need to fundamentally rethink old, analogue ways of working and reinvent them for a digital age.”


Dr Nicola Millard

Principal Innovation Partner, BT Enterprise

Once described as “human caffeine” on Twitter, Dr Nicola Millard injects a positive, people-centred expresso shot to innovation and future strategy. Half social scientist, half technologist, all academic, she uses techniques from disciplines such as design thinking, psychology, anthropology, computing, and business consulting to generate data, provocations and stories which can engage and create conversations from the board room, to the front line. No frothy coffee; just solid research.

In her long and varied career at BT – mostly based at Adastral Park in Ipswich – Nicola has done a number of jobs, including futurology, research, usability, customer service, marketing, and business consulting. She was involved with a number of BT firsts, including the first application of artificial intelligence into BT’s call centres, BT’s initial experiments with home working, and helping to develop BT’s “net easy” score, a new way of measuring customer experience. She currently looks at innovation in both employee and customer experience.

Nicola is an award winning presenter, with 2 TED talks and hundreds of conference panel, chair and keynote sessions under her belt. She occasionally pops up on radio and TV around the world, including appearances on ‘Woman’s Hour’, ‘Tech Tent’, ‘The Genius of Invention’ and ‘Back in Time for the Weekend’ for the BBC.

She is a judge on a number of award panels, including the Institute of Customer Service and the Association of Business Psychology. In 2019 she was listed as one of the top 10 UK CX Influencers by Customer Experience Magazine.

Piers Linney

Dragons' Den Investor and Entrepreneur

Lucy Winskell OBE

Chair of the North East LEP

Lucy has been a member of the Executive team at Northumbria University since 2010, having made the transition into higher education following a 28-year career as a litigation lawyer.

Her non-executive career has been focussed on economic growth and regeneration within the North East.

Lucy’s regional roles have included Board Member of the North East Regional Investment Fund and North East Access to Finance (both supporting SME growth); non-executive Director of Government Office North East; Chair of the North East Industrial Development Board; Board Member of ING; Vice Chair of BE Group and a Member of CBI Regional Council.

Lucy was Chair of the Board of the North East England Chamber of Commerce (NEECC) for six years, standing down at the end of that term in October 2020.

She has also been a strong advocate for the region at a national level. As a member of Arts and Humanities Research Council she highlighted the importance of the cultural and creative sector in a regional economy, and as Vice Chair of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) she has ensured a regional voice forms part of BCC’s lobbying and policy work.

Peter Baeck

Co-Head of the Centre for Collective Intelligence Design at Nesta

Peter is responsible for a number of large-scale research projects and experiments that explore how human and machine intelligence can be combined to solve social challenges. As the Head of the Centre for Collective Intelligence Design, Peter’s work focuses on areas such as labour markets, healthcare, and digital democracy. His work also covers the role of digital technologies in public and social innovation, crowdfunding, smart cities, the collaborative economy and public innovation labs.

Fareeha Usman


Fareeha Usman is a multi-award winner, philanthropist and an Entrepreneur for Good. A global voice of authority on gender equality, diversity and inclusion she is the Founder of Being Woman Charity and the mind behind the food sharing app “Share Karo”, launched to provide an integrated system to distribute food and essentials for the people in need. She is a Trustee for YMCA Northumberland, Board Member Healthwatch Northumberland and an advisor to TechMums whilst being an Agile Business Analyst.

In her role as EDI Innovation Manager at Dynamo North East Fareeha is working to foster better understanding of EDI in the North East Tech Sector. She has been actively promoting digital and social inclusion in Northumberland UK through her work and is one of 100 Tech Up Women Programme by Dr Sue Black. She strongly vouches for the promotion of equality and diversity and supports BAME, asylum seekers and refugee women and families. Fareeha strongly believes that people should be recognised on the basis of their talent and capabilities rather than judged on colour, race, age or gender. Through her work she has established that we can certainly break barriers if we are ready to make that change. It is all about accepting each other and dignifying the abilities we all possess.

Jamie Campbell


Jamie is a passionate Designer and has worked in the design industry for over 14 years.

He has experience in various design disciplines, and his current focus is on digital experience and service design. Jamie has worked for organisations large and small, and across many sectors including; tech, higher education, local government, financial, healthcare, and the third sector.

He is currently a Design Associate for the Rural Design Centre, helping to bring together people and organisations, and using co-design to solve issues faced by rural communities. He gets his energy from doing helpful design that will benefit people and the planet.