Accelerating Investment & Innovation Summit Speakers

Professor Adam Beaumont

Founder and CEO of aql

Professor Adam Beaumont is the Founder and CEO of communications specialist, aql and CEO of Isle of Man based company, BlueWave Communications. An active angel investor, Adam founded not-for-profit investment platform, NorthInvest which propels co-investment in tech start-ups across the North of the UK. As a Founding partner of the Northern Powerhouse, he also created the first not-for-profit internet exchanges outside of London, IXLeeds and ManxIX, created to drive economic and digital growth across the North. These exchanges also built the UK’s internet resilience. As a devoted environmentalist, he is a Trustee of the Eden Project and non-executive board director of Eden Project International Ltd (EPIL).  Internationally, Adam is a IoD Global Director of the Year winner and also the Honorary Consul of the Republic of Estonia championing trade and close relations between the Baltics and the UK and Isle of Man.

Estelle Blanks

Executive Director, Innovation SuperNetwork

Estelle has over 15 years’ experience within senior positions for both public and private sector organisations, including Newcastle Science City, Urban Foresight, North East Access to Finance and One North East. She has primarily led on economic development though innovation and regeneration activities in the UK and internationally.

Sherry Coutu CBE

Entrepreneur & Angel Investor

Sherry Coutu CBE is a serial entrepreneur and angel investor who serves on the boards of companies, charities, and universities. She chairs or has chaired Founders4Schools, Workfinder, Raspberry Pi (Trading), Digital Boost and the Scaleup Institute. She also serves as a non-executive Director of Pearson plc, London Stock Exchange plc and as a Trustee of Raspberry Pi Foundation.

With more than 60 angel investments, three IPO’s, and numerous JV’s and acquisitions behind her, Sherry has extensive experience in early and mid-stage companies having held senior positions in product management, research, finance, and operations.

Sherry is also the 2020, Newcastle University Business School David Goldman Visiting Professor of Innovation and Enterprise.

Jordan Dargue

Access to Finance Manager, Innovation Supernetwork

Jordan Dargue is the Access to Finance Manager at the Innovation SuperNetwork, and is responsible for managing both The Newcastle Angel Hub and The Regional Angel Investment Accelerator (RAIA).

Led by the North East Business and Innovation Centre (BIC), the Newcastle Angel Hub is delivered by the Innovation SuperNetwork and North Invest in partnership with the UK Business Angels Association.

An angel investor in her own right,  Jordan is also responsible for building and developing the angel network across the region,  as well as bringing investment and expertise to pioneering innovative small and medium companies across the North East, Yorkshire and North West.  Jordan also works to increase the scale up potential of innovative technology companies and diversity in investment as well as supporting companies and entrepreneurs when accessing investment.

Irene Graham

CEO and Board Director of the ScaleUp Institute

Irene is the CEO and a board director of the ScaleUp Institute. A former senior banker at Standard Chartered Bank where she held both European and global managing director roles, she set up, ran and scaled several of the bank’s key client and product businesses and led several global M&A activities. Before joining the ScaleUp Institute she was Managing Director at the British Bankers Association (BBA) responsible for Commercial Banking. She led the Business Finance Taskforce set up by the CEOs of the UK banks which resulted in the creation of the BGF, the Enterprise Research Centre, the SME Finance Monitor, and Mentorsme as well as many other key export and business policy initiatives on which Irene advised Government and industry. She is a Visiting Professor of Entrepreneurship at Strathclyde University and sits on the advisory boards of the UK Business Angels Association, Small Firms Enterprise Development Initiative and Stratford Circus Arts Centre.

Irene has a small, permanent staff who also draw on the expertise of the ScaleUp Institute’s supporters and partners. The ScaleUp Institute has a high-calibre board and a wealth of committee members and ambassadors drawn from renowned entrepreneurs, academics, captains of industry, leading financiers and corporates all of whom will help steer its work and growth.

David Hicks

Business Tax Director, Deloitte

David Hicks is a Business Tax Director in Deloitte’s Newcastle office, and has over 30 years of experience in personal tax.  He advises private business owners and management teams, and helps those individuals navigate the increasingly complex tax landscape where commercially the distinction between business and personal affairs are often intrinsically linked.

Jason Hobbs

Chief Executive, North East Fund

Jason has worked in the development of the access to finance infrastructure in the North East for the past 16 years.  During this period he has helped to develop and manage over £300m of investment funds, including the £160m JEREMIE Fund, and is currently Chief Executive of the £120m North East Fund.

Having qualified as a chartered accountant with Ernst & Young, he previously 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.

Lizzy Hodcroft

Managing Director, myndr

Most recently winning the Regional Heat for Social Entrepreneur of the Year, Lizzy’s tenacity and ability to work towards a solution are remarkable. Where many young entrepreneurs would see adversity and barriers she sees an opportunity and ways to grow which lead her to appearing on Dragon’s Den and winning the North East Young Entrepreneur of the Year in 2017 and 2018 with her first business, The Sweet Beet

Lizzy is a one-woman force of nature: a tsunami of passion and commitment that typifies entrepreneurs. Her enormously ambitious and passionate vision and her proactive stance on Mental Health in entrepreneurs certainly helps to address a subject that is not always pushed into the limelight.

