Northern Gritstone announces leadership team


Northern Gritstone, a new investment company founded by the Universities of Leeds, Manchester and Sheffield, has appointed Lord Jim O’Neill as Non-Executive Chairman and Duncan Johnson as CEO.

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, having chaired the Cities Growth Commission in 2013-14, going on to help the government implement its Northern Powerhouse strategy as Commercial Secretary to the Treasury in 2015-16.

Currently Vice-Chair of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, Lord O’Neil 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, having served as its 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, he was a founding partner at RJD Partners, a lower and mid-market UK private equity fund manager.

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.

Lord O'Neill, Northern Gritstone Non-Executive Chairman

Lord O’Neill 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, Northern Gritstone’s new Chief Executive, 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, 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.”

Alex Macpherson and Andrew Graham have both been appointed as independent non-executive directors. Russell Schofield-Bezer, who has acted as a consultant to Northern Gritstone for the past 12 months, has been appointed as Chief Operating Officer.

Further information

Northern Gritstone is a ground-breaking new investment company based in the north of England, founded by the Universities of Leeds, Manchester and Sheffield, three of the UK’s leading educational research establishments.
It intends to be one of the largest investors into academic spin-outs in the UK dedicated to financing companies in some of the UK’s fastest growing sectors such as advanced materials, energy, health technology and cognitive computation.

The Universities of Leeds, Manchester and Sheffield are renowned education and research institutions that have built a strong reputation for innovation across multiple sectors for nearly 200 years. Each University is a trusted long-term strategic partner to many of the world’s best-known businesses across multiple industry sectors.

Combined, the universities share a talent pool of over 8,400 dedicated researchers, 11,000 academic staff, and 33,000 postgraduate students and generate an annual income of over £2.6 billion. They have been the home to 38 Nobel Prize winners and continue to host some of the UK’s leading research institutes developing new insights and solutions into business development and sustainable growth.
In total, the founding universities produce one in 11 of all patents and one in five of every IP licence filed by Higher Education institutes in the UK and are number one ranked by research income.

About Lord O’Neill

Lord Jim O’Neill is the former Chief Economist, Goldman Sachs (2001-2013) and Chairman, Goldman Sachs Asset Management (2010-2013). From 2015, Jim served as a government minister having responsibility for championing the Northern Powerhouse and the focus on driving innovation to the North of England. Jim remains deputy chairman of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership. Jim is an alumus of the University of Sheffield as well as being an Honorary Professor of Economics at the University of Manchester.

About Duncan Johnson

From 2011-2021 Duncan Johnson was the Head of Caledonia Private Capital, the private capital arm of Caledonia Investments plc (Ticker: CLDN), a FTSE 250 listed investment trust. Prior to leading Caledonia Private Capital, Duncan was a founding partner at RJD Partners, a lower mid-market UK private equity fund manager. He started his investment career at Royal Bank Development Capital, having trained as a chartered accountant with the insolvency arm of PwC. Duncan is also currently a non-executive director of Northern Trust (Guernsey) Limited, the Channel Islands banking subsidiary of the Northern Trust Corporation (NASDAQ: NTRS).

For further information, please contact:
Duncan Johnson, CEO: or Headland (PR advisers to Northern Gritstone): Lucy Legh / Viktor Tsvetanov via or 020 3805 4822.