Gillian Middleton / Innovation Manager

An entrepreneur, training specialist and business adviser, Gillian brings a wealth of skills and hard-earned experience to her role as Innovation Project Manager.

She runs her own business alongside her work on the BIC’s SME Innovation Programme, so knows only too well the challenges of running and growing a company.

Gillian first discovered her thirst for knowledge and passion for training when she enrolled on an evening class to learn how to maintain her family car almost 30 years ago. A formal university degree then led to a career in IT training.

Coaching and innovation combined

Gillian specialised in supporting companies with skills gap training provision in roles with Business Link before moving into business support and development roles with BE Group, Newcastle College and PRIME.

She launched her own coaching business in 2014, which complements her part-time role at the BIC by bringing together her knowledge in development and innovation.

Since joining the SME Innovation Programme, Gillian has helped 150 businesses to access the funding and support provided by the ERDF scheme to help them grow and compete in the market. Her role involves working with businesses to understand what they do, where they want their business to be and how their proposed innovation project fits into their aspirations.

Long-term impact

Gillian supports clients throughout the application process to create the desired impact, handles funding claims and then reviews the project. Her strong working relationships with other support organisations mean she can identify opportunities where others can add value to the business in the longer term.

Gillian’s work to support the launch of skincare range Nursem is just one example of how the team goes above and beyond the original brief to support clients. Nursem approached the Innovation Programme for support to commercialise their product and in the process, Gillian put them in touch with TV programme-makers. This led to prime time TV appearances, including a slot on the BBC’s Dragons’ Den, resulting in five dragons competing to offer them investment.

Gillian considers it a privilege to work on exciting projects that are bringing new processes and products into the world and are creating jobs for the region. The nature of many innovation projects means many details are commercially sensitive and the team regularly signs NDAs (non-disclosure agreements) to legally protect the information.

She says businesses approaching her for the first time can expect to gain a valuable outside perspective on their ideas from someone without an agenda but with plenty of empathy, enthusiasm and experience in other sectors.