The Futures List 2022

January 5, 2022

Ours is a region synonymous with pioneering deeds. From Stephenson’s Locomotion No 1 that gave birth to the railways in 1825, to Joseph Swan’s literal lightbulb moment and Charles Hesterman Merz’s high-voltage AC power distribution venture, which acted as a forerunner to the National Grid, the North East has always pushed the boundaries. Factor in too the plethora of coal mines that fired industrial change, and our shipyards and iron and steel works that fixed the region firmly on the global map as a manufacturing powerhouse, and it is clear our region’s reputation for driving change is overt. Today’s landscapes may look somewhat different from those of centuries past, but the strength of ingenuity remains unaltered, with the North East’s current band of visionaries playing their part in maintaining our area’s position at the vanguard of change. And, as we begin a new year, we at North East Times wanted to celebrate this, by throwing the spotlight on some of the individuals and businesses primed to make a big impression in 2022. From the built environment sector across the creative and digital and technology spheres, to healthcare, hospitality, manufacturing and sport, we’ve handpicked some of the people and organisations we believe will play a huge role in delivering a bright future for our region.

Words by Colin Young and Chloe Holmes
Photography by Christopher Owens

MADDY HOUGHTON

Head of delivery, Fabric Marketing Academy

“Fabric is a training academy built to power the most ambitious marketers to thrive. “It was really important for the team to build a practical academy that gave valuable insight into what marketing is, rather than just academic theory.

“The business was built to disrupt the marketing education landscape, and it’s one of the first of its kind, giving learners an opportunity to deliver a tangible marketing strategy for the organisation they work for.

“The marketplace is so competitive, and our programme gives marketers a chance to stand out in a crowded space.

“I started working in marketing five years ago but found it really difficult to get into the industry because I didn’t have a marketing degree or any marketing experience.

“I love that my job gives people the opportunity to gain that experience, which is something I wish I had when I was younger.

“I was in South America building our programme to what it is today, with no idea that the world was going to come to a standstill.

“But the pandemic has actually accelerated our growth, because it gave us the time to focus on building something new.

“The past 18 months have seen us finding our feet and we now know how to get the programme to market and how valuable it is.

“We’re developing our strategy for US and European markets, so the goal is to go global, and conquer the world.”

LIZZIE ESAU

Musician

“I come from a very creative house; my dad is a musician – a bass player – and my mum is an artist.

“I started making rhymes at a young age, and that turned into my mum suggesting one day that I write things down. I have my first songbook from when I was seven.

“I met my manager a couple of years ago, and she’s been a huge support.

“I’ve always known I wanted to do this as my career; it’s always been my dream. But the next step was showing people my songs and putting them out there.

“I’d just started doing shows before the first lockdown, and the pause really gave me an opportunity to start building the band – it’s the best thing to have come out of it.

“I’ve just turned 22 and I’m finishing a degree. “In the next 12 months, we are hoping to put an EP out – 2022 is the year!

“We have great local support and hopefully it’s now time to get to the next level.”

ALEX NIETOSVUORI& ALLY THOMPSON

Founders, Restaurant Hjem

“We have a hotel with 11 bedrooms and a restaurant for up to 30 people with the intention of serving the best Northumbrian produce in a creative, flowing tasting menu with Alex’s Scandinavian feel and techniques,” says Ally.

“The focus is on Northumbrian produce and things on our doorstep and making sure our food is fresh, light and bright from our big open kitchen – no pretentiousness, no snobbery.

“Just good food with a warm welcome and fine drinks.”

Alex adds: “I want it to be the best. “We set out to be the best restaurant in England and represent Northumberland; we’re only two-years-old and finding our feet and evolving.

“A restaurant doesn’t really begin until it has been open for three years. “We want to keep developing and never stand still.”

BETH HAZON & NIC QUINN

Managing director and strategy director, Do Gooder Studio

“The work we do goes across research, cultural insight, strategy and creativity,” says Beth.

“We channel it into plans, talk to consumers and stakeholders, using those creative activations to engage and build relationships.”

Nic adds: “We believe in the power of brands to change the world for good.

“Our creation was born of frustration; if marketing and advertising can create bad behaviours, what would happen if you pointed it in a different direction? Would that create good behaviours?

“We work with local and national companies, and we want to do interesting work and keep it in the region.

“The talent is here, and we are passionate about keeping interesting jobs in the North East, so people don’t feel the need to move to London. “We know we are just as good as anyone else.”

SARAH WILLIAMS

Director, Ortus

“We are a paid marketing specialist agency headquartered in Newcastle and will be re-opening our office in Teesside this month.

“We rebranded in March, when we branched off from the rest of the N21 Group – North and Silverbean – and took the decision to specialise, and we have worked with clients including Clarks, Moda in Pelle and Ethical Superstore.

“I am now a director of the agency, and we are looking for sustained growth and to get our name out there in the North East and nationally, so more people hear about us.

