Our Board

Liam Askins

Head of West Midlands Area team, Cities and Local Growth Unit: Government’s Local Growth Team - a partnership between the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities

Liam has nearly a decade of experience in national Government, working at the heart of a number of departments in policy and strategy roles.

Read more about Liam Askins

The West Midlands area team’s mission is to:

  • Work collaboratively with key partners in local areas in the West Midlands region and across central Government on Local Growth and Levelling Up opportunities, including devolution.
  • Help connect national policy making and programmes with places.
  • Based on a real understanding of local issues and opportunities, the team plays a critical function empowering decision-making in local areas and ensuring central Government decision-making is informed and shaped by local insight.
  • We innovate, collaborate and challenge with a clear understanding of both the local and central Government contexts.

Professor Julian Beer

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Birmingham City University

Julian is Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research, Innovation and Enterprise) at Birmingham City University (BCU).


Read more about Julian Beer

Julian is Professor of Knowledge Transfer at BCU and an Emeritus Professor at Plymouth University and a Visiting Professor at BML Munjal University, India and a Visiting professor at LP University in India.

He received the Amity University India Excellence Award for his contribution to international academia in 2020. He is a founding Member of the Institute of Knowledge Transfer and a Fellow of the Institute of Innovation and Knowledge Exchange as well as, a longstanding member of the British Sociological Association.

He has an extensive track record in designing, developing and leading flagship programmes, projects and partnerships to unlock capital and revenue and connect innovation and talent, and engage Higher Education as a catalyst for change and growth positioning universities as “anchor” institutions internationally, nationally and in regional economies. 

Julian Beer

Henrietta Brealey

CEO, Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce

Henrietta is CEO of the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce. The GBCC is a not for profit business membership and support organisation that exists to Connect, Support & Grow local businesses. At age 30, she is the youngest CEO in the organisation’s 208 year history.

Read more about Henrietta Brealey

Prior to becoming CEO in 2021, Henrietta was Director of Policy & Strategic Relationships leading the GBCC’s research, policy, stakeholder engagement and campaigns activity as well as management of the GBCC’s top tier of membership: the Patronage group. Henrietta was appointed to the role in 2015. In 2018, she was appointed to the GBCC Board as an executive director. In 2019 she was named as one of Birmingham Live’s Brum 30 Under 30. Outside of work, she is a Trustee of the University of Birmingham’s Guild of Students and a graduate and supporter of the UpRising Leadership Programme. 

Find out more about the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce.

Richard Brooks

Director of Strategy, Equality and Partnerships, Birmingham City Council

Richard joined Birmingham City Council in November 2021 to lead the new Strategy, Equality and Partnerships Directorate. He has established new capability in the council for generating insight, developing strategic thinking, citizen engagement and partnership working. 

Read more about Richard Brooks

His Directorate works with other services to improve outcomes for citizens, and to promote equality and inclusion across the city. In November 2022 he launched the Birmingham City Observatory, and he leads the council’s response to the Cost of Living Crisis.

Before joining BCC, Richard worked on a wide range of policy, strategy, research, and public service delivery challenges at local, national and international level. He was Senior Adviser to the Secretary of State for Education, then Director of Strategy at Ofsted, and subsequently developed and implemented programmes of educational reform in South Africa and Uganda.

Richard has published extensively on poverty and welfare reform, public service improvement, education, economics and employment.

Richard Brooks

Henriette Breukelaar

Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership

Henriette Breukelaar is Chief Executive at the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership. 

Read more about Henriette Breukelaar

She leads the GBSLEP team in delivering inclusive and sustainable economic growth for the benefit of all those who work, live and visit the city-region. GBSLEP does so by providing functions including business support, skills and employment support, cluster and sector development, and place-making. The GBSLEP also manages the Birmingham Enterprise Zone, accelerating the development of the city centre area for the benefit of the wider economy.

Prior to joining GBSLEP, Henriette was Executive Director at ExtraCare Charitable Trust, the UK’s leading charity in developing and operating retirement communities.

Henriette has worked in a range of senior functions including at the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, Innovation Birmingham, Regional Development Agency Advantage West Midlands, and the West Midlands Local Government Association.

