New funding announced to tackle region’s key problems through innovation challenges

06 April 2022

Businesses across Newcastle, Northumberland and North Tyneside have been asked to rise to the Challenge and help the region tackle some of the biggest problems facing our economy and community.

A new £800,000 open innovation challenges project has been launched at the region’s longest running Innovation Conference, VentureFest North East. The project is funded through the North of Tyne Combined Authority’s Investment Fund and delivered by the North East LEP in partnership with Innovation SuperNetwork.

Aimed at providing a gateway for the region’s small and medium-sized businesses to solve the problems facing bigger companies and society as a whole, Challenge North Tyne seeks to generate innovative responses to problems in three key areas. It builds on the North East LEP’s work with Challenge North East, which helped bring about solutions in the face of Covid-19.

Alan Welby, Innovation Director at the North East LEP, said: “People often think innovation is something only big businesses can do, but that’s simply not the case. Our region’s SME community is constantly creating new ways of doing things, of problem solving and we want to harness that creativity to tackle some of the greatest challenges facing the growth of our economy.

“We’re seeking new and innovative ways to address the climate change emergency, and reduce the carbon footprint of our buildings and workplaces. We also want to work with SMEs to explore how we can embed 5G within all areas of our economy and harness the opportunities it provides for increased productivity and connectivity. And we also want to look at how we can help the older population across North of Tyne live longer, happier and healthier lives.

“Innovation has a huge role to play in solving societal issues and our businesses have the entrepreneurial nature and collaborative spirit to respond to the challenge – something which was clearly demonstrated during the first phase of our Challenge North East project.”

Challenge North Tyne was launched as part of VentureFest North East’s online programme on Thursday 31st March, bringing together a successful collaboration to demonstrate the benefits of small and large enterprises coming together to innovate.

Dr Jackie Gray took part in the discussion after she stepped up to the challenge with The Carents Room in response to a call from Northern Gas Networks (NGN). As a support platform for individuals caring for elderly relatives, The Carents Room and NGN were able to explore innovative new solutions to help NGN better respond to the needs of vulnerable customers, as part of Challenge North East last year.

Speaking of the experience, Jackie said: “Collaborating with NGN on their work through Challenge North East has been a real catalyst for The Carents Room. It has enabled us to scale-up by helping us focus on the market for our innovation and develop key relationships, not just with NGN but also their national energy network partners, including Cadent Gas. I’d encourage other entrepreneurs, innovators and businesses who could have the skills, experience or ideas to help solve these problems, to get involved. You won’t regret it and could gain a lot in return!”

Sarah Cox, Innovation Challenge Programme Director at Innovation SuperNetwork, said: “Globally, nationally and regionally, we’re faced with increasingly complex problems. Mission-led innovation helps us to focus on the challenges we face as a society, and where we have the potential to have the biggest positive impact. Our aim is to bring the right people together to help drive change.

“This programme is designed to build on what we achieved through Challenge North East to scope three more challenges where solutions could have real impact regionally. We’re urging any businesses who feel they could help shape these problems, or would like to get involved with developing solutions, to register their interest.”

The project is exploring three themes in the Challenge development stage, these are:

  • Building a Sustainable Future – How might we reduce the carbon footprint of buildings in North of Tyne?
  • Supporting our Ageing Population – How might we better enable healthy, happy living for our elder citizens?
  • 5G Connectivity – How might we deliver 5G enabled solutions for North East Industry?

In phase one, the programme will be shaping the challenges in collaboration with business, with grants made available for solution development in phase two.

Businesses can register their interest by emailing

Media Contact

Shelley Armstrong
Head of Communications & Engagement, Innovation SuperNetwork


Notes to Editors

Challenge North of Tyne:

Challenge North of Tyne is an £800,000 open innovation project delivered by the North East LEP and Innovation SuperNetwork. The project, funded by the North of Tyne Combined Authority (NTCA), aims to demonstrate the impact of mission-driven innovation through live challenges in areas that are top priority in terms of economic growth and social benefit as defined by UK Government and NTCA (including solutions to support happy, independent living for elder citizens, the decarbonisation of buildings, and the harnessing of 5G for industry). The project will engage leading partners across key industries to define challenges, support North of Tyne SMEs to build scalable solutions that have real impact.

Challenge North of Tyne is funded by the North of Tyne Combined Authority’s Innovation Recovery Programme, a £10million fund designed to help restart the area’s economy through projects that are innovative, create jobs and support businesses to diversify, plan for the future and access new markets.

Challenge North of Tyne is delivered in partnership by the North East Local Enterprise Partnership and Innovation SuperNetwork.

North of Tyne Combined Authority:

The North of Tyne Combined Authority is a partnership of three local authorities: Newcastle City Council, North Tyneside Council, and Northumberland County Council and the North of Tyne Elected Mayor.  Find out more at:

North East Local Enterprise Partnership:

The North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) is a public, private, and education sector partnership that covers Durham, Gateshead, Newcastle, Northumberland, North Tyneside, South Tyneside and Sunderland local authority areas.  Find out more at:

Innovation SuperNetwork:

Innovation SuperNetwork is the network for innovation support in the North East of England. It includes the Catalysing Innovation in North East Clusters project, which is receiving up to £1.28m of funding from the England European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2021-2023.

The SuperNetwork is a key part of the North East LEP’s innovation programme and is supported by Innovate UK and North East BIC, along with over 50 regional and national partners. Find out more at:


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