After 22 years as Executive Director of Sussex Innovation, Mike Herd has decided that he will leave the organisation in May, the University of Sussex has announced.

Mike joined as the first Executive Director of the Centre in February 1997, and under his leadership it has developed from the early vision of a catalyst for economic development and graduate job creation in the Sussex academic corridor. Today, Sussex Innovation is an incubation network with hubs in Sussex and Croydon, and an examplar of entrepreneurial support for new technology and knowledge-based businesses, academic research commercialisation and student start-ups.

During Mike’s tenure, Sussex Innovation has provided support for well over 1000 early-stage businesses and entrepreneurs – from lone inventors to digital start-ups, drug discovery and medical device companies and academic spin-outs. Close to 80% of founders have moved their businesses from concept to sustainable profitability, and more than £175million has been raised by Sussex Innovation members in equity investments and grants.

The organisation became wholly owned by the University of Sussex in 2008, leading to Mike taking an active role in developing enterprise and entrepreneurship on campus, from students, to graduates and academics. In recent years, Mike has taken pride in developing and overseeing the growth of the Catalyst graduate placement scheme and the BRAIN open innovation programme.

“Over the years, Mike has created an environment which has allowed entrepreneurs to gain the confidence and support they have needed to get a better understanding of their business, their markets and themselves,” said Stephen Shute, Chair of the Sussex Innovation Centre board and Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Planning and Resources) for the University of Sussex. “He, and the Centre, have become a key part of the business ecosystem in Sussex, making a significant contribution to economic development in the area.”

Mike received early recognition by the local business community as Sussex Businessman of the Year at the Sussex Business Awards in 2000. He was also awarded the Queen’s Award for Enterprise Promotion in the New Year’s Honours in 2013.

“It has been a real privilege to be the Executive Director of Sussex Innovation over the past two decades,” said Mike. “I have thoroughly enjoyed working with such a creative, talented and enthusiastic group of would-be entrepreneurs. I think the reason I have stayed so long here has been the pleasure I’ve derived from watching people change and develop their businesses.

“We have built a great team together here, however I believe the time is now right for me to step aside and find a new business challenge for myself, and to hand the baton over to new leadership. Sussex Innovation now has a dedicated team of over 35 staff members, including our great team of Catalyst graduates, and I am confident that the organisation will continue to thrive and remain a key local and regional economic driver. As for me, who knows – on to a third career and maybe I might even get to finish my second novel.”