Henriette Breukelaar

Si Chun Lam

Head of Research, Intelligence, and Inclusive Growth at West Midlands Combined Authority 

Si Chun is the Head of Research, Intelligence, and Inclusive Growth at the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), tasked with bringing together the research and intelligence expertise across the West Midlands to build a better connected, more prosperous, fairer, greener and healthier West Midlands. 

Read more about Si Chun Lam

Before joining the WMCA, Si Chun worked for Coventry City Council in a variety of roles, most recently, leading Coventry’s research, insight, and intelligence function. In this role, Si Chun transformed the Council’s approach to insight, analysis, and data through the development of a citywide intelligence hub and a ‘One Coventry’ approach to performance management. Through nurturing partnerships with local universities, Si Chun championed the development of a flourishing research and intelligence ecosystem in the city.  

Si Chun has contributed to the national conversation on the power of research and intelligence to make a positive impact on our society. Outside of paid employment, Si Chun is part of the Economy of Francesco, a global movement of economists, entrepreneurs and change-makers working to create an economy that works for everyone, with nobody left behind.  

si chun lam

Paula Deas

Deputy Chief Executive at Coventry & Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership

She has extensive senior management experience in creating and implementing economic strategies, inward investment, skills initiatives, and large-scale projects.

Read more about Paula Deas

Paula is experienced in setting up and running private/public sector partnerships with specific expertise in economic development and growth; listening to business and stakeholder views and bringing talented teams together to create a more dynamic and resilient economy, collaborating between private; public and education sectors.

Find out more about Coventry & Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership.

Paula Deas profile picture

Delma Dwight

Director of The Economic Intelligence Unit & Director of Midlands Engine Observatory 

Delma Dwight has been pioneering the development, implementation and leadership of an evidence-based approach to policy and strategy development across the Midlands for over 20 years. 

Read more about Delma Dwight

Delma was educated in Ireland and holds a First-Class Honours degree (Batchelors) in Commerce from University College Galway and an Honours Masters (MA) in Economics from University College Dublin and holds a Visiting Professorship with the University of Wolverhampton.

Delma established The Economic Intelligence Unit in 2002 and has been the Director of the Economic Intelligence for the last 20 years, alongside Director of the Midlands Engine Observatory since 2021. She utilises her excellent analytical abilities to translate complex information into meaningful messages and concise reports in order to support evidence-based debate at Strategic Board Level.

Find out more about The Economic Intelligence Unit and Midlands Engine Observatory.

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Steve Hickman

Partner, KPMG

Steve is a Partner at KPMG and leads the Private Enterprise practice in the Midlands, working with family owned, private equity backed and entrepreneur-led companies across KPMG’s service lines. Steve personally leads KPMG’s relationship with a number of the region’s leading businesses. 

Read more about Steve Hickman

Steve is an experienced Board advisor and, prior to his current role, he worked on over 100 transactions in the UK and overseas across public and private debt and equity markets. Steve has experience across a range of sectors including real estate, TMT, healthcare, consumer, manufacturing and business services. 

Steve has authored thought leadership for KPMG including The Road to Exit, a guide for entrepreneurs and management teams on how to plan for and maximise the value from a transaction; and Going Global, a guide for companies on how to pursue overseas expansion and optimise their international footprint.

Find out more about KPMG.

Dr David Jarvis

Deputy Director, Centre for Business in Society at Coventry University

Dr David Jarvis is Deputy Director of the Centre for Business in Society (CBiS) at Coventry University. He has twenty years’ post-PhD experience as a professional researcher and research leader in both commercial and higher education settings. 

Read more about David Jarvis

During this period, David has delivered successfully more than 70 research, consultancy and evaluation assignments for clients across the public, private and charitable sectors. These have included multi-national corporate clients, the European Union, UK central government, local and regional government, non-departmental public agencies and voluntary and community sector organisations. David’s priority is applied impactful research which makes meaningful connections between academe, policy and practice. His persistent focus on various dimensions of local and regional economic change is wrought of personal experience of deindustrialisation and includes a particular interest in both the automotive industry – its renaissance, transformation and low-carbon transition – and transport, especially the ways in which mobility shapes places, economies and communities.

Find out more about Centre for Business in Society.

