About

Ellen Thinnesen

Ellen Thinnesen

Chair, Sunderland Business Partnership & Chief Executive, Education Partnership North East

Our partnership aims to unlock the vast potential that exists in the city.

It is a business community united, championing the city and challenging Sunderland to be more ambitious, formed by some of the most successful businesses and organisations in and around the city.

Together, we have successfully created and campaigned to re-elect a Business Improvement District, act as a private sector sounding board and champion for projects like Riverside Sunderland and IAMP, played a leading role in developing the Sunderland Enterprise Growth Hub, Hope Street Xchange, and we’re fully behind the rebirth of our seaside offer at Seaburn and Roker beaches.

We are a partnership created for anyone who shares a passion to celebrate and promote everything that can inspire Sunderland to become a vibrant place in which to live, work, study and play… and while we have achieved much, there remains much more to be done.

Partner up

Add your name and that of your business to the growing army of companies and individuals signing up to Sunderland Business Partnership. Become a Platinum, Gold or Silver member of the Partnership scheme, by completing the form below:

Grame Miller

“Sunderland Business Partnership provides a bridge between sectors, public bodies and education and a forum for ideas and ambition to be shared and supported. The partnership puts all members on an equal footing and ensures, more than ever before, that private companies and public bodies are united in their aspirations to enhance Sunderland and help it blossom into a truly modern, prosperous and vibrant city.”

Cllr Graeme Miller, Leader of Sunderland City Council

Try before you buy

Why not come along to Sunderland Business Partnership to see if it’s for you? We meet (virtually!) most months and you’re more than welcome to try a taster session before signing up. Please get in touch if you’d like to arrange attendance.

Meet the board

Phil Moir

Phil Moir

Richard Reed Solicitors

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Phil qualified as a Solicitor in 2006 and joined Richard Reed Solicitors in 2008. Phil was made Partner in November 2011 and thereafter became a Director of the firm in November 2012 when Richard Reed Ltd was incorporated. Phil specialises in both Dispute Resolution and Company and Commercial work.

Phil joined the board as a Director of the Sunderland Business Group on the 11th September 2019 with a view of helping and assisting with the promotion of Sunderland Businesses and the City generally.

Jamie Martin

Jamie Martin

Ward Hadaway

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Jamie is a leading figure in North-East business.

He was the Managing Partner of the firm from 1998 – 2018, overseeing the growth of Ward Hadaway into a Top 100 law firm and was appointed the firm’s Senior Partner in May 2018. Under his stewardship turnover grew from £6 million to £36 million and staff numbers from 160 to over 450. The firm now has offices in Newcastle, Leeds and Manchester.

Jamie is a past Regional Chairman of the CBI in the North East and was a member of the CBI Regional Council until 2018. He was Chairman of NCG (Newcastle College Group) between 2006 and 2017 helping to build it into one of the UK’s largest and most successful Educational Providers. Jamie is a past member of the Board of the Community Foundation serving Tyne and Wear and Northumberland and past chair of Sunderland AFC Foundation’s Development Committee and was Chair of NewcastleGateshead Initiative for six years retiring from that role in 2013. Jamie is currently the Chairman of The Northumberland Golf Club.

He was awarded an OBE for Services to Business in the North East in the New Year Honours list in 2008. A Fellow of the Institute of Directors, he is involved in a number of other business and charitable organisations.

He is currently responsible for the firms programmes in Risk Management, Compliance and Responsible Business. He Chairs the Firms Partnership Board.  Jamie is also responsible for the Firms insurance arrangements.

Giles McCourt

Giles McCourt

Muckle LLP

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Sunderland born and bred, Giles is invested, both personally and professionally, in our City. He is a legal property specialist and Associate at leading North East law firm Muckle LLP, acting for landowners, developers, investors and occupiers in a diverse range of industries, including hospitality and leisure. He has a passion helping others and is Vice Chair and Trustee of The Tiny Lives Trust.

Since joining the SBP board in 2018, Giles has been supporting many members with their legal requirements. He does this by providing clear, practical and responsive advice, together with the support from the wider Muckle team, helping Sunderland businesses including Hays Travel, Gentoo, Arriva, Foundation of Light, and various significant Sunderland property developers grow and succeed.

Sharon Appleby

Sharon Appleby

Sunderland Business Improvement District

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Sharon is Chief Executive of Sunderland Business Improvement District (BID) and not only works closely with businesses and organisations across the city but is also actively involved in shaping BIDs nationwide as part of the British BIDS Advisory Board.

