Centre for Knowledge, Innovation, Technology and Enterprise

Staff Profile

Dr Fiona Whitehurst

Associate Dean Engagement and Place



Fiona has been with the Business School since completing her PhD in the Centre for Urban and Regional Development Studies at Newcastle University in 2006 and is now a Senior Lecturer.

She was appointed to the role of Associate Dean Engagement and Place in 2023. This role will see her providing strategic leadership in shaping and delivering an ambitious engagement & place strategy for the Business School to deliver impactful outcomes with business, policymakers and society, regionally, nationally and globally.

Fiona leads a project called Captured, piloted with co-invest from the UK Commission for Employment and Skills and part-funded by the North East Local Enterprise Partnership and Higher Education Innovation Funding (HEIF) in 2017/18, which is exploring the ways in which anchor institutions, such as universities, business schools and large firms, can support small firms in their region to develop leadership and entrepreneurship skills. Captured is an internationally recognised programme recognised by AACSB in April 2018 as one of 31 projects in their Innovations that Inspire Challenge and by the Global Business School Network Going Beyond Awards in 2021.

She and Jo Singh also lead a programme called Commercialise without Compromise in partnership with Creative Heritage Studios which is supported by Creative Central:NCL, funded by Newcastle City Council and North of Tyne Combined Authority. This programme supports creative practitioners to commercialise their practice without compromising their values, or risking their health, well being and finances. The precursor of this programme, the PopUp Primer Programme won the 2023 Newcastle University Engagement and Place Award for Inclusive Growth.

From 2017 - 2023 she held the role of Director of Impact, supporting academics in the Business School as they apply their research to make a difference to pressing problems in organisations, policy and wider society.

From 2012 - 2015 Fiona was Director of Accreditation for the Business School, leading the School's successful drive to achieve triple accreditation from the three leading international bodies that quality assure the activities of Business Schools (EQUIS, AACSB and AMBA).

Prior to that, she was appointed as Director of Engagement for the Business School in September 2009 and developed the MBA Sustainability Challenge with Procter & Gamble; the Herbert Loebl Export Academy with RTC North, HSBC and Ward Hadaway; and the Business of Sustainability Week with Santander.

Fiona graduated with a first class degree in Land Economy from the University of Cambridge in 1990 and subsequently worked in relationship banking for NatWest Bank for 9 years.

Roles and Responsibilities

  • Associate Dean Engagement and Place
  • Advisory Board Member, National Innovation Centre for Rural Enterprises (NICRE)


  • PhD Newcastle University, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences 2017
  • MA (Cantab), 1st Class, Land Economy and History 1990


  • British Academy of Management (Conference Chair Cultural and Creative Industries Track)
  • Institute of Small Business and Entrepreneurship (Institutional Membership)

Bibliographic References

ResearchGate: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Fiona_Whitehurst

ORCID ID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-6481-0086

Google Scholar: https://scholar.google.co.uk/citations?user=W-3WHCEAAAAJ&hl=en


Research Background

Fiona completed a PhD in Economic Geography at Newcastle University in 2005 looking at the use of clusters in economic development policy and retains a research interest in the interactions between firms, and other entities, particularly in the marine technology industries. She also has a strong research interest in regional economic development policy and the way in which firms interact with universities.

Current Work

Fiona's current research is practice-based and revolves around development programmes for micro-businesses. Fiona and her co-investigators, Paul Richter and Leigh Sear, see this research as interactive research, deliberately linking research (knowing) and practice (doing). Through participating in the programme participants gain value through their experiential learning (doing) and these experiences are used to provide the empirical material (via observations, semi-structured interviews, focus groups and surveys) to address underpinning research questions (knowing).

She is a co-investigator of the SECT:OR (Small Enterprises in COVID Times: On Regulation) project, funded by the ESRC under UKRI's rapid response to COVID-19 call. Working with partners at Birmingham Business School, University of Birmingham and Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), the project identified how small firms received and acted on information about laws and guidance during the pandemic and made several key policy recommendations. 

Other Expertise

Fiona has been involved in a variety of research assignments including the mapping exercise for Creative Fuse North East, a five university project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, Arts Council and European Development Fund; a report on Smart Specialisation in the North East of England for the North East Local Enterprise Partnership; an identification and assessment of sectoral strengths in the North East for the regional development agency One NorthEast; a study of the implications of an emerging regional policy for higher education in England for Universities UK and a study of the impact of the higher education institutions in the Yorkshire and the Humber Region for Yorkshire Universities. Work from her PhD contributed to an EU FP5 research project CRITICAL (City-Regions as Intelligent Territories: Inclusion, Competitiveness and Learning).

Fiona led an ESRC Business Engagement project aiming to identify the ways in which firms, particularly small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in the subsea engineering sector could work together to promote their industrial sector and tailor skills provision for their requirements. This led to a collaborative project with Newcastle College and the development of two specialist subsea degrees, in addition to a range of practical activities to engage young people in the engineering sector. 

Fiona also held a curriculum development grant to produce a range of entrepreneurial video narratives for use in teaching across the university. This project led to a joint research project with Dr Janine Swail looking at student perceptions of entrepreneurship.

Esteem Indicators

Member of Global Underwater Hub North Committee

Selected Funding

  • ESRC £114,000 SECT:OR (Small Enterprises in COVID Times: On Regulation) project, under UKRI's rapid response to COVID-19 call Feb 2021 - May 2022 
  • Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Creative Fuse North East £35,172 May 2016 to Oct 2018
  • UK Commission for Employment and Skills Captured £133,000 Oct 2015 to June 2016
  • EEF (Engineers Employers Federation) Assessing the Need for a North East Apprentice and Skills Training Centre £10,000 July 2014 to March 2015
  • ESRC Business Engagement Funding £75,300 (April 2008-April 2009)

PhD Supervision

  • Alexia Mellor (third supervisor with Professors Vee Pollock and John Bowers) PhD Fine Art (Creative Practice) COMPLETED
  • Daniel Newberry (co-supervised with Drs Kate Lewis and Paul Richter)
  • Pip Kyle (co-supervised with Professor Stephen Procter and Dr Ewan MacKenzie)
  • Bethany McDonald Shepherd (co-supervised with Professor Kate Chedgzoy and Dr Jane Nolan)
  • Abdullah Al Mamun (co-supervised with Professor Matthew Gorton)


I teach a module on Creativity to students on Postgraduate Innovation and Entrepreneurship programmes