Meet the Team

Karen Parkin
Karen Parkin
Project, Finance & Monitoring Officer
(County Durham Growth Fund Project Manager)

Karen is Project Manager for Business Durham and works closely with delivery partner UMi and due diligence provider UNW LLP to ensure the success of the programme.​ Karen is also responsible for the finance of the project, which includes claims, ERDF compliance and monitoring to ensure spend profile and targets is met.  With over 20 years’ experience in enterprise, she has managed several projects and performance targets.  Karen is passionate about small business and has a willingness to help others in any way she can.

Outside of work, family time is important as she has a young daughter.  Karen is also a self-confessed bookworm and enjoys keeping fit through walking and dance classes.

Karen Jones
Karen Jones
Senior Projects Manager at UMi

Karen is responsible for the management of the fund and Project Advisers to ensure successful delivery and that all outputs are met.  With many years experience of running ERDF contracts she also calls upon her experience as a Business Adviser to ensure that the team develop great working relationships with County Durham companies and networks. Karen is passionate about supporting businesses and thrives on the daily challenges that delivering grant schemes bring.


Spending time with her family, especially her grandson is another passion along with keeping fit. Pink gin and pink hair come next.

Dave Jones
Dave Jones
Senior Project Adviser at UMi

Dave draws on experience from banking, being a business owner and as Chairman of a Rugby Club. Dave believes that the key to success is to be aware of your weaknesses and work hard to make sure these don’t negatively impact the businesses.


Apart from spending time with his two children (Isabelle and Alexander), Dave is heavily involved with grassroots rugby, coaching an under 12’s team, a ladies team and still playing a little.  Dave doesn’t take himself too seriously, which is handy looking like he does! (Dave wrote that by the way!) Dave dislikes unnecessary bureaucracy, trying to work out how to spell bureaucracy and wasting money. Dave likes most sports, hot baths and old movies.

Phil Sly
Phil Sly
Business and Investment Adviser at UMi

Phil has been working with North East businesses for over 10 years   His role involves reviewing applications and helping businesses to present the application in the best possible format  for  the Investment Panel. Following a successful grant application, Phil gets involved with the grant payment by reviewing the paperwork for claims and ensuring the project is going ahead as planned. Phil gets real enjoyment from seeing the projects go from an idea to reality and seeing local businesses grow.


 Phil enjoys spending time with his wife and two boys, going out for meals and watching football as well as coaching a local under 9’s football team.

Picture: Neil MacGillivray
Neil MacGillivray
Project Adviser at UMi

Neil works closely with businesses to discuss their investment plans, growth opportunities and assists them to develop a strong funding application. With over 10 years experience working in commercial banking and business support, Neil is passionate about delivering results for the businesses by providing an excellent customer experience. A keen professional networker, ensures the businesses have the support and advice they need.  

Neil enjoys travelling with his wife and experiencing new cultures, as well as spending quality time with friends and family who are all scattered across the British Isles.

When time allows, Neil plays golf and football (both to a distinctly average level!) and is constantly in and out of bands when he can be bothered to pick up his Bass guitar!”

Picture: Nichola Crinson
Nichola Crinson
Project Executive at UMi

Nichola has 16 years experience from the banking and financial industry for lending as well as several years within the ERDF sector.  Nichola is passionate about helping customers and ensuring projects are met by providing support as and where is required and not afraid to get her hands dirty and muck in where needed to help her clients.

Away from work, Nichola enjoys spending time with her nieces and nephew as well as socialising with her friends.  Hobbies include football and has always wanted to get involved in extreme sports!  Nichola dislikes negative people!

Gary Lynch
Gary Lynch
Project Advisor at UMi

While studying Business Computing at University Gary started his own vintage clothing business and after completing his degree he developed and ran this for 3 years before selling it. He then went on to run enterprise projects for Stockton Borough Council and JP Morgan in London before joining Lynch Healthcare. For the past 5 years, he has been instrumental in growing the business and became a shareholder of the company in 2018. The company was able to expand nationally which resulted in a successful acquisition in 2020 when the company was bought by Direct Healthcare Group. His experience will enable him to support businesses with their investment plans and growth opportunities.


Away from work Gary is a huge football fan and a collector of football memorabilia. He volunteers for The Fans Museum in Sunderland which helps the community in so many ways around health, wellbeing and education. He also enjoys spending time with his partner and 2 cockapoos in sunny Sunderland.