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Meet the speakers

VentureFest North East speakers are a diverse range of inspirational local and global talent who draw on their experience to inspire North East businesses to innovate.

Take a look at how are speakers at the forefront of innovation for 2023 are shaping up below!

Photograph provided courtesy of Gökhan Goksoy

Adah Parris

Polymath, Tech Futurist, Anti-disciplinary Artist, and Activist

Adah Parris is a polymath, tech futurist, anti-disciplinary artist, and activist. She is the creator of Cyborg Shamanism™, a philosophy that combines ancient wisdom, living systems and digital technology to inspire innovation and encourage people to consider the kind of ancestors they want to be. Adah is also a sought-after speaker, recognised as a TED Talks Global Emerging Innovator.

Her unique perspective on innovation, transformation, and technology has led her to explore the impact of technology on identity, culture, economics, and ecosystems. Adah is particularly interested in how to adopt emerging technologies in a way that aligns with one’s values and promotes social justice. As the Chair of Mental Health First Aid England and the Advisory Group for the Centre for Cultural Value, she is a vocal advocate for mental health awareness and cultural diversity. Adah is also a Fellow of The Royal Society of the Arts.

Photograph provided courtesy of Gökhan Goksoy

Finbarr Dowling

Project Director, Siemens

Finbarr Dowling  joined Siemens in May 1989.  

In November 2018 he was appointed Director of Localisation for Siemens Mobility’s Rolling Stock.  This remit includes responsibility for the development of a new factory & service facilities at their new site in Goole, East Yorkshire.  

Prior to taking up that role Finbarr was the Project Director for the Siemens Wind Power development at Alexandra Dock, Hull. This included the construction of the harbour, blade manufacturing and service facility. The overall project was a combined investment of £310 million and has created more than 1,000 direct new jobs in Hull and a further 2,000 jobs in the supply chain.  These facilities at Green Port Hull successfully began operations in September 2016.  

Prior to this Finbarr has experience in leading and developing teams with a strong focus on productivity, innovation and manufacturing excellence having previously held senior roles in operations and general management within both manufacturing and service businesses for Siemens in the UK over the past 30 years. This included a 5-year spell as the Managing Director of the award-winning Siemens Motion Control factory in Congleton from 2009 to 2014.  The site employed 500 people and was responsible globally for the R&D, Manufacture and Customer Service of variable speed drives.  

In 2015 Finbarr was awarded an honorary doctorate in Engineering from the University of Chester.  This was in recognition for the work he did in promoting STEM amongst the young people of Cheshire. 

Martin Hunt

Managing Director, Forum For The Future

Martin is Acting Managing Director for UK & Europe at Forum for the Future – a leading international non-profit dedicated to accelerating the shift toward a sustainable future. As well as holding strategic and operational management responsibilities, Martin is also helping to shape and direct work exploring what our energy transition means for businesses, public agencies, and civil society as we strive for a net zero economy.

Martin has also worked on several collaborative initiatives and innovation projects looking to contribute to a more sustainable energy system, including advocacy for a better supported community energy sector, and the deployment of innovative, participatory techniques for place-based just transition planning.

Judith McMinn

Founder, Rezon

Judith has almost 20 years in planning and delivering large scale people change projects.  Amongst her roles has been the Chief Operating Officer to a former UK Prime Minister, transforming his business and personal brand in the UK and globally.

In 2021, she established Rezon, a start-up that has developed a sports headband to protect the brain in sport and reduce the risk of concussion and sub-concussive brain injury.

Judith’s experience spans across problem solving, navigating complexity, transforming ambition into operational action to deliver genuine benefits, revenue and results, recruiting and developing talent, leading large multi-functional teams, proactively managing risk and reputation, building relationships, negotiating and influencing across a range of stakeholder groupings.

Estelle Blanks

CEO and Founder, Innovation SuperNetwork

With over 20 years’ experience in economic development through regeneration and innovation in the North East of England, and working across the UK and Europe, Estelle has a thorough understanding of the national and local innovation and access to finance ecosystems.

In 2015 she founded the Innovation SuperNetwork with Simon Green. ISN is a network supporting innovation in business across the North East and includes the established VentureFest North East conference.