She has worked in Sunderland for more than 20 years so has an unparalleled understanding of the area, and that experience – coupled with a real passion for her job – means she’s perfectly placed to help drive the city to achieve its aims and fulfil its ambitions.

Patrick Melia

Patrick Melia

Sunderland City Council

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Patrick is chief executive of Sunderland City Council, having previously led the transformation of North Tyneside Council.

He is driven by a desire to ensure the delivery of high-quality services that enable residents in Sunderland to access opportunities and live healthy, happy and independently economic lives, safely in their communities.

He is committed to leading a significant change programme within the City Council to make Sunderland a great place for residents to live, business to thrive and for visitors to enjoy, and understands that strong partnerships across the public, business and voluntary and community sectors, with everyone working to a common goal, are fundamental to this.

Louise Kennedy

Louise Kennedy

Oculus HR

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Louise established Oculus HR in 2013, which provides a comprehensive suite of bespoke HR solutions for businesses in the North East and across the country. As well as being a member of the Sunderland Business Partnership board, Sunderland Football Club’s In Business, a multi-academy trust for Fulwell Infants School, she is also on the governing body of Monkwearmouth Academy.

Passionate about HR and people, she also runs workshops and master classes for clients and their employees, taking great pride in supporting and giving back to the community.

Whether it’s developing contracts and terms of employment, or working with a business to create its vision and values, Louise can help businesses with all of their HR requirements.

Karen Eve

Karen Eve

The Bridges

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Karen is an accomplished and award-winning business professional, who leads the Bridges shopping centre in Sunderland, home to over 90 trading retail businesses and two large car park facilities.

Passionate about the North East, having grown up in Teesside, Karen enjoys collaborating with like-minded people and city stakeholders to help shape the future of retail property and city developments. She considers this to be a fundamental responsibility, playing a significant role in developing the region.

As well as her current role with the Bridges and Sunderland Business Partnership, she is also a director with Sunderland Business Improvement District (BID) and an active participant with REVO.

Ellen Thinnesen

Ellen Thinnesen

Education Partnership North East

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An inspiring leader who has transformed post-16 education across the North East, Ellen is Chief Executive of Education Partnership North East a partnership between Sunderland College, Hartlepool Sixth Form and Northumberland College.

Beginning her career as a qualified nurse, Ellen has previously held high profile positions within the education sector in Manchester and the Yorkshire and Humber regions.

In her previous role as Principal and Chief Executive of Sunderland College, her ambitious vision led the college through two highly successful mergers, which have produced one of the largest college groups in the country.

Ellen has held numerous board positions in the education and not-for-profit sectors in the North East and beyond. She continues to contribute nationally to influence education policy and reform and is passionate about making a difference and raising aspirations. In 2021, she was awarded an OBE for her outstanding contribution to education in the region.

Mark Catterall

Mark Catterall

Smart Outdoor

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Mark Catterall founded fast-growing OOH advertising business Smart Outdoor in 2019. He has a passion for pushing the boundaries of what is possible in this ever-changing industry.

Mark recognised the potential of innovative software to make advertising campaigns highly targeted and extremely effective. Thus, he became an early adopter of this exciting new digital technology.

Mark personally head hunted the best in the business to join his growing team and is passionate about delivering a high level of attention and expertise.

The business is based in Sunderland, a city Mark is proud to call home, and where many of Smart’s digital screens serve.

Steve Knight

Steve Knight

University of Sunderland

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Steve is responsible for the University’s professional and support services and for leading and developing key strategies to ensure activities are aligned to deliver the highest standards of student experience, quality and cost-effectiveness across the institution.  He leads on the planning for long-term financial sustainability, including overall responsibility for compliance within the university and for ensuring that the university operates within the higher education regulatory framework.  He also leads on Management Information and Data quality, Continuous Improvement and Change and the Digital 1st programme.

Steve has responsibility for the executive management and oversight of the University in Sunderland in London Campus.  He is currently a Director of Sunderland Culture Limited and a Director of Sunderland Business Limited.  He is also a Director of six university trading companies including both the London and Hong Kong Campus operations.

Steve joined the University from the Kier Group where he was employed as the Director of Education.  Previous to this he was a Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Middlesex University where he led on institutional strategies including transformational change management, major capital investments and infrastructure projects, business process improvements and organisational performance.  Prior to Middlesex, Steve had a career in the Royal Air Force and the Ministry of Defence.

Steve has a Master’s degree from Kings College London.  He is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and a Fellow of the Chartered Management Institute.