“Our research shows 65 per cent of our clients come from referrals, and we are looking to build on that.”

MIKE DAVIES, CHRIS BONE & ROB SIMMONS

Co-founders, Haystack

“We are the marketplace business for tech professionals, and we want to be the Tripadvisor for the tech landscape – we want people to come to Haystack for the latest in the tech scene,” says Mike.

“I was a software engineer, and this product is a result of solving a problem I had, I lived, and I solved.”

Chris continues: “Candidate is key now. “In all industries, companies held the cards and made candidates jump through hoops. “Haystack acts as a career site for businesses and tech engineers.”

Rob adds: “When you get rid of geographical restrictions and open your company up, you can have access to a global talent pool.

“Where do we want to be next year? We all have our sights set overseas eventually.

“Haystack would work really well in the States and mainland Europe.”

ELLEN McCANN

Design assistant, Ryder Architecture

“Ryder was established in Newcastle in 1953, and now has a team of more than 300 people across the UK, Hong Kong, Vancouver and Amsterdam.

“We recently won a Queen’s Award for Enterprise – recognised for excellence in international trade – and were named architectural practice of the year at the Building Awards 2021.

“I started at the practice as a PlanBEE apprentice, a programme founded by Ryder and Gateshead College, which aims to tackle the construction industry skills gap and nurture more rounded and adaptable graduates. The initiative is now supported by a consortium of more than 30 businesses across the UK.

“Ryder sponsored me throughout my degree while I continued working, and I won the apprentice of the year title at the North East England Chamber of Commerce’s Inspiring Females Awards, in November.

“I plan to begin my Masters in 2022, as well as hopefully continuing to work on a wide range of projects across the North East.”

MIKE O’NEILL

Chief operating officer, Advanced Electric Machines

“Our motor technology for commercial vehicles and other applications does not use permanent magnets, which are currently used on the majority of electric vehicles on our roads.

“There are still some nasty materials in those, which aren’t good for long-term sustainability because of the vast amounts of waste product from their manufacturing.

“We have parts going all over the globe now, the business is starting to take off and, as electric car sales go through the roof, this is a really exciting time for us.

“The North East used to be renowned worldwide for shipbuilding, with good skilled craftsmen and workers but, as that industry disappeared, those skills have gone.

“As we grow as a business, I personally want to help grow the manufacturing expertise in the North East with high-skilled jobs and put that skillset back into the area in new innovative technology.”

JAMES DIXON

Founder, Lines Behind

“Lines Behind – the lines behind the drawings – is a product company with a graphic element and illustration twist.

“I was working for Lego in the Far East and drew Tokyo one day, put it up in my flat when I got home, and people liked it.

“So I started creating prints of favourite places around Newcastle and the region, and it snowballed.

“Now we have more than 250 designs – mugs, badges, cushions, towels, you name it – mainly with a North East or Geordie twist.

“The work in the last year has been mainly interiors and murals for office refits as people went back to work.

“We have work in Bristol, Brighton and Birmingham in the new year, and we’re looking towards other areas and new exciting, massive projects to come too; one with a huge worldwide brand.

“We’ve worked with Greggs, Fat Hippo, we’re in Fenwick and John Lewis, and really looking to expand a business that started as a hobby and has taken off to a crazy extent I still cannot believe.”

ABBY LOWE

Guard, Newcastle Eagles

“The club is doing an incredible job reaching out to local people; the men’s games are always sold out and support for the women’s team continues to grow.

“It’s like a little community, I love it. Basketball has given me so many opportunities and I really care about getting girls involved and enjoying the game.

“We beat Leicester in early December to reach the Womens’ British Basketball League Trophy Final, which takes place at the end of this month.

“It’s going to be tough against London Lions – who beat us in the final last year – but it’s something to really look forward to.

“I played for Team GB’s under-23 3×3 team in the summer, in Israel, but sadly got COVID-19 and missed the second part of the tournament in France.

“I was also called up for the seniors’ squad for the finals in front of the Eiffel Tower, mainly for the experience, and it was incredible.

“It will be really tough to get in the sport’s first-ever GB squad, but it would be amazing to be a part of the olympics.”

DR SAM WHITEHOUSE

Chief executive, LightOx

“LightOx is a four-year spin-out from Durham University.

“The research was sponsored by High Force Research, which put the seed development into LightOx to become a drug development company.

“We took the technology, and oral cancer became our market position.

“The drug is like a fluorescent gel, which is applied to a cancerous lesion; you shine a light on it, and it kills the cancer, or stops it developing.

“Currently, there are no alternative treatments for this type of cancer and the only solutions for surgeons are to leave it or cut it out.

“2022 is very exciting because we’ve managed to secure labs in The Biosphere, in Newcastle, with 14 staff, and we are taking the drug into clinical trials in Liverpool.

“We need to manufacture it for those trials, and we are starting to crank up the gears to get around £8 million funding and investment to really push it and bring bigger partners in.”

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