Northern Gritstone, the new university spinout investment business based in the North of England, has appointed Marion Bernard as chief investment officer.

She joins Northern Gritstone, chaired by Lord Jim O’Neill, from SME investor The Firmament Group, and prior to that led the Business Growth Fund’s activity in the South East of England.

Having begun her career at Barclays Bank, her experience also includes over half a decade at 3i Ventures as well as playing an instrumental role in founding Newcastle-based Northstar Ventures, where she was CEO between 2005 and 2011.  At Northstar, Bernard oversaw investments into hundreds of early-stage, fast-growth businesses.

Bernard’s role will be to oversee the day-to-day activity of the investment team, sourcing investment opportunities among the most exciting spinouts from the universities of Leeds, Manchester and Sheffield. These opportunities are in some of the UK’s fastest-growing sectors including advanced materials, energy, health technology and cognitive computation.

Led by chief executive Duncan Johnson, Northern Gritstone is underpinned by the principle of ‘profit with purpose’.  This means that the business’ investment activities – as well as driving attractive returns for its shareholders – will also have wider positive, societal and economic impact. 


Northern Gritstone is currently working with its advisers, Lazard, to raise capital to establish an evergreen investment vehicle with a hard cap of £500 million.  A first close is anticipated to be held in Q1 2022.

“It is a privilege to become part of the Northern Gritstone team at this important stage of its impressive journey,” said Bernard. 

“The values of the business along with its ability to deliver top quartile returns for shareholders match fully with my own aspirations and values.  

“Having spent more than 25 years focused on SME and technology investing, it is fantastic that I can bring this experience now to bear with Duncan and the Northern Gritstone team, to support and grow its unique proposition.”

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Lord O’Neill commented: “To be focusing in on a first close so soon after retaining Lazard earlier in the year is testament to the quality of the Northern Gritstone ‘profit with purpose’ proposition. 

“Our potential shareholders fully understand our ability to deliver impact beyond the attractive, immediate financial returns that we can generate.  

“Northern Gritstone has the ability to invest in world leading science and innovation emanating from some of the highest ranking universities globally, allowing us to support the growth sectors and world-class businesses of the future.”