Simon Green

Founder and Chair, Innovation SuperNetwork

With experience of working in corporate, small business, public and academic organisations, Simon is passionate about innovation of all kinds. He loves using this experience to develop and commercialise new ideas for products and services, and help others launch their own ideas.

In 2015 he founded the Innovation SuperNetwork with Estelle Blanks. ISN is a network supporting innovation in business across the North East and includes the established VentureFest North East conference.

Lysa Morrison


Lysa likes to describe herself as a people evangelist! All of the work she has done throughout her career is centred around the premise that we each have an abundance of potential. And when our potential is understood, nurtured and harnessed, individuals, teams and organisations can achieve more than they’ve ever dreamed possible. 

Lysa has been delivering keynotes, workshops, coaching, facilitation and consultancy to a diverse range of organisations and industries across the UK and Europe for the last 16 years. She holistically brings together a wide array of important areas such as business strategy, transformation and change management, culture, emotional intelligence, leadership, performance, motivation, employee engagement and personal development along with her energetic and passionate style to bring the best out of individuals, employees, managers and organisations. 

Lysa completed her Executive MBA at Newcastle University Business School where she then became an Associate Senior Lecturer specialising in managing change and professional development. Lysa has recently completed a Harvard Business School qualification in Entrepreneurship and is an accredited NLP Master Practitioner and Trainer, an ILM accredited Professional Coach, EMCC Master Coach and Mentor, and a proud TEDx speaker.  

In addition to the above, Lysa is also the CEO of an online personal development start-up, The Shining Light Academy and a partner in Geordie Gin.  


Nicki Clark OBE

Chief Executive, WE ARE UMi

Nicki has experience of working across numerous sectors – she’s been involved with many different cultures and ways of doing business, which made her a perfect  co founder and CEO of UMi. By her own admission there hasn’t been a grand plan or route map to Nicki’s career it’s been more of an adventure, with some help from great people and a little bit of luck thrown in.

She started out in banking, travelled the world selling soft drinks or posh pop as she likes to describe it, has set up businesses and social enterprises and worked closely with both the public and private sector. So you could say she knows a thing or two about helpling businesses go further.   Nicki believes passionately that businesses have the power to make a difference to lives and the world around us, so she’s made sure that UMi measures success by more than just its financial health but also by the positive impact we have on the people and environments we touch, evidenced by UMi’s own BCorp certification.  She is an active Volunteer, Director, Trustee, was awarded an OBE in June 2022 for services to Business and Social Enterprise in the North of England, and is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.


Charlie Charlton

Advocate for the North East, Interviewer, Presenter

Charlie Charlton is a prominent advocate for the North East. A journalist who’s presented on award-winning local and national radio and TV for almost 20 years.

Charlie stepped down from her role of Senior Journalist with the BBC, to be a freelance interviewer and host of live events, video and podcasts.

Charlie is also now the Community Engagement Manager at Newcastle Helix, where she’s creating content for events, film and podcasts to help tell the ground-breaking stories coming out of this innovation site.

Leaving behind the world of daily news, and of interviewing Prime Ministers and celebrities, Charlie now focuses on uncovering stories that celebrate the North East and its people. Known for holding organisations to account, Charlie is not afraid to ask the difficult questions that can help drive the region forward.

Charlie became the first woman in the UK to host a day-long business conference with her baby in a sling. She was shortlisted for the prestigious Northern Power Women Awards 2023 – Agent of Change.

Charlie’s especially interested in business and working mothers. The daughter of two local entrepreneurs, Charlie feels it’s the human stories behind business that can inspire future generations to live, study and work here in the North East.

Mundeep Nayyar

Founder, Infotel UK Consulting

A seasoned entrepreneur with over two decades of experience in providing technical expertise and consultancy services to international organisations in the public and private sector. He has built several successful businesses from the ground up including Infotel UK Consulting, a joint venture created in partnership with French multinational IT services and software vendor Infotel S.A.

Although his roots are in technology, Mundeep’s expertise spans across various business facets, including finance, sales, marketing and general business management. He describes himself as a problem solver and ‘closer’, like Harvey Spector (well, he wishes!).

Over the past two years, Mundeep has led a transformative journey for Infotel UK, launching a new product in the GDPR/data compliance space and establishing a new office in Chennai, India, which now employs 75 staff. Despite his busy schedule, Mundeep remains committed to his team and keeping up to date with the latest technological advancements.

