The Engineering and Manufacturing Network is managed by a board of directors made up of engineering, manufacturing and business experts who each have decades of invaluable experience.

The day to day growth of the organisation falls under the remit of Director of Operations Ben Gilhespy, who is tasked with raising the profile of EMN and growing its membership base.

Read about the team’s individual successes and experience below…


Having spent his career in the automotive sector working with some of the largest suppliers David is now using his extensive experience being actively involved with many business groups helping promote and support the growth of manufacturing in the North East.

David is Chairman for EMN and also a business board member of the local enterprise partnership, as well as supporting the regions 1st UTC. David is also a strong supporter of getting young people in our region into engineering.


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Director of Operations

Prior to joining EMN, Ben worked for 12 years at one of the region’s primary environmental and metallurgical consultancies. Following its acquisition by SGS, the world’s leading inspection, verification and testing business, he remained for a 3 further years as the National Commercial Manager responsible for account management, contracts, growth and performance.

Employed at a senior management level, Ben was able to establish a strong reputation and extensive links within the business community. He has a knowledge of multiple sectors, including engineering and manufacturing, which he fully utilises in his role at EMN.

EMN is a delivery partner in the Durham Business Opportunities Programme. Ben, through his work with EMN, will take the lead on engagement with SMEs in the engineering and manufacturing sector and on identifying potential market opportunities in that sector. The Durham Business Opportunities Programme is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).


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Board Member

Paul is a director of two leading companies – regional manufacturing firm Hiatco and international events and communications agency Pink Buddha.

Paul has strong links with EMN and is a key driver in developing and maintaining relationships with engineering and manufacturing companies across the region. He is also responsible for the organisation of EMCON, the network’s flagship networking event which takes place each October at the Xcel Centre in Newton Aycliffe.


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Board Member

Sarah Slaven is Business Development Director at Business Durham – a supporter of The Engineering & Manufacturing Network and EMCON event since their conception.

Sarah is responsible for promoting enterprise, fostering the environment for new businesses to start up, and enabling businesses in the county to develop and grow.



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Board Member

Richard brings a wealth of financial experience to the EMN table, having worked in the sector for more than 13 years.

As finance director at Dyer Engineering, Richard provides the EMN board with critical financial guidance and control. He has previously gained experience as European head of finance at Formica Corp and as a director at Grange Interiors.


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Board Member

With and a career spanning over 40 years, and as owner of The Bignall Group, John brings broad and vast knowledge to EMN through his involvement in the manufacturing and engineering sectors.

John has built and established a range of successful businesses, enabling him to provide EMN and its members with a strategic and common sense approach.


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Board Member

Kerina joined EMN board in 2016. As Managing Director of the Xcel Centre she has experience in a variety of businesses within the service sector as well as a previous career in the banking sector.

She is actively involved in the local business community and is chair of Aycliffe Business Park Ltd, a company set up to facilitate growth and support for the 500 companies based on the park.


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Board Member

Julie joined the EMN board in 2018.  She currently works at Octo Design, the North East’s leading Industrial Design & Innovation consultancy.  Prior to that, she owned and ran a successful moulding and tooling company.

Her 25 years of experience across Manufacturing and Design has given her an insight into the needs of hundreds of businesses of all sectors and sizes.

As a serial networker, she understands the importance of a fused business community and as 96% of all businesses in the UK have fewer than 10 employees, believes that there is huge potential for SMEs to engage and work with each other to create larger, more compelling market offers.


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Kaye Collins
Network Manager

Kaye joined EMN in 2019 and has brought with her a wealth of commercial sales experience, coupled with a strong academic background in marketing.
Her exhaustive experience in supporting manufacturers in their business development plans and economic growth adds a new dynamic to the network. Kaye has worked on initiatives such as Manufacturing Growth Programme, providing strategy and direction for engineering and manufacturing businesses in the north east.
Working alongside our director of operations, Kaye works on the network activities and is a daily point of contact for our businesses. Kaye oversees the running of our flagship event EMCON and other business event iniatives.
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