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Alumni Achievement Awards 2020

We meet the winners of this year’s Alumni Achievement Awards, Colin Herron and Dylan McKee.

Newcastle University’s annual Alumni Achievement Awards were established in 2018, and acknowledge outstanding achievements in our alumni community. This year’s awards were postponed and brought online due to the COVID-19 outbreak, but we are now excited to recognise the winners!

We’re extremely proud of all alumni contributions, especially those nominated for awards, but our biggest congratulations go to Colin Herron, winner of the Alumni Impact Award, and Dylan McKee, winner of the Rising Star award. The Alumni Impact Award recognises alumni at any point after graduation, who have made outstanding contributions to business/industry, society/their community, the university (particularly through volunteering) or the alumni community itself.

Colin Herron graduated in 2006 with a PhD, and has since had an enormous impact on the automotive industry in the North East and has become a leading advocate for the UK’s shift to low carbon transport.He has formed Zero Carbon Futures (ZCF), a not-for-profit subsidiary of Gateshead College, which is advising cities and local authorities across the UK on the transition away from fossil fuelled vehicles.In recognition of his successful career, Colin was appointed a CBE in 2018 for services to business and renewable energy.

We asked Colin what the Award meant to him: “I went to school in the North East, the son of a shipyard worker, and whilst I passed my 11+ my school achievements did not materialise (3 dodgy 'O levels' and no 'A levels') so I left to become an apprentice in a local factory. I could remember walking past Newcastle University and, from my background, it was not for me and was never considered. At the age of 49, I after a long journey in education, I completed a PhD at the same university, then asked to be a Visiting Professor and then this recognition. When you understand where I have come from you will understand what this means to me.”

“The university took my life experience and taught me how to think and write differently. My supervisor (Professor Paul Braiden) literally changed me as a person and my life for ever. What I also learned was there are many Paul's in the university just go and find them. The networks which opened up allowed me to be recognised for what I had to offer, but all the time honing my business skills. Lecturing students also means I have to keep on top of my game otherwise they are so bright that they catch you out! I am an Engineer but there are branches of my subject, so with my school history, I have had to do some serious catch up and where better to do that?”

Dylan McKee, winner of the Rising Star Award, is a young entrepreneur, influencer and ambassador of the North East start-up, digital and tech sectors with a growing national profile. His multi award-winning business Nebula Labs is well known and celebrated within the region for its impressive portfolio of dynamic, innovative digital solutions to real-life problems. Their mission is to solve problems that apply to real-life scenarios, creating change through applied technology, with a particular focus on health, wellbeing, travel and tourism. Within just 12 months of creation, Nebula Labs was awarded ‘Best New Business’ at the local Dynamites Awards in 2018. In February 2020 they won the Digital Technology Award at the North East Business Awards.

Would you like to share an alumni achievement story? Get in touch at or check the Alumni Achievement Awards page for information on future award nominations.

Winners Dylan McKee (left) and Colin Herron (right)

published on: 10 June 2020