William Scott

Founder and Chief Scientific Officer (CSO), ScubaTx Limited

William serves as the Scientific Director for the Transplantation and Regenerative Medicine Laboratory at Newcastle University. His research interests span a wide range of activities focused on improving care in the fields of Transplantation and Regenerative Medicine. He is particularly focused on translation of scientific advancements into care. This has led to a particular focus on improved access to critical research tissues, working with regulatory bodies to adapt to emergent scientific developments, as well as understanding the commercial aspects of clinical translation. Beyond research, he has contributed to the establishment and commissioning of an auto-islet transplantation service; including design of all relevant documentation to establish this clinical programme.

He has recently launched a spin out from Newcastle University ( focused on developing a medical device for enhanced organ preservation, that meets the real-world constraints of transplant personnel, money, logistics and physical space.

Carrie Ambler

Chief Scientific Officer, Lightox

Carrie is passionate about fuelling growth and seeing how ideas can evolve into innovative advancements and has been able to explore this, stepping into the corporate world through LightOx, a spin-off biotech company from Durham, York and Oxford universities, rising to Chief Scientific Officer and Interim CEO.

She is well known as a bioscientist and professor at Durham University and throughout her academic career, has been accountable for securing grant funding that enabled ground-breaking research projects to transform scientific areas such as skin stem cells and homeostasis, cutaneous diseases and epithelial tissue repair, as she is fascinated by wound healing. She will always carry these successes close to her heart.

Anny Lian

Independent Financial Advisor , Fatgreen Consulting

As a former corporate finance banker, Anny bridges the gap between financial advisor and finance director/accountants to provide the expertise to help business owners plan their personal and business finances. Whatever your goal and wherever you are in your business and personal journey, Anny can help your achieve your aspirations for you, your family and your business

Hannah Underwood

Founder, Insightano

Hannah is a visionary social sector leader with a passion for data, technology, innovation, and co-creation.

Hannah has oodles of experience in purpose-driven and impactful organisations, having spent 15 years as the CEO of north-east charity The Key, as well as serving as a Trustee and Non-Executive Director for various organizations including DataKind UK, Virgin Money Foundation, Newcastle University, and Livin Housing.

Over the past year Hannah has been consulting with Funders and Corporate Foundations helping them to think about and use data strategically. In January she co-founded Insightano with Data Architect Callum Robson. A new venture with an ambition to revolutionise the use of data within the social sector to inform decisions, spark innovation and ultimately to drive up impact.

Thomas Ferguson

Group Development Director, Catax - A Ryan Company

Thomas is Group Development Director for Catax, a Ryan company, an award-winning innovation funding expert, dedicated to supporting businesses with all aspects of tax relief and grant funding.

With over 14 years’ experience, their in-house team has helped more than 16,000 UK businesses to receive over half a billion pounds to date.

Catax is an established partner of several industry bodies, including the IFA and the Law Society, along with many of the UK’s leading accountants and solicitors. The business is also an ACCA Gold Sponsor.

Chris Parkhurst

Regional Development Director, Catax - A Ryan Company

Chris is Regional Development Director for Catax, a Ryan company, an award-winning innovation funding expert, dedicated to supporting businesses with all aspects of tax relief and grant funding.

With over 14 years’ experience, their in-house team has helped more than 16,000 UK businesses to receive over half a billion pounds to date.

Catax is an established partner of several industry bodies, including the IFA and the Law Society, along with many of the UK’s leading accountants and solicitors. The business is also an ACCA Gold Sponsor.

Adam Gardner

Specialist Tax Consultant, Catax - A Ryan Company

Adam is Specialist Tax Consultant for Catax, a Ryan company, an award-winning innovation funding expert, dedicated to supporting businesses with all aspects of tax relief and grant funding.

With over 14 years’ experience, their in-house team has helped more than 16,000 UK businesses to receive over half a billion pounds to date.

Catax is an established partner of several industry bodies, including the IFA and the Law Society, along with many of the UK’s leading accountants and solicitors. The business is also an ACCA Gold Sponsor.

