Speaking about the change, Simon said: “When I set about building the Innovation SuperNetwork in 2015, my ambition was always to create something that had impact and helped to bridge the gap experienced by so many innovative regional companies looking for specialist business and financial support.
“Estelle has been there with me through this entire journey, her understanding of the regional and national innovation and investment ecosystems is second-to-none and now feels like the right time for me to hand over to her.
“I’m proud to have led the organisation through the successful delivery of two large European-funded projects, to have grown VentureFest North East into the region’s innovation conference, and to have delivered many more impactful innovation initiatives, supporting hundreds of North East SMEs and bringing new innovations to market in the process.”
The Innovation SuperNetwork works with more than 50 national and regional partners to help North East businesses innovate, access new market opportunities through open innovation challenges and business accelerators, and access innovation finance through the Newcastle Angel Hub. It is strategically aligned to the North East LEP and is written into the region’s strategic economic plan, part-funding and supporting the delivery of regional clusters in digital, healthcare, manufacturing, energy and social enterprise.
The news that Simon is stepping up coincides with the SuperNetwork securing a third round of ERDF funding to support regional businesses. This is in addition to several other projects, including development and delivery of the Rural Design Centre.
Simon added: “Whilst I’m moving on from my role as CEO, I will be remaining on the board of directors as Chair and continuing to work with Estelle and the team to support innovation in the North East. The changes come at an exciting time for the SuperNetwork and for me, as I take on a more active role in delivering rural innovation work through the Rural Design Centre.”
Estelle Blanks said: “The SuperNetwork has grown from a handful of core staff to a 25-strong organisation supporting innovation in some of the region’s key sectors. If the last year has shown us anything, it’s how important innovation is in times of crisis. This will inform our strategic direction as we work evermore closely with our national and regional partners to enable individual businesses to remain resilient and profitable. This has been, and will remain, our key focus in supporting local SMEs to innovate, access finance and grow. I’m excited to be working with our highly-experienced team to support many more hundreds of businesses in the coming months and years.”
The SuperNetwork is also strengthening its senior management team and is currently recruiting a Head of Compliance with significant experience working with ERDF projects. Other new roles will be announced in the coming weeks.
Alan Holmes, business coach and current Innovation SuperNetwork Chair will remain on the board. He said: “It’s been a pleasure to work with both Simon and Estelle to build the SuperNetwork into an organisation with real impact and strategic importance for the North East. They are both passionate about innovation and the benefit it has in all sectors to grow economies, create jobs and help the region thrive. They have done an incredible job and I’m excited to continue to work with them both to drive transformation in the region for the benefit of all.”
To learn more about the SuperNetwork and the support it provides for North East businesses visit www.supernetwork.org.uk