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Business experts confirmed for free intensive leadership course for North East SMEs

4th September 2015

Categories: Latest News

Business experts have been brought in to lead cafe conversation workshops, part of a free intensive leadership course for North East SMEs delivered by Invest Newcastle and Common Purpose on the 16 & 17 September. 

Dianne Sharp, Chief Executive Officer for manufacturing firm EBAC, Mark Dobson, Chief Executive Officer Tyneside Cinema, and John Devitt, Managing Director at Counted4 will host the cafe conversations working with small groups of attendees to share leadership experiences and discuss how innovation can help achieve their ambitions for business growth.

The business experts come from a variety of backgrounds and sectors providing a variety of knowledge with Dianne Sharp previously holding the role of regional director of the CBI. Sharp has also held senior leadership positions with SCM Pharma and Mechetronics. Mark Dobson has 15 years of experience leading Tyneside Cinema through a significant period of growth and regeneration and John Devitt leads a specialist health and addiction service.

Joanne McKenna, Director of Finance Northern Stage, who attended the previous innovation and leadership event said: “The event was a great opportunity to hear first-hand from brilliant and interesting speakers. The talks really made me think differently about innovation and leadership giving me a variety of skills which I can apply to the workplace going forward.”

In addition to Lucy Armstrong, Chief Executive Officer, The Alchemists and Hans Moller, Innovation Director with the North East LEP, Pete Watson, Chief Executive Officer, Atlas Cloud, a leading provider of cloud IT services based in Newcastle upon Tyne, will also be giving a keynote at the event sharing his experiences of growing a business through innovation.

Watson has a high level of knowledge surrounding the SME sector. Prior to his role at Atlas Cloud he owned Sherpa, a boutique early stage business development consultancy, specialising in the technology sector. Sherpa has a hands on approach to building early stage companies. Their primary services are fundraising, sales and strategy. Watson also spent three years mentoring for Ignite100, a mentor lead acceleration programme for entrepreneurs.

The course will include off-site learning visits; with three industry leading organisations; Nestle, SMD and Greggs. The practical activities have been designed to help decision makers improve leadership thinking, build networks and share expertise with regional peers as well as focus their thinking around the challenge of innovation.

The Innovation: Building your Leadership Ambition course is part-financed by the European Regional Development Fund for 2007-13.

For more information and to register, visit:


For media enquiries contact:
Becky Beaumont,
Media and PR Executive at NewcastleGateshead Initiative
0191 440 5728

Notes to editors

  • Invest Newcastle is a service delivered by NewcastleGateshead Initiative on behalf of Newcastle, to attract and secure new investment and jobs for the city. 
  • To achieve this, NewcastleGateshead Initiative’s inward investment team delivers highly targeted activity and provides a range of services for potential and existing investors. The service is bespoke, led by client needs and has delivered significant results to date.
  • Since its inception the inward investment team has secured 42 new investments; creating 1134 jobs, safeguarding 994 jobs and is actively working with a further 162 businesses to bring investment to the area.
  • NewcastleGateshead Initiative is a destination management and marketing agency; a public-private partnership supported by Gateshead and Newcastle City Councils, working with around 170 private sector partner organisations across NewcastleGateshead and the wider region to deliver economic growth.
  • The Supporting Business Growth and Attracting Investment to NewcastleGateshead and the North East project is part financed by the North East England Competitiveness European Regional Development Fund Programme 2007 to 2013. The Department for Communities and Local Government is the managing authority for the European Regional Development Fund Programme, which is one of the funds established by the European Commission to help local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support local businesses and create jobs. For more information visit

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