Russ Watkins

Commercial Director Innovation, Academic Health Science Network for the North East and North Cumbria (AHSN NENC)

Russ is Commercial Director who oversees the Economic Growth activity for AHSN NENC and is enthusiastic about how the North East North Cumbria is recognised for all the fab things it does. The infrastructure in the region to support innovation is outstanding, but hides itself so Russ is keen to showcase and highlight it as much as possible. Ideas from frontline staff, academics are encouraged as Russ uses his previous experiences to assess how the AHSN can support them. Innovators from industry will need to complete a short form to be able assess our services, starting with the unmet need and value proposition. A plan is then put in place to see how AHSN and the wider ecosystem can support you. If the idea can add value to the patients of the North East and North Cumbria the AHSN will do whatever they can.

Rachel Morris

Associate Director, Academic Health Science Network for the North East and North Cumbria (AHSN NENC)

Rachel is Associate Director for Operations. She is responsible for the development of AHSN’s Innovation Pathway, inclusive of process’ and systems. She is the lead for the development of their bespoke digital innovation tracker, OMNIA. Finally, she manages local programmes of work that aim to improve regional population health and economic growth. Rachel’s background is in Mathematics & statistics, including a Masters in Clinical Research.

Jody Nichols

Associate Director - Health, Academic Health Science Network for the North East and North Cumbria (AHSN NENC)

Jody works for the AHSN NENC as an Associate Director for Innovation and leads on the development of the AHSN NENC regional Eco System and has recently launched the Health and Life Sciences Pledge NENC to support the Innovation Pathway. Jody also leads nationally on a health innovation, Clinical Digital Resource Collaborative (CDRC) an exciting Primary Care innovation. Within her career Jody has worked for several organisations from the NHS, private sector, third sector and academia but always within the field of health improvement.

Dan Jackson

Director of Policy, Public and Stakeholder Affairs at NHS North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care Board (ICB)

Dan Jackson is Director of Policy, Public and Stakeholder Affairs at NHS North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care Board (ICB).  Dan has been part of the ICB development journey from the start having previously been Head of Strategic Development for the Northern CCG Forum from 2016. In Dan’s ICB role he leads on the Integrated Care Partnership between the ICB, Local Authorities and wider partners, relations with MPs and elected members, engagement and involvement, stakeholder feedback (including complaints and FOIs), legal services and policy development.  Before joining the NHS Dan worked for South Tyneside Council for a decade in various corporate roles, and before that he was a history academic and an MP’s researcher.  Dan loves old stuff in general – and has written a few books on this subject – and was recently appointed as the vice-chair of Beamish Museum.

Anna Halstead

Project Manager, NIHR Newcastle In-vitro Diagnostics Co-operative (MIC)

Anna is currently Project Manager for the NIHR Newcastle In-vitro Diagnostics Co-operative (MIC). She has almost 20 years’ experience of project management, and has worked in a wide range of sectors, managing several different types of projects. She has been with the Newcastle MIC since 2018. Since joining the Newcastle MIC, Anna has developed a broad knowledge of the diagnostic evaluation landscape, along with a keen interest in helping innovators of diagnostic technologies to navigate the development pathway.

Hyder Latif

Research Operations Manager for the NIHR Clinical Research Network Northeast North Cumbria

Hyder Latif is the Research Operations Manager for the NIHR Clinical Research Network Northeast North Cumbria. Hyder supports the life science industry by running a service called MedConnect North which offers a bespoke service to SMEs, National and International Medical Technology Companies, providing guidance and assistance throughout the Medical Technology Research and Innovation Pathway. The group supports companies to form partnerships with Academia and the NHS in the North East and North Cumbria region. In addition, MedConnect North supports NHS staff to encourage, drive and develop innovation within their organisation. Hyder also oversees the medical device research portfolio as part of his role in the Clinical Research Network. The role includes supporting investigators to deliver studies to time and target through the study support service.

Jordan Dargue

Head of Access to Finance, Innovation SuperNetwork

At the Innovation SuperNetwork Jordan is responsible for leading the Regional Angel Accelerator programme, an Innovate UK Accelerator to help stimulate Angel investment in the North.  She is also instrumental in bringing together investors from across the region to build an active investment syndicate and co-investment network through the Newcastle Angel Hub.

Jordan Lavender

Investment Manager, Foresight Group

Jordan is an MBA Graduate working as an Investment Manager as part of Foresight Group focussing on investing the Midlands Engine Investment Fund. He is a Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) and focussed in Finance from University of Charleston.