She often speaks of authentic leadership and resilience. Her story shapes a narrative of true entrepreneurship and through that, a path to recovery, self-discovery and enlightenment.

Meganne Houghton-Berry


Meganne Houghton-Berry is an angel investor, board director and start-up mentor and was the 2017/18 UK Business Angel Association Angel of the Year. She has over 25 years’ experience in tech and consumer marketing and has a portfolio of investments in over 30 companies across wide range of industries from intelligent textiles to waterless toilets, med-tech products to surplus farm produce and craft brewing. Meganne is a keen supporter of female founders (with over half of her portfolio companies having a female on the founding team) and has been profiled in UK media for her work in social impact investing. Meganne is an active member of several UK and US based angel networks.

Jess Jackson

Investment Director, GC Angels

Jess has a wealth of experience working with tech businesses and startups, particularly with a focus on positive social impact.

Jess come from a strong start-up background with operational, compliance and management focus, as well as managing HNWI Capital and a portfolio of over £5m in value spanning both early stage tech businesses and property.

Her current role at GC Angels sees her leading the service’s fund deployment into GM early stage tech businesses and managing a portfolio of over 22 investments to date, sitting on numerous boards. She is passionate about supporting investment into women-led businesses, the early stage investment scene, and regularly gives talks and contributes to articles on the subject.

Dr Henry Kippin

Director, Economic Growth at the North of Tyne Combined Authority

Dr Henry Kippin is director of economic growth at the North of Tyne Combined Authority.  He was formerly an executive director at the West Midlands Combined Authority, responsible for its work on inclusive growth, public service reform, climate change and digital.  Previous to this he was chief executive of Collaborate CIC, and held roles in UK public policy and international development.  He is a member of NESTA’s Government Innovation Board, and between 2013-18 was a visiting fellow of the UNDP Global Centre for Public Service Excellence

Fraser Lusty

Investment Director, Equity Gap

A former financial services professional, Fraser Lusty is Investment Director and Gatekeeper to Edinburgh-based business angel syndicate, Equity Gap. With over 25 years of experience in the Scottish  investment, enterprise and business growth sector, Fraser brings his strong relationship management and business development skills as well as his extensive network of professional and intermediary contacts to bear when providing pre-investment support to Equity Gap’s increasing portfolio of investee businesses. He is first class negotiator, business coach, mentor and an ambassador with Women’s Enterprise Scotland, leading businesses through change and inspiring others to deliver quality results.

Tim Mills

Managing Partner, Angel CoFund

Tim is Managing Partner at the Angel CoFund, a £100M venture fund that works in partnership with angel investors to back high growth companies across all sectors. The fund brings together sector specific hands-on expertise and business building experience, with long term patient investment.

Until 2018 Tim also worked as Investment Director at the British Business Bank where he spent 10 years involved in leading investments into some of the UK’s most successful VC funds.

Tim started his career at Merrill Lynch, training as an analyst within the technology group. He has also worked for a leading credit analytics consultancy and one of the UKs largest hedge funds.

Ammar Mirza CBE

Chair of the North East LEP Business Growth Board

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’s Business Growth Board 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.

Henri Murison

Director, Northern Powerhouse Partnership

As its first permanent Director, Henri has established the Northern Powerhouse Partnership as the business led organisation which convenes the North together. From securing further investment to guarantee HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail would work together as an integrated high speed network, to challenging for a better deal for the most disadvantaged from the education system, his team are focused on how government, business and partners can drive the North’s ambitions. Before joining the Partnership, he worked in senior research and public affairs roles for the West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner and Yorkshire Building Society, as well as previously serving as Cabinet Member for Quality of Life at Newcastle City Council.

Helen Oldham

Founding Board Director, North Invest

Helen is a Founding Board Director of a highly successful early stage investment connector for tech start-ups;  NorthInvest, a NED, mentor, and Chair of the Trustees for Smart Works Leeds which provides coaching and clothing to unemployed women.

Helen supports entrepreneurs and Northern based SMEs to reach their potential.

Cam Ross

Chief Operating Officer, Green Angel Syndicate

Cam Ross co-founded, jointly ran and raised 2 rounds of Business Angel funding for a contact centre payments business, with an exit by sale to AIM-listed Eckoh plc.  Cam is an Aeronautical Engineer by training, and has experience in creating, commercialising and patenting new technology. He has twelve granted patents in the fields of telecommunications, payments and customer authentication. He has a practical ability to analyse and improve complex processes, from manufacturing to software systems. Cam manages Technical Due Diligence for Green Angel Syndicate.

