Meeting the women behind the scenes on International Women’s Day

Lizzie Withington

Many Northern Accelerator spin-out companies have great women at their helm, including academic founders and CEOs who identify as female. On International Women’s Day 2021 we celebrated just a few of those, including Professor Ritu Kataky and Dr Martina Miotto. 

This year, we’re shining a spotlight on some of the many women who drive Northern Accelerator and research commercialisation across our partner universities. We’re meeting some of the people who play an integral part in helping academics take their ideas from the lab to a real-world commercial prospect, and go on to support spin-outs through their start-up phase, as well as those who manage projects and funding to enable Northern Accelerator and other economic development programmes to continue successfully. 


Lizzie Withington, Company Creation Manager at Newcastle University

Lizzie is instrumental in the start-up of spin-out companies at Newcastle University, navigating the processes involved and the intricate relationship between academic founders and management teams through Executives into Business.

Lizzie has managed and led companies and has a passion for start up businesses. She loves supporting researchers, businesses and organisations  to turn their aspirations into plans and solutions that endeavour to change the world.

Lizzie is also an Associate Lecturer in Innovation and Entrepreneurship,  teaching postgraduate students in the Business School and Faculty of Science, Agriculture and Engineering.

Profile photo of Lizzie Withington Company Creation Manager at Newcastle University

Dr Chelsea Brain, IP Commercialisation Manager at Northumbria University

Chelsea works with academics across all fields to commercialise their ideas and discoveries; including supporting the creation of spin-out companies such as PulmoBioMed Ltd. 


Chelsea was drawn to technology transfer after inventing a food colouring manufacturing technology as a university research engineer. She supported the journey from discovery, to patent licencing and development to multi-thousand litre production scale, multi-million investment rounds and a now 20-person strong company – seeing first-hand the huge regional benefits in research commercialisation.

Dr Heather Allinson, Senior Technology Transfer manager at Durham University

Heather drives the commercialisation of exciting innovation arising from Durham University’s research base.

She works closely with academics and the investor community to take ideas from disclosure to successful spin-out company creation.

Heather manages a broad patent and IP portfolio, developing commercialisation strategies, protecting IP and negotiating licence deals.

Dr Heather Allinson
Dr Carolyn Horrocks

Dr Carolyn Horrocks, IP Commercialisation Manager at Northumbria University

Carolyn has a strong background in biotech start-ups and draws on this experience to help Northumbria University academics to identify technologies that will address unmet needs and develop into viable businesses. 

Along with Lizzie and Chelsea, Carolyn is a member of Northern Accelerator’s core operational group. 

Jenny Taylor, Head of Economic Development at Durham University

Jenny is responsible for project development and delivery of a number of strategic economic development programmes supporting the economic growth of County Durham and the region. 

Her role spans the whole of the process from project idea formation through to bidding, partnership formation, implementation, compliance and reporting, ensuring programmes maximise the impact they have.

Jenny plays a key role in the governance of Northern Accelerator, and was integral in our successful bid for continued funding from Research England’s Connecting Capability Fund. 

Profile photo of Jenny Taylor

Jordan Christie, Northern Accelerator Marketing Manager

Jordan leads Northern Accelerator’s marketing and communications. She managed the development of Northern Accelerator’s branding, and works to ensure the brand is more than just a logo – with Northern Accelerator recognised as an integral part of the North’s innovation ecosystem. 

Jordan works as part of the core project team, drawing on over 20 years’ of marketing experience. Day to day her work varies from tactical communications activity, to strategic positioning and government briefings, and everything in between. 

Nickola Gray, Strategic Projects and Funding Manager at University of Sunderland 

Nickola works closely with academics to support the development of their commercialisation journey from research feasibility and Proof of Concept through to start up and licensing opportunities, identifying funding, Intellectual Property and managing collaborative relationships with industry. 

Nickola was instrumental in the formation of Sunderland’s first spin-out in a number of years based on research to treat rare genetic diseases.