Gary Gibson

Founder and Chief Executive, Dyman Advanced Materials

Gary’s career has allowed him to develop excellent technical skills combined with creative and effective sales and marketing abilities.

He finds that he is able to really connect to customers in technology based industries because he understands their problems and helps them to find solutions. This understanding helps to build great rapport and allows him to build strong customer relationships. Gary is Founder and Chief Executive of Dyman Advanced Materials, the next generation of Synthetic Diamond Production.

Jonathan Armitage

Investment Executive, NEL Fund Managers Limited

Jonathan is an Investment Executive, with NEL Fund Managers, wishing to invest in ambitious North East (County Durham, Northumberland and Tyne & Wear) based businesses.

NEL can provide access to growth capital via unsecured loans and mezzanine finance to back businesses looking to realise their growth potential and create new jobs in order to strengthen the North East economy.

Ian Richards

Director, Northstar Ventures

Ian oversees the investment team and leads on company exit strategies. As one of the Directors of Northstar, Ian looks after all aspects of our portfolio management, makes and manages investments and works with theinvestment managers to determine the best exit strategies for the companies in their portfolio.

Ian began his career at NatWest, where he held a variety of positions in the retail and corporate banking sectors, including relationship managing a portfolio of over 400 high net worth individuals from across the North East of England. He then went on to work for international investment firm 3i. There he invested over £40m into growing and later stage businesses and exited over 100 deals.

In addition to having over 20 years’ experience in venture capital and private equity, Ian is an Associate of the Chartered Institute of Bankers, a Member of the Institute of Commercial Management and was an elected Corporate Finance Representative for The Securities Institute. He is a Member of the Entrepreneurs Forum and has mentored early stage business leaders through the Forum’s programmes. Ian also works with The Prince’s Trust, speaking at events to inspire future generations of entrepreneurs.

Dr Natalia Blagburn

Venture Capital Investor, Portfolio Director, Venture Capital Investor, Portfolio Director, Mercia Asset Management PLC

Natalia joined Mercia in 2021, and is the Portfolio Director for the North East Venture Fund (NEVF) and the EIS Fund. She is an experienced non-exec, and a venture boards expert. In her role at Mercia, Natalia is supporting portfolio companies with strategic direction, growth optimisation and board oversight. She is based in the Newcastle office, and is a board observer of several Mercia’s investee ventures across the UK.

Professor Nick Wright

Engineering Professor, Newcastle University

Nick Wright is an Engineering Professor at Newcastle University where he undertakes research in the use of digital and electronic technology applied to unusual environments. He has worked extensively with projects aimed at the marine, aerospace, space and manufacturing sectors in collaboration with many major companies. He is currently working mainly on the development of zero-carbon electric aeroplanes as part of the UK’s largest project in this field – H2GEAR. H2GEAR is developing a genuinely revolutionary passenger plane powered by liquid hydrogen and fuel cells driving electric motors.

Nick is a Turing Fellow and a winner of several global engineering prizes – including an XPRIZE Moonshot Award in 2019. He is a named inventor on more than 20 patents and has published over 200 academic papers in leading journals.

Graham Purvis

Managing Director, Robson Laidler Accountants

Graham Purvis, LLB CTA is managing director at North East Accountancy Firm of the Year Robson Laidler Accountants, with offices in Newcastle and Durham. Graham is also a tax advisor, accredited Mindshop business advisor and enhanced practitioner in motivational mapping. Graham spearheaded Robson Laidler in becoming the first business in the North East to achieve B Corp accreditation, meaning the business is committed to being a force for good. 

Matthew Cormack

Partner, Ward Hadaway

Matt is a Partner in the commercial team at Ward Hadaway, based in the Newcastle office, and acts for a wide range of clients from large multi-national corporate clients to early stage businesses. He is also Ward Hadaway’s Training Principal with responsibilities for the recruitment and training of trainee solicitors in the firm.


Matt has extensive experience in corporate governance, corporate structures and commercial contracts, across a range of sectors, with a particular focus on advising technology businesses. Matt acts for several listed software businesses, and numerous national scale and growing businesses in the technology space, including a variety of e-commerce and cloud-based businesses.

