Keynote Speakers & Panelists

Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands 

Andy Street was elected as the first Mayor of the West Midlands in May 2017. Andy was re-elected to serve a second term as Mayor in May 2021. The primary function of the role is to chair the West Midlands Combined Authority and brings with it significant powers over transport, housing, skills and jobs.

Before becoming Mayor, Andy combined a career with John Lewis, Britain’s most successful workers’ co-operative, with a host of high-profile economic development roles, working with local and national government.

Starting on the John Lewis graduate scheme, Andy rose through the ranks to become Managing Director, overseeing one of the most successful periods in the company’s history.

He was the Chair of the Greater Birmingham & Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership between 2011 and 2016, helping to build the relationships that have underpinned the economic growth of the region. Additionally, he has been lead non-executive director for the Department for Communities and Local Government as well as a member of the Prime Minister’s Business Advisory Group.

Outside of work, Andy is passionate about the arts, particularly in the West Midlands, having previously served as Vice Chairman of Performances Birmingham Limited, which is responsible for running the City’s Symphony and Town Halls.

In June 2015, Andy was awarded the CBE for services to the national economy. He was named the ‘Most Admired Leader’ of the year by business magazine, Management Today in 2014. He received the ‘President’s award’ from the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce in for his work in the region. He holds three honorary degrees, from Birmingham City University, Aston University and the University of Birmingham.

Professor Aleks Subic, Vice Chancellor, Aston University

Professor Aleks Subic joined Aston University in August 2022 as Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive.  Prior to this he was Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the College of Science, Engineering and Health, and Vice President for Digital Innovation at RMIT in Australia. He also held the position of Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research & Enterprise) at Swinburne University of Technology.

Professor Subic is a recognised global leader in technology and innovation in higher education, leading on Industry 4.0 strategy and digital transformations across the university sector and with industry and governments both in Australia and internationally. He has received a number of prestigious awards for his work, including the Australian Business Innovation Award and the Victorian Manufacturing Hall of Fame Award.

He is a passionate and lifelong advocate for multiculturalism, equity, diversity and inclusion, leading through clear actions and strategic initiatives at enterprise level. These include creating and appointing the first Dean of STEMM Diversity & Inclusion in Australia, establishing Women in STEMM Fellowships and mentoring scheme, Indigenous Research Fellowships, scholarships and internships programs, and creating an innovation precinct with start-up accelerators and industry incubators focused on founders from diverse backgrounds and access.

The Vice-Chancellor works with the executive and senior leadership teams, staff and students at Aston University to create and deliver an outstanding experience for over 20,000 students, and for thousands of SME’s and corporate employers through mutual business and research interests.

Dr. Jonathan Potter, Head of the Entrepreneurship Policy and Analysis Unit, OECD

Jonathan Potter is Head of the Entrepreneurship Policy and Analysis Unit of the OECD Centre for Entrepreneurship, SMEs, Regions and Cities. He directs OECD work streams on policies for entrepreneurial ecosystems and enterprise start-ups and scale-ups and runs the OECD work on inclusive entrepreneurship including policies for youth and women entrepreneurs. He has directed OECD country reviews on SME and entrepreneurship policies in more than 15 countries. He has worked at the OECD since 1997 and holds a PhD from the University of Cambridge.

Pablo Munoz-Roman is Professor of Entrepreneurship, Durham University

Pablo Munoz-Roman is Professor of Entrepreneurship at Durham University, where he also serves as PhD Programme Director and Co-Director of the Durham Enterprise Centre.

In his work, he explores how individuals and communities use entrepreneurial practices to overcome challenging circumstances and create better futures and the idea of impact-in-process, to bring research impact into the core of social science research. He is Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Business Venturing Insights and hold visiting positions at IE Business School in Spain and Universidad del Desarrollo in Chile.

Jane Galsworthy, Managing Director, Oxford Innovation Advice

As Managing Director of Oxford Innovation Advice, Jane Galsworthy champions SMEs and entrepreneurs. For over 20 years, she has led teams in developing and delivering impactful business support programmes that help businesses and economies grow. She has also been instrumental in developing leading business diagnostic tools such as GROWTHmapper®, creating new approaches to delivering high impact support and championing analysis of SME data to inform SME policy development. With a PhD in chemistry and a background in scientific research as well as policy development, she is passionate about innovation. Since November 2022, Jane has additionally been the independent Chair of the Enterprise Research Centre’s Steering Group. Her extensive experience working with businesses, universities and policymakers across the UK, means she is uniquely positioned to provide valuable insights into the business support landscape and the needs of SMEs.

Richard Harpin, Founder and Chairman of HomeServe

Richard is the founder and Chairman of HomeServe, a global consumer services company, which achieved FTSE 100 status before being sold in a take private deal to the Canadian investment firm, Brookfield Asset Management, for £4.1bn. He is a true entrepreneur and his energy for business and creating opportunity is limitless.

Richard was born in Huddersfield, raised in Northumberland (and is a northerner to the core). After attending the Royal Grammar School in Newcastle, he studied economics at York University before spending some of his years in Brand Management at Procter and Gamble and Management Consultancy with Deloitte. Richard also established various small enterprises at a young age including a high fashion earning brand, named Hookers, which used fishing flies and were sold in hair salons around the country.

During four years in Brand Management at Procter and Gamble between 1986 and 1990 and over a year at Deloitte as a Management Consultant, Richard and fellow P&G colleague Jeremy Middleton started a property letting agency in Newcastle. However, running the property letting business highlighted the difficulties in finding good tradesmen when tenants experienced an emergency.

Looking for a backer, Richard and Jeremy took the idea of an emergency plumbing and heating business to all UK water companies. Every company declined, except one – South Staffordshire Water. This led to a joint venture to set up HomeServe in Walsall in April 1993 with Richard as CEO.

Today, HomeServe is one of Britain’s best success stories. Going from losing £500,00 in its first year and near closure, to an international FTSE100 business with over 8.5 million customers and over 9,000 employees worldwide.

In 2015 Richard established Growth Partner to back ambitious entrepreneurs and their businesses and to share the experiences he has had to help accelerate growth for the long term. He invests his own money into fast growth consumer challenger brands, supporting them on a step-change growth journey, inspiring them to think bigger and helping them to exceed their own expectations.

Professor Nola Hewitt-Dundas, Pro-Vice Chancellor, Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, Queen’s Management School, Queen’s University Belfast

A non-executive director to the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Board, Nola is Professor of Innovation Management and Policy at Queen’s University Belfast and a Senior Research Associate with the UK Enterprise Research Centre.

Her research centres on the dynamics of innovation ecosystems with an emphasis on small and medium enterprises, technology adoption and the anchor role of Universities in economic development. Her research has been motivated by the desire to explain regional economic performance, and how this is affected by the innovation ecosystem. She has an extensive publication record in internationally leading journals, has been awarded large research grants throughout her career and recently was appointed to the assessment panel for the UK Research Excellence Framework.

She has worked extensively with businesses and policy makers in the UK, Ireland and internationally, evaluating and advising on how governments can intervene to overcome failures in the market that constrain business growth and innovation. In 2022, she was made a fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences and elected a Fellow of the Irish Academy of Management. Having led transformational change in Queen’s Business School, she was awarded the Institute of Directors (NI) Public Sector Director of the Year award. Since 2020 Nola has been Pro-Vice Chancellor at Queen’s.