Maria P Machancoses

Midlands Connect Programme Director

With a degree in Law and an MSc in International Transport, Maria has spent the last 20 years working in the UK. 

Read more about Maria P Machancoses

Maria is currently Director for Midlands Connect, one of the largest and most successful partnership programmes in the country bringing together 23 Local Authorities and 9 Local Enterprise Partnerships across the Midlands from the Marches to the Wash.

In March 2017 the partnership published a 25 year pan-Midlands transport strategy for the region, therefore increasing economic activity and helping to power the Midlands Engine. Since its formation the partnership has secured over £17m support from government to accelerate the delivery of its transport priorities from 2020 and beyond.

More recently Maria has been working as Interim Director of the Midlands Engine, a partnership which aims to generate a step change in productivity, economic growth in the Midlands and help drive Britain’s post-Brexit growth.

As part of her previous role, Maria managed the WM Integrated Transport Authority’s input into the HS2 Hybrid Bill and was actively involved in master-planning activities around proposed HS2 Stations in the West Midlands.


Silke Machold

Dean of Research and Professor of Corporate Governance, University of Wolverhampton

Silke is a Fellow of the European Academy of Management, where she previously served as Vice-President for Governance. She was a Visiting Professor at D’Annunzio University of Chieti-Pescara, Italy, and the Holy Spirit University of Kaslik, Lebanon. 

Read more about Silke Machold

Silke's research interests are in board processes, behaviours and feminist perspectives on corporate governance, and she has published widely on these topics. She was the principal supervisor for a H2020 Marie Sklodowska-Curie fellowship on governance in SMEs (2017-2019) and PI of an EU Justice Department funded project on women in leadership in the Balkan countries. She is the former Editor of the International Journal of Business Governance and Ethics, and serves on the editorial board of the Cambridge Elements in Corporate Governance series by Cambridge University Press. She teaches and consults on governance and boards in the UK and overseas.

Silke leads on the University of Wolverhampton’s research and innovation strategy. She heads the central research directorate which includes research services and the University’s Doctoral College. She managed the REF2014 submission for Business and Management and led the institutional REF submission in 2021.

Silke Machold

Simon Marks

City Executive Birmingham, Arcadis

Simon Marks is the City Executive for Arcadis responsible for over 350 staff in the Birmingham office. 

Read more about Simon Marks

With 30 years construction and property experience Simon helps clients make the best of their built and natural assets in relation to achieving their vision, strategy and key priorities. He has led and delivered a range of projects across the public, private and infrastructure sectors and has a deep understanding of the housing and regeneration arena. Simon is a Board member of the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership and Chair of the Executive Board of the City Centre Enterprise Zone.


Ben Odams 

Head of Policy at the West Midlands Growth Company

Ben Odams is the Head of Policy at the West Midlands Growth Company. He is responsible for strategic and policy development within WMGC and acts as one of the main advisers to the Leadership Team and the Board.

Read more about Ben Odams

Ben has previously worked across Further Education and Local Government covering strategic policy. Regularly working with senior leaders, elected members and leadership teams he specialises in public finance, public service markets, and economic development. Within these areas, Ben has covered Local Government reform, devolution, Brexit, Industrial/Growth strategies, HS2 as well as managing central government and parliamentary relationships. He has also worked on several wider projects around skills and the labour market. One of these was working on the Augar Review of Post-18 Education on behalf of a College Group based in Manchester and more recently the initial development of Greater Manchester’s Integrated education, skills and work system.

He has an MRes in Economic History, a PGDip in Economic Policy and had previously been a Board Member of AGE UK Staffordshire. In his own time, Ben attempts to do oil painting and working on his much-delayed PhD proposal on Local Government.

Ben Odams profile picture

Nigel Robinson

Partner, PA Consulting Group

PA Consulting has deep industry knowledge, coupled with skills in management consulting, technology and innovation, which allows them to challenge conventional thinking and deliver exceptional results for their clients.

Read more about Nigel Robinson

Nigel leads PA’s Advanced Analytics and Data Science Practice and, during his 20-year career in the analytics, business intelligence and data management domains, has developed and led technology consulting/services practices and overseen complex consulting projects in the UK and internationally.