On contracts, Matt has significant experience preparing, reviewing and negotiating commercial contracts including terms and conditions, distribution agreements, agency agreements and bespoke contracts for the supply of goods and services. He has advised several high profile businesses on their standard customer-facing contracts, including in digital services and SaaS contracts. Having worked within the in-house legal departments of both a FTSE 100 software company and a listed challenger bank, Matt has the ability to deliver complex sound yet commercially focused, pragmatic advice.

Outside of day to day trading matters, Matt regularly advises on the establishment of trading structures and corporate governance. He has acted as legal project manager on several projects for multi-national corporate groups, co-ordinating and managing legal input across various overseas jurisdictions. Matt is a solicitor in residence at the Business and Intellectual Property Centre in Newcastle, where he provides initial consultations to fast growing start-up clients on a variety of legal issues.

Chris Cook

Former Double Olympian & Double Commonwealth champion, Entrepreneur, Motivational Speaker and Business Coach

Chris competed for Great Britain for almost 10 years, reaching the Olympic Games final, World Championship medals, European Championship medals and Commonwealth Games Champion (x2). He hung up his trunks in 2009 and started his own business as a motivational speaker, workshops leader/presenter, sports consultant and athlete mentor.

He works in partnership with a wide range of organisations, schools, local authorities, media networks, businesses and business support networks and facilitates the delivery of presentations, group sessions, awards ceremonies and chairing meetings.

Chris works with businesses to ensure that his keynote reflects the challenges and the messages facing business today. His simple approach to facing big life challenges is refreshing and will leave any audience inspired to take personal action. In Chris’s own words – ‘Our results are the sum of our daily habits so make them good ones.’

Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino

Author, consultant and entrepreneur

Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino is a London-based author, consultant and entrepreneur who works across climate change, ethics and the internet of things.

She is the author of ‘Creating a Culture of Innovation’ (2020) and ‘Smarter Homes: how technology will change your home life’ (2018).  She was the first UK distributor of the Arduino, the founder of the Good Night Lamp and is now building the Low Carbon Design Institute, exploring how creative professionals integrate climate change knowledge in their practice.

Dylan Mckee

Co-Founder, Nebula Labs

Dylan McKee, 24, has been involved in the digital and technology sector from the age of 13, initially as a self-taught developer, and more recently as the co-founder and CEO of a dynamic, innovative software house, committed to changing the way the digital sector does business.

From releasing his own app MyAltitude at the age of 13 which gained over 1million downloads, Dylan McKee went on to achieve his ambition to set up his own software company when he was 22. His journey included being twice awarded a student scholarship to Apple’s World Wide Developers’ Conference, gaining a first class honours BSc in Computer Science at Newcastle University, and being lead developer for a venture-backed fitness tech startup on the Ignite Accelerator programme in Summer 2014.

Determined to stay based in the North East of England and wanting to give back to the region’s tech community and wider economy, Dylan co-founded Nebula Labs as a new kind of software house, where collaboration and cooperation are key. With strong core values and ethics at the heart of everything they do, Nebula Labs is making an impactful difference and leading the way in shaping how businesses will behave in the future.

Di Gates

Founder, Stick Theory

Di has 20+ years of experience running creative businesses and working with a range of national and international clients. For a decade, she ran one of the North East’s biggest creative agencies, growing the company to 20+ employees with a national reputation for behaviourally-driven health and enterprise campaigns.

On exiting to an investor in 2009, Di founded collaboration agency, Stick Theory, developing brand, growth and change strategies for investor-backed startups and national and global brands. Her love of human-centred design and passion for human connection has powered Di’s latest initiative, The Connection Story, which helps organisations to build happy high-performing teams by optimising human connections in the workplace.

Charlotte Hope

Innovation Manager, Rural Design Centre

Charlotte is an experienced facilitator, helping individuals and groups to explore innovation in context. She supports start ups and SMEs to develop solutions to problems they face.
With a background in higher education and a PhD in responsible management education, Charlotte has experience working with a wide range of stakeholders. Creating and delivering events and workshops to help them innovate and move ideas forward, with a focus on sustainability.

Dr Noura Al Moubayed

Associate Professor, University of Durham

Dr Al Moubayed is an Associate Professor at the department of computer science at Durham University, and Head of Applied Machine Learning and AI at Evergreen Life. 

