cover art for Beyond the Breakthrough featuring Duncan Johnson

Duncan Johnson, chief executive of Northern Gritstone, is on a mission to turn the north of England into an ecosystem that rivals Silicon Valley. He’s raising £500m to do that (he’s £215m of the way there already) — money that will go not only into spinouts from the firm’s three founding universities (Leeds, Manchester and Sheffield) but into businesses throughout northern England.

He tells us why Northern Gritstone is all about profit with purpose and why that attracted him to the firm, and he ponders the complexities of building an ecosystem that spans multiple cities — ranging from the professionalisation of existing components, like angel networks, to making sure physical infrastructure is in place.

Duncan also reveals his hope that regulations around pension fund investments will finally be updated and discusses how the existence of Oxford Science Enterprises made the case for Northern Gritstone (which could count on the expert advice of OSE’s leadership, as well as that of Cambridge Innovation Capital and IP Group).


Thierry Heles

Thierry Heles is the editor of Global University Venturing, host of the Beyond the Breakthrough interview podcast and responsible for the monthly GUV Gazette (sign up here for free).