Two of the UK’s most respected business leaders have joined the senior management team of the new investment company designed to maximise the impact and commercialisation of university research and development in the north of England.

Lord Jim O’Neill and Duncan Johnson will serve respectively as Non-Executive Chairman and Chief Executive of Northern Gritstone, founded by the Universities of Leeds, Manchester and Sheffield to facilitate the commercialisation of university science and technology-related Intellectual Property in the north of England.

Lord O’Neill will assume key responsibilities helping to establish the exciting future for Northern Gritstone.

He has been immersed in many matters related to the Northern Powerhouse in recent years, having Chaired the Cities Growth Commission in 2013-14, and going on to help the government implement its Northern Powerhouse strategy as Commercial Secretary to the Treasury in 2015-16. He is currently Vice-Chair of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership.

Lord O’Neill has nearly 40 years’ experience in capital markets and financial services, being best known for his near 20 years as a partner at Goldman Sachs, where he was Chairman of GSAM, after previously being the firm’s Chief Economist.

Duncan Johnson joins Northern Gritstone as Chief Executive Officer from Caledonia Investments, the FTSE 250-listed investment trust, where he was Head of Caledonia Private Capital for the past decade. Prior to this, Duncan was a Founding Partner at RJD Partners, a lower and mid-market UK private equity fund manager.

Lord O’Neill, Chairman, Northern Gritstone, said:

“From the Industrial Revolution through to the early Digital Revolution, the North has helped to power our nation’s history. Gritstone’s mission is to take this one step further and unlock the huge commercial opportunity of our science and technology capabilities.

“For many years, while the region has often been a leader in new inventions – from Healthtech to Artificial Intelligence and Analytics, Advanced Manufacturing, Life and Biosciences – it has yet to progress these into larger, successful businesses, employing more people in higher paying jobs. Universities in the North, historically, have raised only a fraction of the funding achieved by others. More long-term capital to help foster and develop emerging technologies is at the centre of what is needed to determine long-term success for the Northern Powerhouse.

I am a passionate believer that the North needs to boost its productivity, helping the country to achieve a stronger trend rate of sustainable growth, and one that is more equitable and inclusive of more regions. The concept and ambition of Gritstone sits firmly with much of what I have tried to encourage in recent years, and its introduction should help further the momentum emerging in the north of England. Our ambition is to act, in partnership with the Founding Universities, as a powerful catalyst for innovation to help drive a new era of commercial success across the North.”

Duncan Johnson, Chief Executive, Northern Gritstone, said:

“I am honoured and delighted to be leading Northern Gritstone. Our ambition is to drive returns by establishing a world leading ecosystem of support and funding, built upon the concepts and inventions that the Founding Universities and the Company’s other partners, have developed.

“I have been particularly impressed with how the firm has brought together a highly experienced team which blends deep investment management with business building expertise, all united by a core belief that profitable organisations delivering top quartile returns to shareholders should have a wider societal purpose.

“Jim and I will be working closely together to grow Northern Gritstone’s origination platform and build on our long-term partnerships with the Founding Universities to deliver the latent potential that so evidently exists.

“The current strong pipeline of academic spin-outs provides a unique opportunity for investors to support and participate in the substantial growth of IP rich companies in the North.”

Commenting on the appointment of the leadership team, Professor Simone Buitendijk, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leeds, Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, GM LEP board member and President & Vice-Chancellor of the University of Manchester and Professor Koen Lamberts, President & Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sheffield said:

“We are excited to have created Northern Gritstone. The investment it is attracting will transform our capacity to develop – at pace – our pipeline of excellent spin-out opportunities for the benefit of the Northern Powerhouse economy.

“To be able to attract such a high-quality leadership team is testament to the strong track record of our universities as engines of innovation – by collaborating and commercialising our world-class research we can create real impact and tackle global challenges. We welcome Jim and Duncan on board and look forward to great success over the coming years.”

The University of Manchester

The University of Manchester