County Durham Engineering and Manufacturing Network (CDEMN) is run by a Board of Directors made up of engineering, manufacturing and business experts who between them have over 300 years’ experience.

The day to day growth of the organisation falls under the remit of Director of Operations Ben Gilhespy, who is tasked with raising the profile of CDEMN and growing its membership base.

Read about the team’s individual successes and experience below…


Having spent his career in the automotive sector working with some of the largest suppliers David is now using his extensive experience being actively involved with many business groups helping promote and support the growth of manufacturing in the North East.

David is Chairman for CDEMN and also a business board member of the local enterprise partnership, as well as supporting the regions 1st UTC. David is also a strong supporter of getting young people in our region into engineering.

Director of Operations

Prior to joining CDEMN, Ben worked for 12 years at one of the region’s primary environmental and metallurgical consultancies. Following its acquisition by SGS, the world’s leading inspection, verification and testing business, he remained for a 3 further years as the National Commercial Manager responsible for account management, contracts, growth and performance.

Employed at a senior management level, Ben was able to establish a strong reputation and extensive links within the business community. He has a knowledge of multiple sectors, including engineering and manufacturing, which he fully utilises in his role at CDEMN.

CDEMN is a delivery partner in the Durham Business Opportunities Programme. Ben, through his work with CDEMN, will take the lead on engagement with SMEs in the engineering and manufacturing sector and on identifying potential market opportunities in that sector. The Durham Business Opportunities Programme is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).


Board Member

Paul is a director of two leading companies – regional manufacturing firm Hiatco and international events and communications agency Pink Buddha.

Paul has strong links with CDEMN and is a key driver in developing and maintaining relationships with engineering and manufacturing companies across the region. He is also responsible for the organisation of Durham Oktoberfest, CDEMN’s flagship networking event which takes place each October at the Xcel Centre in Newton Aycliffe.

Board Member

As a director at Blue Box Management Consultants, which incorporates OUTMARK Communications, Sylvia has established a proven track record of working in complex markets at all levels and has a natural ability to communicate to both individuals and groups of people.

Sylvia’s brings to CDEMN a focused and positive ‘can-do’ attitude, agility and adaptability to achieve the right results every time. This helps us and our members to develop and maintain relationships with key clients and suppliers, harnessing and growing the untapped potential within each customer and providing critical thinking and analysis.

Board Member

Richard brings a wealth of financial experience to the CDEMN table, having worked in the sector for more than 13 years.

As finance director at Dyer Engineering, Richard provides the CDEMN board with critical financial guidance and control. He has previously gained experience as European head of finance at Formica Corp and as a director at Grange Interiors.

Board Member

With and a career spanning over 40 years, and as owner of The Bignall Group, John brings broad and vast knowledge to CDEMN through his involvement in the manufacturing and engineering sectors.

John has built and established a range of successful businesses, enabling him to provide CDEMN and its members with a strategic and common sense approach.

Board Member

Jim, who joined the CDEMN board in 2016, is currently MD of Wynyard Consultancy, working as non-executive director to companies within the North East. He is also a trustee of a large regional charity.

Previously, Jim was MD for one of the business units at BAE Systems, working within UK, USA, Australia and India. He was also MD of a Type-45 Destroyer project, responsible for managing the profit and loss of a £4bn programme. He can also count being Group Operations Director of Vickers Defence Systems among his previous roles.