The BUSINESSiQ Awards are returning to Ramside Hall on Thursday April 25, with our host Alfie Joey leading the event once again to applaud more groundbreaking people and organisations from across the North East.

This time we are working with a team of leading business organisations who are sponsoring categories to help celebrate success. One of them, Innovation SuperNetwork, will be presenting the award in one of our most vital categories -  Diversity and Inclusion.

The organisation exists to connect businesses in the North East with the opportunities, finance and support needed to innovate and grow, supported by 60 partners, including all five regional universities and high-profile organisations across the public and private sectors.

We spoke to CEO Estelle Blanks to get her view of the event and the amazing region she works in.

  • Why did you decide to support the awards?

"Innovation SuperNetwork supported the New Business category last year and really valued the effort that had gone into celebrating and bringing together businesses across the region. We were so inspired to hear stories about innovative businesses coming out of the North East and Tees Valley. As a non-profit that helps entrepreneurs and business owners to innovate and meet their growth goals, events like the BUSINESSiQ Awards really help to shine a spotlight on the wonderful businesses we interact with every day.

  • Why choose that particular category?

"It’s so important to us that we, as a business community, do more to embed good equality, diversity and inclusion practice. Over the past several years, Innovation SuperNetwork has supported businesses to do this through the delivery of our own EDI training, the development of an EDI toolkit for tech businesses and in our work to support more female-led businesses to secure investment. Innovation happens best when teams are diverse and can draw on a wide spectrum of experience, backgrounds and perspectives.

The Northern Echo: Join us at Ramside Hall Join us at Ramside Hall (Image: Newsquest)

  • Which North East business has particularly impressed you this year? Take a few moments to NOMINATE THEM HERE for one of our awards.

"We will always advocate for more diversity and inclusion in the spaces we influence, so we are delighted to support the Equality and Diversity category at this year’s BUSINESSiQ Awards.

  • What is your opinion of the region’s own success?

"The last few years have been challenging for the North East and Tees Valley, but a continued focus on building on our strengths should help to ensure that we can compete with elsewhere in the UK and beyond. Continued focus and a long-term strategic commitment to sustainable and inclusive economic growth is the only way the region can achieve economic growth that doesn’t leave people behind.

The Northern Echo: What a night we had last year!What a night we had last year! (Image: Newsquest)

"One good example is the continued focus on ensuring our automotive sector can thrive. A combination of public sector commitment, private sector investment, appropriate industry training embedded in FE and HE programmes, and supply chain development has made the region a hotspot for this sector. Similar commitment in other key sectors, like digital, health & life sciences, and energy & net zero technologies, will ensure long-term success and opportunities for people and place.

  • What does 2024 hold for Innovation SuperNetwork?

"This year is set to be a busy and fulfilling year. In 2023 we broadened our portfolio of work, allowing us to support more businesses across the breadth of the North East and Tees Valley with access to finance, access to new markets, and innovation adoption, adaption and development. Many of those projects won last year are mobilising now, one of which is aimed specifically at entrepreneurs and businesses in the Tees Valley to help them secure investment.

"The programme, supported by the Tees Valley Combined Authority UKSPF programme, will ensure more businesses are ready to, and can, access all types of funding from equity investment to grants. Simultaneously we’ll be working to grow and connect the investment ecosystem for the region. It is an ambitious programme, but one that will have a positive impact on the region.


  • We’re adding new sponsors all the time, but there are still just a few opportunities left to work with us, so if you want to be among some of the region’s most effective networking at one of the biggest dates in the business calendar, drop a line to