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Respected innovators announced for VentureFest North East

A host of highly respected innovators are heading to the region to inspire businesses at this year’s VentureFest North East to think big and aim high

Organisers of the region’s innovation conference today announced their keynote speakers ahead of the event, which is expected to bring together its largest ever crowd of businesses, investors, researchers and experts on November 14 at St James’ Park, Newcastle.

The panel of big names will explain how their own global ambitions and future gazing has powered them to become leaders in their respective industries. They will also highlight real opportunities for North East businesses to get involved in exciting projects that will broaden their horizons.

Keynote speakers confirmed to date include:

Paul Smith, Hyperloop One Paul is Global Field Operations Manager at Hyperloop One, a revolutionary transportation system that aims to eliminate barriers of time and distance to move cargo and passengers immediately, safely, efficiently and sustainably. Paul’s role in business development involves engaging clients and partners around the world, as well as implementing process and operations across the team. He has also worked with technology start-ups for the past decade, as co-founder and former of Ignite Accelerator, and co-founder of Campus North in Newcastle, voted Britain’s Best Workplace in 2016.

Phil Kite, Team Tyne Innovation Phil is the former Chief Executive of Reece Group and Non-Exec Director of the EEF, the voice of manufacturing. Passionate about the North East, under the banner Team Tyne Innovation, he is leading a team preparing to compete in the 3,000 mile Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, the world’s toughest rowing race. In completing this extraordinary challenge, his ambition is to demonstrate the innovative spirit is alive and kicking in the North East by showcasing innovative products and services developed by its businesses, colleges and universities.

Joanna Feeley, Trend Bible Joanna is Founder and CEO of futures agency, Newcastle-based Trend Bible. She advises some of the world’s most recognized retailers, brands and organisations, helping them to understand what life at home will be like in the future. Joanna founded Trend Bible in 2011, following an earlier career in strategic insight and trend forecasting for global blue chip companies including Tesco, Calvin Klein and Nokia.

Simon Thorpe, Delta 2020 Simon is an angel investor, entrepreneur, coach and mentor. He acts as a non-executive director to technology companies and provides growth consulting. Simon runs his own business, Delta2020 and is a senior advisor to Eleven Canterbury, a member of Angel Academe, Cambridge Angels and Cambridge Capital Group. An active angel investor in the UK technology sector, Simon has built up a portfolio of over 20 companies and has backed 10 female founders.

Sarah Stewart OBE, NewcastleGateshead Initiative (NGI)  Sarah is Chief Executive of NewcastleGateshead Initiative (NGI). In addition to being the local tourism and inward investment agency, NGI plays a leading role in bidding for and delivering major sporting and cultural events; recent successes include securing The Great Exhibition of the North in 2018 and the World Transplant Games in 2019.

Estelle Blanks, Deputy Director at the Innovation SuperNetwork that delivers VentureFest, said: “We are really excited too announce this year’s line-up of keynote speakers who bring to the stage some truly inspiring stories as well as some real opportunities to get involved with their work.
“The whole purpose of VentureFest is to bring together people from all different walks of life and business sectors to explore new ideas and ways to work together and this year’s keynote speakers fit the bill perfectly.”

A morning keynote session will kick off the day with a multimedia celebration of innovation in the North East of England, and a series of guest speakers. Professor Alan Lowdon, Chair of the Innovation Board at the North East LEP, will open the event before welcoming to the stage Paul McEldon, Chief Executive at the North East BIC.

A trio of speakers will then describe how businesses can win work from their latest projects – Professor Louise Bracken, Scientific Director at The Water Hub, Alastair Tawn, Transformation Lead for the Wastewater Directorate at Northumbrian Water Group, and Steve Blanks Digital Champion for next year’s Great Exhibition of the North.

Almost 40 speakers will share their expertise over the full-day event, through lively debates, discussions and issue-led workshops designed to provide practical tools and inspiration to enable innovation within regional businesses.

VentureFest North East is free to attend. Registrations are now open at