Former GFirst LEP chair takes on non-exec chair role at Gloucestershire graphene innovator Versarien

Diane Savory

She only stepped down from her role as chair of GFirst LEP earlier this year, but the indefatigable Diane Savory clearly isn’t ready to put on carpet slippers yet. She has just been announced as the chair of Cheltenham-headquartered advanced materials engineering group Versarien.

The Board of Versarien has announced that James Stewart CBE will retire as Non-executive Chairman on 31 December 2021 and Diane Savory OBE DL will be appointed as the Company’s new Non-executive Chairman on 1 January 2022. As part of the transition process, Ms Savory will attend monthly Board meetings until formally taking office.

Diane Savory has, until recently, served as Chair at GFirst LEP (Gloucestershire). She is a member of the Retail Sector Council at the Department of Business, Enterprise, Innovation and Skills and worked at Superdry Plc for 22 years, including as a main board director, during which time it grew from an SME to a London Stock Exchange Main Market listed company. Diane’s experience is allied to particular elements of the Company’s GSCALE project.

(The government, via Innovate UK, has provided a £5 million Loan to Versarien, the first of such magnitude by Innovate UK specifically for a project named G SCALE, (an acronym for Graphene-Seat, Concrete, Arch, Leisure, Elastomer) which is designed to enable Versarien to significantly increase its manufacture of quality assured graphene. The loan, made in July last year, is intended to facilitate the production of sufficient quantities of graphene by Versarien to enable market supply of commercial quantities of graphene-enhanced materials.)

James Stewart was appointed to the Board in June 2020 with a particular focus on assisting with expansion in the Far East. Since his appointment, the company has completed its acquisition of the CVD assets and IP from Hanwha Aerospace in South Korea. With macro events shifting the company’s focus away from China, James now wishes to concentrate on his private portfolio of UK and Far East investments, but will continue to assist Versarien with its global expansion plans, as appropriate, through his advisory firm Menlo Partners LLP.

James said: “I am very pleased that the Board is appointing Diane as my successor. Her history of working at Superdry during a period of accelerated global growth, her experience as Chair at GFirst and her government connections provides excellent experience for this appointment. It has been a pleasure to serve as Non-executive Chairman of Versarien and I wish Diane and the Company every success for the future.”

Diane added: “I am delighted to accept the appointment as James’ successor at such an exciting time for the business. As the graphene world begins to gain commercial traction our portfolio of graphene products and global footprint, supported by the UK Government, will allow Versarien to play a key role in bringing advanced materials to the commercial and consumer markets. On behalf of the Board, I would like to thank James for his leadership and commitment.”

Versarien CEO, Neill Ricketts, said:“Having worked with Diane at GFirst I am confident that her experience will be invaluable to Versarien as we focus on our objectives of achieving commercial traction and sustainable shareholder returns, whilst also focussing on the benefits graphene can bring to the environment.”