His client work covers a broad spectrum and includes digital and data solutions for Justice, Law Enforcement and Central Government. Before joining PA, Nigel was a Director at KPMG, which followed spells at Hewlett Packard Enterprise, IBM and Capgemini. In addition to Central Government, Nigel has also worked with clients in the retail, automotive, energy and banking sectors where they have been rapid in their recognition of the value of analytics.

Nigel Robinson

Mark Smith

Executive Director of Business, Aston University

Mark Smith is Aston University's first-ever Executive Director of Business Engagement. 

Read more about Mark Smith

Mark takes strategic responsibility for all business engagement activities at the University and showcases the commercial benefits of working with Aston to business, professional and public sector organisations. This includes Aston’s business growth programmes, student placements, knowledge transfer partnerships (KTPs), and other initiatives.

Mark also oversees the development of degree apprenticeship programmes, where students work and study over the course of their degree gaining the exact skills their employer needs. Aston has been a trailblazer for this growing trend in higher education, and was the first university in the UK to produce degree apprenticeship graduates.Mark joined Aston from Birmingham City University where he was Director of Enterprise and Employability. His career has involved working across government, regeneration and online education taking on big projects including establishing new airports and fostering enterprise in inner-city areas.

Mark Smith

Councillor Lisa Trickett

Birmingham City Council

Lisa has held leadership positions in the sphere of public policy in both a political and professional context for over two decades. Lisa is known for her strategic thinking and collaborative leadership practice and has worked within the public, private and higher educational sectors.

Read more about Lisa Trickett

Lisa has represented local government on a range of regional and national boards including acting as Urban Advisor to the Regional Housing Board, developing for the Homes and Communities Agency its national Leadership of Place programme and whilst at PwC pioneered an area investment planning approach - more recently she has been a board member of Innovation Birmingham and Birmingham Retail BID. Whilst at the University of Birmingham she drew on her knowledge of regional and local context and work on place - shaping to serve as the policy lead on the Bishop of Birmingham’s Social Inclusion Process, providing the frame for the adoption of approaches to inclusive growth and active wellbeing within the City. She has engaged and published work on Leadership of Place and led projects nationally and internationally on the place shaping agenda and a range of sustainability topics. 

Having being elected as a Labour Councillor in Birmingham in 2012 - Lisa served as a  Cabinet Member from 2014-2018 providing  the strategic lead on environmental and sustainability policy and its implementation to address issues including climate change, carbon reduction, flood management, clean air zones, energy security and fuel poverty. She also had the strategic lead for the city’s parks and green spaces. As Chair of Birmingham’s Green Commission she was the driving force in the development of “Energy Capital” and in the delivery of subsequent projects including the development of the FBC for Birmingham Energy Supply Company and the City’s Air Quality Strategy – work she continues to take forward professionally through UK100 and her engagement with Energy Capital and related collaborations.

Lisa Trickett

Dr Helen Turner

Director, Midlands Innovation

Dr Helen Turner is Director of the Midlands Innovation university partnership, which includes the universities of Aston, Birmingham, Cranfield, Keele, Leicester, Loughborough, Nottingham and Warwick.  

Read more about Helen Turner

Midlands Innovation is a world-class research and innovation partnership, combining the collective excellence of leading universities in the heart of the UK. We unite the power of university research with the unique strengths of Midlands industry to drive cutting-edge research, innovation and skills development. 

Helen is a collaboration professional having spent seven years as Director of the Midlands Energy Consortium, where she played a key role in the successful £60m bid to establish the Midlands Energy Research Accelerator.  Helen has played a strong role in the Midlands Engine for Growth where she currently sits on both its Operations Board and its Innovation and Enterprise Group.


Patrick White

Director, Metro – Dynamics

Patrick is an expert in the development and delivery of successful growth and investment strategies. 

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He gets things done across complex networks and partnerships, leading our work with developer and public sector clients to develop and execute projects that have a real and lasting impact.

Current and recent assignments include leading industrial strategy for the West Midlands Mayor and country’s largest Combined Authority, creating the investment strategy for a major regional developer and leading our work with Liverpool City Region on the single investment fund.

Patrick was previously a Director in the UK civil service, working in the Cabinet Office and what is now the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.