Innovation SuperNetwork strengthens board with recruitment of industry leaders

14 November 2023

l-r Yvonne Gale, Estelle Blanks, Jenny Taylor

Investment specialist Yvonne Gale and economic development specialist Jenny Taylor will join the Innovation SuperNetwork as Board Directors, strengthening the innovation expertise of the organisation at a governance level.

The announcement comes following the success of the Innovation SuperNetwork in securing several new high-profile innovation programmes for public and private sector clients across the North East and Tees Valley. The activities all support Innovation SuperNetwork’s wider mission to impartially enable inclusive and sustainable economic growth that transforms and increases opportunities and prosperity for businesses and people.

Director & CEO, Estelle Blanks, said: “Since our formation in 2016, Innovation SuperNetwork has been at the coalface of driving economic growth through innovation for the North East. Our market-shaping role in deriving social value from innovation activities has been a strategic imperative for the region. As local economic footprint and funding structures change, the need for, and impact seen by, our publicly-funded innovation and access to finance support programmes has never been clearer.

“Innovation SuperNetwork continues to grow in size and specialist expertise, making us incredibly well equipped to support the public sector, academia, corporate organisations and of course SMEs with innovation projects that will ensure economic growth and regional prosperity well into the future.

“Now is the right time for us to grow the expertise in our governance structure and I’m thrilled to welcome Yvonne Gale and Jenny Taylor as Directors to the Board.”

Yvonne Gale has a portfolio career that includes local, national and international governance and advisory roles that brings together a wealth of experience of investing in high growth entrepreneurial businesses, improving access to finance and driving business innovation.

Locally, she is a non-executive director for the North East England Chamber of Commerce and an investment committee member on the North of Tyne Creative and Cultural Investment Partnership. Yvonne is a non-executive director for NEL Fund Managers, having formerly been CEO.

She also holds roles nationally and internationally including as Chair of the Government UK Small Business Commissioner’s Office, an advisor to Responsible Finance and an assessor for Innovate UK. She is also chair of the global ethical lender, Shared Interest.

Yvonne said: “I’ve worked with Innovation SuperNetwork since its start and value its work in bringing regional businesses together with investment opportunities. Having been an ‘investor in the room’ at many SuperNetwork access to finance conferences, I’m pleased to be working with the team at this strategic level, helping them shape the future direction of business investment for the region”

Jenny Taylor is the Executive Director for Research and Innovation Services at Northumbria University responsible for developing and delivering strategic place-based projects, connecting academic expertise with business needs and supporting the region’s economy to grow.

She previously worked at Durham University as Head of Economic Development implementing the University Enterprise Zone and playing a critical part in the development of a series of collaborative innovation programmes operating across the region. Prior to this she has held a number of positions in national and local government and is a strong advocate for the North East.

Jenny said: “In my time working at both Durham and Northumbria Universities, Innovation SuperNetwork has been a constant in supporting the role regional universities play in innovation-led economic development. Its role in connecting research and academia with the rest of the business and innovation landscape makes it an invaluable anchor-point for regional innovation and I’m delighted to be part of the team.”

The Innovation SuperNetwork (ISN) board of directors also includes Estelle Blanks (part of the founding team, and current CEO at ISN) and Paul McEldon, Chief Executive at the North East BIC. Alan Holmes and Simon Green have both stepped down.

In addition, observers to the ISN board include:

  • Mark Stamper – Head of Economic Delivery at North of Tyne Combined Authority,
  • Colin Hewitt – Head of Company Commercial & Partner at Ward Hadaway,
  • Sarah Glendinning – Regional Director at CBI, and
  • Sarah Slaven – Managing Director at Business Durham.

Paul McEldon, Innovation SuperNetwork Director and Chief Executive at the North East BIC, said: “Jenny and Yvonne are great additions to the Innovation SuperNetwork’s board of directors, bringing specialist knowledge and understanding of the innovation and access to finance landscape to our governance structure. I am looking forward to working with them, and the wider SuperNetwork team as they continue to deliver impactful support to businesses and bring the region’s innovation ecosystem together around the common goal of economic growth.”

The Innovation SuperNetwork also benefits from an Innovation Advisory Group made up of key individuals in a range of sectors. The advisory board supports the shaping and delivery of VentureFest North East, the region’s longest-running conference dedicated to innovation, and provides a collective voice for innovation in the region.

Organisations represented include, Innovate UK, British Business Bank, regional universities and colleges, sector-led membership groups and local authorities as well as some of the region’s leading innovative businesses and investment organisations.

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