Her main research interest is in Explainable Machine Learning, Natural Language Processing, and Optimisation. Dr Al Moubayed received her PhD from Robert Gordon University, followed by post-doctoral positions at the University of Glasgow and Durham University. Her research projects focus on applying machine learning and deep learning solutions in the areas of healthcare, social signal processing, cyber-security, and Brain-Computer Interfaces. All of which involve high dimensional, noisy and imbalance data challenges. 

 Dr Al Moubayed is an Associate Editor for IEEE Transactions on Emerging Topics in Computational Intelligence and N8 CIR Machine Learning team lead for Durham. She leads multiple projects in collaboration with different industrial partners with a team of over 15 researchers. Her research received several medial coverages (e.g. BBC, ITV, Time Magazine, and Wired Magazine) and she was ranked amongst the top 20 women in AI in the UK by RE•WORK 2019.  

Eric Guo

Founder & CEO of SPARK EPOS

Eric is an entrepreneur with a passion for technology. He is Founder & CEO of SPARK powered by StreetAway®, SPARK is the future of Restaurant Management Software. Encompassing EPOS, Reservations, Stock Management, Loyalty & Customer Relationship Management and Online Marketing Tools all in one package. Experience ultra-modern, intuitive software design and sleek hardware, including customer-facing screens, designed to bring interactivity to the forefront of the customer’s experience.

His goal is to make cutting-edge technology bridging the gap between businesses and their customers at the times when they need to reach each other the most. Utilising AI and automation, he believes we can improve inefficiency and avoid resource waste that happens in our daily life.

Charlotte Knill

North East Regional Cyber Crime Unit

Charloote provides support, advice and guidance to SMEs and individuals in the North East to help them stay safe from cyber threats and improve their cyber security measures/awareness. She delivers a range of free products and services to SMEs, including the facilitation of cyber exercising to help businesses understand their risks and how to recover from a cyber attack.

Cate Kalson

Chief People Officer, Opencast

Kate is the Chief People Officer at Opencast Software, an independent, employee owned technology consultancy headquartered in Newcastle Upon Tyne. Her background is in Data Analytics and Product Management prior to becoming a full-time People professional.

She is proud to be a member of Opencast’s exec team. and passionate about the need to bring diverse people into the fast-growing technology sector, in particular in her local region the North East of England, and is always keen to connect with others who are on this mission. She is a Director of Dynamo North East with a focus on Talent & Skills.

Wayne Bryant

Innovation Manager, Innovation SuperNetwork

With specialisms in innovation, intellectual property & technology transfer, Wayne works with North of Tyne-based businesses to support their adoption of, and work to develop, innovative tech solutions. He delivers across both the Digital Cluster Development project and the North of Tyne Innovation Recovery Grant.

Paul Swaddle

Head of Technical Solutions, NBS

Paul is a writer, speaker and consultant. A chartered Architect by background, through communication and technical knowledge he simplifies construction subjects and improves productivity. As Head of Technical Solutions at NBS/Byggfakta Group, he supported the implementation of NBS software platforms across the globe, delivering over 1000 hours of training on digital specification and information management. His recent work focuses on balance, systems thinking, and natural sustainability. He is a member of the BSI B/555 committee on construction design data and liaison for SDS/2 on smart and sustainable cities. Paul loves coffee and conversation, forest trail running and (slowly) learning Japanese.

Angela Lynch

Innovation Manager, Innovation SuperNetwork

An expert in design-thinking, Angela supports innovating businesses to connect, collaborate and tap into new market opportunities as part of the Digital Cluster Development project.

Jenny Hudson

Business development Director, Transmission Dynamics

Jenny Hudson (BA, MBA) is Business development Director at Transmission Dynamics, who specialise in Industrial Internet of Things solutions that utilise advanced machine learning and artificial intelligence to support remote condition monitoring of high value assets globally. Having spent her career supporting SMEs to grow through innovation, she has been with Transmission Dynamics since October 2020, helping them take scale up deployment of their technologies to all critical industrial sectors around the world. Jenny’s day to day role is to support this extraordinary multi-disciplinary team and their clients, with the highest level of relationship, project and business management.