Cam is also a Board member of SocietyWorks, the commercial arm of the not-for-profit social enterprise mySociety, which builds technology to help democracy, transparency, and community in the UK and overseas.

Charlotte Thompson

Knowledge Transfer Manager Access to Funding & Finance, KTN

Charlotte Thompson is part of the Investment team at KTN, enabling ideas to be commercialised by blending public innovation funding with private financing in areas where investment can create positive change. Charlotte previously worked in a start-up, commercialising water reuse technology for better water quality and access, and managed the UK’s CERN business incubation programme, translating knowledge from CERN’s international partners to early-stage innovative companies.

Jenny Tooth OBE


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.

Fareeha Usman

EDI Innovation Manager, Dynamo North East

Fareeha is the founder of Being Woman, EDI Innovation Manager Dynamo North East, winner of We are the City Rising star 2020 award for the Charity and non profit category, Finalist of Great British Entrepreneur Award for Good and Trustee YMCA Northumberland!  Being Woman is a registered charity working towards to educate and empower women and wider community with the skills and confidence to challenge all forms of prejudice and discrimination in the society. She has spread awareness and have developed programmes around mental health and Gender based Violence and has an international presence. 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 vouch for the promotion of equality and diversity and supports BAME, asylum seekers and refugee women and families. She says, “we are the sheroes of our own life story and sheroes never give up!”

Fareeha has also recently won the North East Entrepreneur for Good award at the Great British Entrepreneur Awards.

Nigel Walker

Deputy Director, Lending & Investor Partnerships, Innovate UK

Nigel is part of the team delivering Innovate UK’s innovation loans and investor partnerships programmes. He is a director and member of the credit committee of Innovate UK Loans Ltd.  Prior to this role, he headed the organisation’s support for innovative SMEs in gaining access to private sector capital to accelerate the journey from concept to commercialisation.

Nigel has a background in the financial services industry, having qualified as a chartered accountant with Ernst & Whinney and spent over 10 years at each of Deutsche Bank and GE Capital.  At GE, he established the European ‘Access GE’ programme, advising, coaching and mentoring management teams of businesses owned by private equity firms on operational excellence, acquisition integration, strategy development and leadership.

Geoff Whiteland

Director, UK Network Director, North of England & The Midlands, British Business Bank

Leads a team of Senior Managers across the region, helping to address the regional imbalances in SME access to finance and helping to ensure SMEs understand their finance options.

The role involves developing strategic relationships and partnerships across the North and Midlands to enhance collaboration between stakeholders and raise awareness of BBB.

Additionally, it is to build an informed view of the North and Midlands which will lead to identification of strategic value adding options for BBB. Between March 2020 – August 2020 helped lead the CBILS accreditation team in response to Covid-19.  Onboarded a large number of new delivery partners onto the CBILS scheme to help deliver funding to SMEs affected by Covid-19.

Previous role within the British Business Bank involved launching a strategic initiative to address the finance gap for innovative, high growth potential businesses.  It involved working collaborative across all divisions of British Business Bank and co-operation with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, European Investment Fund and HM Treasury to enable a successful launch.  The programme also involved working closely with potential delivery partners across the breadth of the UK debt market and culminated in the successful launched of both a guarantee and direct investment scheme in the UK.

Henry Whorwood

Head of Research and Consultancy, Beauhurst

Henry leads Beauhurst’s Research & Consultancy team. He is an expert on business finance and has worked on briefs for clients including the British Business Bank, HM Treasury, BEIS and Innovate UK. Henry regularly gives presentations on market trends at events around the country. He studied Classics at the University of Oxford.

Ravneet Kaur

Innovation Manager, Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult

Ravneet has worked in the Research and Disruptive Innovation department of the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult since 2018. She has a broad range of skills and over 10 years of industry experience in the data analysis, project management and business development of energy sector. Before joining ORE Catapult, Ravneet Co-founded Equiwatt and served as Chief Operating Officer of the clean-technology start-up, specialising in smart energy systems.

Ravneet’s current role is largely based around providing assistance to innovators and supply chain business clients to commercialise new technologies, identify funding and access testing services.  This includes writing proposals for competitive public/commercial funding, managing multi-million innovation programmes (accelerator, technology demonstration, etc.) and business development.

Ravneet has won multiple accolades is also past winner of Renewable Energy Association’s Young Renewable Energy Professional Award and in 2020 was elected in the Future List of Northern Power Women 2020. Ravneet is endorsed as an exceptional digital talent migrant by UK government and holds triple masters, MSc International Marketing and PG in Renewable Energy, Enterprise and Management from Newcastle University and an MBA from a prestigious university in India.  In her extra time, Ravneet also voluntary works as an Enterprise Adviser for local schools at NELEP and Founders4School to promote equality diversity and STEM education. She sits on Alumni Advisory Panel for Department of International Trade’s Global Entrepreneur Program to support policy development for generating inward investment by attracting more international energy start-ups to the UK.