UMi acquires Innovation SuperNetwork, providing more opportunities for businesses to do more and go further.

08 April 2024

Durham-based, UMi Holdings (UMi), has acquired innovation support specialists, Innovate NE (Innovation SuperNetwork) bringing together a partnership that will provide even more opportunities for businesses to do more and go further.

The partnership enhances the opportunity for businesses and stakeholders across the UK to access the best advice and practical support in key business areas such as investment, digital technologies, innovation, and supply chain development.

Speaking about the acquisition, Nicki Clark, CEO at UMi, said:

“The addition of Innovation SuperNetwork and its specialisms to UMi’s portfolio strategically and practically enhances our collective ability to create an even bigger impact. Both organisations have very clear and aligned purposes – to help SME’s do more and go further by taking the hard work out of accessing and using expertise and finance. I’m incredibly excited about the additional impact and success that will be achieved because of the immensely talented teams across the SuperNetwork and UMi joining forces.  It is a perfect example of something I believe passionately in, which is that we can achieve more by working together as individuals and enterprises than we can apart.”

Estelle Blanks, who has been CEO at Innovation SuperNetwork since April 2021, and has overseen a significant period of growth, took the decision in January to step down as CEO.

Speaking about the partnership with UMi, she said:

“It has been an incredible privilege to play a leading role in establishing and growing the Innovation SuperNetwork, alongside a talented team of innovation specialists. As we stand today, we have successfully navigated a changing funding and governance landscape in the North East to secure and deliver a broad portfolio of innovation and access to finance support programmes across the North East and Tees Valley.

I decided to take up an exciting new career opportunity at the beginning of the year. Alongside directors of the board, we explored several options to continue the SuperNetwork’s growth as an anchor-point for innovation in the region. The decision to go ahead with an acquisition plan was a timely opportunity to align with UMi. It recognises the strengths of both organisations and increases the potential for the SuperNetwork to grow and enable sustainable and inclusive economic growth through the provision of exceptional innovation and access to finance support.”

Over the past eight years Innovation SuperNetwork, as the anchor-point for the innovation ecosystem, has convened hundreds of organisations from across the region to simplify and improve access to finance and specialist support for innovation, helping more than 1700 businesses. It has managed the region’s digital cluster since 2018, enabling innovation and cross-sector collaboration through programmes including Catalysing Innovation in North East Clusters and Digital Cluster North of Tyne.

Via the Northern Investor Hub, it has built an investor community with more than 200 angels and funds, successfully connecting qualified deal flow from the across the North and leveraging more than £40m of investment for businesses since 2019.  In 2023, Innovation SuperNetwork delivered the 10th annual VentureFest North East, the region’s longest-running cross-sector innovation conference.

Since 2007, UMi has worked with more than 600,000 businesses across the UK, defraying £300m in grants and loans, leveraging £650m of private investment, creating or safeguarding 40,000 jobs and facilitating contract wins worth £185m. Alongside its extraordinary network of partners, UMi currently deliver major local and national business support services across the UK, including the National Business Support Service, Supply chain engagement activities for Manchester Airport Group, UMi Debt Finance Scotland and Start Up Loan’s Post Loan Support, amongst others.

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