Sarah Cox

Innovation Challenge Programme Leader, Innovation SuperNetwork

Sarah is a passionate Open Innovation specialist with  a breadth of knowledge in the development of successful innovation programmes and interventions across a range of sectors. She leads the delivery of Challenge North Tyne and her work combines best practice from design-led innovation, agile project management, lean start-up and systems thinking.

Professor Craig Gaskell

Teesside University

Professor Craig Gaskell is passionate about the transformational impact of Higher Education on individuals, society, and the economy. He has significant experience of developing and delivering innovation projects in Higher Education, working across a wide range of academic disciplines, and in building highly productive partnerships with business and the public sector.

Craig has considerable experience as an academic and senior leader in Higher Education.

He was a Dean at the University of Hull and has led several significant strategic change and start-up projects in the wider sector, notably as Provost of Coventry University’s ‘CU Scarborough’ and as founding Principal and Chief Executive of University Academy 92 (UA92) in Manchester.

Josh Sanghera

Blu Sky Chartered Accountants

Josh Sanghera ACA is a client relationship director at Blu Sky Chartered Accountants. He helps fast paced and scaling businesses across the tech and service sector. Josh has over 10 years experience in accounting and the financial sector. Josh and the team at Blu Sky take great pride in being the non traditional accounting firm that helps clients from the startup phase all the way to exit.

Nihad Ćehić

Founder and CEO, Vibbl

Nihad is on a mission to reduce teacher workload by enabling better, faster and more collaborative feedback. He is interested in speaking with senior leaders, teaching and learning devotees and researchers about their pain points in terms of giving students feedback that pushes forward learning.

Helen Hopwood-Curry

Information Security Consultant, Waterstons

Helen leads a large ISO 27001 implementation project in Higher Education, creates proposals and business cases for consultancy projects, carries out internal ISO audits as well as presenting industry threat reports to the internal cyber team at Waterstons.

She supports graduates and junior members of the team during their development and is passionate about cyber security.

David Dove

Executive Information Security Consultant, Waterstons

David’s role at Waterstons helps clients assess their cybersecurity maturity and guide them along a journey of continual improvement to help protect their critical business assets and operations from an ever-evolving cybersecurity threat landscape. He applies huis knowledge and experience gained from various technical and managerial IT and Cyber Security roles to deliver cybersecurity governance services to a wide range of industry sectors.

Callum Lake

Information Security Analyst at Waterstons

Callum’s role at Waterstons spans a wide range of areas within Cyber Security, from technical assessments to governance. No two days are the same! He helps businesses find a new perspective or gain insight into something new in the field. As a graduate recently entering the world of Cyber Security, he is keen to learn as much as possible but also share some of the small nuggets of information he has picked up along the way.

Phil Jackman

Dynamo Cyber Security Manager, CyberNorth

Phil leads CyberNorth, Dynamo North East’s cyber security cluster supported by Accenture, the Innovation Supernetwork and recognised by DCMS and NCSC as representing the region.

Jeni Smith

Founder, NetKno

Jeni Smith is passionate about connecting people and teaches networking skills and networking strategies through her business NetKno. She is an award winning entrepreneur with experience in tech, business support and growth, who enjoys public speaking and sharing her experiences with others.

She is currently undertaking her PhD at Durham University researching the relationship between networking event anatomy and entrepreneurial narratives. Her goal in life is to bring people together through conversation, and help people harness the power of effective, strategic networking.

Laura Rothwell

Founder, Crystallised

Laura describes herself as an accidental marketer of 19 years. She is the proud founder of marketing mavens Crystallised, proudly a Certified B Corporation®.

Mandy Barker

Founder and Creative Director, Sail Creative

Mandy is a social entrepreneur and creative practitioner rooted in radical inclusivity, compassion, justice and equity. She believes that for change, we must shift traditional systems old ways of doing things. She founded Sail, a creative studio, in 2016 to do just that, and create work with organisations that are having positive social impact. The business works across storytelling and creative thinking to address societal issues. Their aim is actionable change. They work directly with clients and audiences through facilitation, co-creation and participation methods leading to design-led, meaningful solutions (brands, animation, digital, campaigns, communications).

Sail Creative’s ethos is to have real world impact through everything they do. Through honest insight, conversation, creative thinking and visual storytelling they create brands, design and campaigns that are authentic, meaningful, relevant and effective.

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