THESE are the men and women who will decide how to distribute the North East’s biggest business grant scheme.
Some of the biggest names in the region have put their weight behind The Journal’s Let’s Grow campaign.
It will see £30m handed out to firms over the next two years and to help transform the region’s future by creating at least 3,600 jobs and help companies to realise their potential.
Since the demise of the regional development agency One North East, businesses in this region have seen many sources of funding dry up.
The Regional Growth Fund, which was launched by the Government to help fill the gap, raised £120m for the region last year, the second highest figure allocated to any region, with 29 projects benefiting, representing the most in any area.
But that only provides for larger grant applications.
Projects needing £1m or less were exempt until our campaign represented them collectively. Last year it landed a £30m pot which it will hand out by 2015 to companies looking for between £50,000 and around £1m.
Neville Bearpark, partner at accountancy UNW who worked with The Journal to develop the campaign, welcomed the depth and variety of the panel.
He said: “This is the biggest grant programme in the North East.
“We have around the same amount of money as One North East did to hand out and we will be the first Round 3 Regional Growth Fund to launch in the country.
“I am delighted we have such a strong panel which includes entrepreneurs, experienced businesspeople and representatives from across the region.
“There is a really broad range of experience here.
“We will be looking for strong applications and focusing on manufacturers and those who service them who want to expand and create jobs.
“This will hopefully help to unlock a lot more funding.”
The campaign is also backed by BE-Group, Northumbria and Teesside universities and the North East LEP and Tees Valley Unlimited as well as the region’s 12 local authorities who have each pledged cash to the project.
The investment panel will be chaired by former Northumbrian Water chief executive John Cuthbert and includes figures from across the private sector.
It includes leaders such as Nigel Mills, chairman of the Entrepreneurs’ Forum; Nicki Clark, chief operating officer of BE-Group; Andrew Sugden, head of external engagement at Northumbria University; Alistair Thomson, dean of Teesside Business School; Ian Richards of venture capitalist North Star; and Journal editor Brian Aitken.
Also on board are company bosses Gill Southern of Wessington Cryogenics; Andrew Esson of Quick Hydraulics; Keith Hanson of Fine Organics; and Darren Jobling of Eutechnyx.
There will also be Ed Twiddy, chief executive of NE LEP, and Stephen Catchpole, managing director of Tees Valley Unlimited.
It will run as a series of quarterly competitions in The Journal and the Evening Gazette in Middlesbrough, with the first launched on February 25.
The grants given will support capital growth or research and development which will create or safeguard jobs and makes the RGF available to smaller businesses which would otherwise be left out.
Applications will be through the Journal and Gazette websites.