Board of Trustees

Phil Atkinson  - Chair - Director 4FInnovations

Phil started his career as an engineering apprentice; he is now a Principal Chartered Mechanical Engineer and Programme Manager, working in scientific research on UK and International large scale science projects and facilities. Utilising his 38 years’ experience; in the design, integration and operation of particle accelerators. He is actively involved with the NW regional skills agenda from an employer perspective and leads for his organisation on skills and heads up their apprenticeship programme. 


Phil is a passionate supporter of education, social mobility, skills development and lifelong learning. Phil is an experienced school governor in primary and secondary and currently  a chair at a Cheshire school.


Shirley Harrison

Shirley is a chartered mechanical engineer who has a broad engineering and manufacturing background with wide-ranging experience of management and operations in large and small industrial businesses.

Shirley helps companies make sense of emerging technologies and works with an extensive and ever-growing network of small and large businesses, including start-ups and early-stage businesses as well as established firms.

Recognised for her common-sense and practical approach, she helps companies build the capacity to innovate. Specifically, she creates mechanisms to help companies collaborate with each other as well as with research organisations and academia, designs and delivers bespoke programmes to meet specific business requirements and works directly with larger companies on supply chain programmes.

Shirley is currently focused on understanding and overcoming the barriers to technology adoption in small companies, structures to enable collaborative innovation in SMEs and gender balance and diversity in manufacturing.



Rob MacKenzie


Rob retired as Operational Director Policy and Performance at Halton Borough Council in 2011 after a long and varied career in local government which included senior posts in Planning and in Regeneration. He now works one day a week for Crewe Town Council and is Chair of the Trustee Board at Citizens Advice Halton..


Della Thomas (Vice Chair)


Owner of Della Thomas Consultancy; over 22 years within education, recruitment, stakeholder engagement and project management for both public and private sectors; considerable experience from directly engaging and working across a full range of industry sectors.


Operational Team

Mark Waters  - Director of  Research and Programme Delivery


Mark has spent over 30 years working across a range of education sectors. He has worked on a range of regional and national programmes with both NW Local Authorities and the previous Labour Government on programmes such as the 14 to 19 Diploma Programme and the Foundation Learning Programme.


Throughout his career, Mark has always had a keen interest in how the development of collaborative partnerships between employers and young people can support their successful progression into their future lives and careers.  Following research Mark carried at the Institute of Education University of London, which explored and contrasted the experiences of a group of Apprentices of their time in formal education and then training in a workplace environment, Mark worked with a colleague Trevor Langston to set up a collaborative partnership based in Crewe Cheshire, between local employers, young people, Crewe Town and Cheshire East councils, schools, colleges and universities - The Crewe Pledge Partnership.


The aim of the Pledge Partnership was to give young people the opportunity to explore career opportunities across all sectors through authentic engagement with employers. The Pledge has now expanded to cover  Cheshire East, West and Warrington. 


Mark is now working with the Trustees of 4wardFutures to develop an organisation that will have a much wider geographical remit than would be possible through the Pledge.

Jason Podmore - Head of 3D Visualisation, Virtual and Augmented Reality

Jason started his working life as an auto electrical apprentice at Bentley Motors. He then worked across the world designing control systems from companies such as Honda in Japan and Jaguar Landrover in the UK.

However, Jason's passion has always been to explore the opportunities digital technology gave him to develop his love for 3D design and visualisation.


This can be seen here on his Instagram account:

Jason now leads on 3D visualisation, Virtual and Augmented reality at 4wardfutures.

Julie Langston -  Administrator and Event Coordinator

Julie has worked as a dental hygienist and more recently as a teaching assistant in a primary school. 


She has extensive organisational skills, having been the chair of the Parent Teacher Association at her daughters’ primary school for 6 years.  In this role she has helped co-ordinate over 60 events, raising around £50,000 to enhance the experience of all of the children in the school.


She is now looking forward to her new role as administrator for 4wardFutures, helping young people meet inspirational people and understand the potential careers that they can pursue.



Arno den Toom


Arno is a lead adviser on our CALOM and Food on Mars projects. Arno has extensive experience in biotechnology, space biology, quality management, project/programme management, bioengineering, micro-, partial-, and hyper gravity research.


Dr Chris Gaffney

Chris is a lead adviser on our CALOM. Chris  is a Lecturer in Integrative Physiology at Lancaster University. He has conducted research with both the Russian Space Agency and NASA. In 2018, he was a researcher on the first UK-led experiment onboard the International Space Station. This research, the Molecular Muscle Experiment, sought to find the molecular basis of why why lose muscle in space. 


David Terry    


David has recently retired from Headship after serving as a Senior Leader in seven successful secondary schools in the North West over the last twenty-four years. He has been a Headteacher, Academy Principal and UTC Chief Executive since 2005 in a range of schools, often in very challenging circumstances.


David has a passion and expertise in developing the quality of teaching and learning in schools and building leadership capacity through innovative approaches to staff training, CPD and ITT particularly within STEM. His achievements were first recognised in 2009 when he was  awarded a National Teaching Award as Headteacher of the Year. David was the first Academy Principal in the country to receive this honour. Subsequently, David’s commitment to developing excellent learning opportunities and pathways for disadvantaged students culminated in the award of three Fellowships – Royal Society of Arts, University of Birmingham and The Pearson National Teachings Awards.


In David’s latest role as Principal and Chief Executive of Crewe University Technical College he was successful in developing a regional centre of excellence in Engineering, Design and STEM from pre-opening to first enrolment of students in Key Stage 4 and 5. The Crewe UTC attained Good in all areas in its first Ofsted (June 2019) with outstanding employer engagement, curriculum and personal development.


As an experienced Headteacher and Principal David has acted as a national ambassador for technical skills education, demonstrated key leadership skills and empowered cohorts of young people to make a positive difference in a changing world.


Education & Skills Consultant

James Richards - Director 4FInnovations

James is a chartered mechanical engineer with experience across a number of industries in particular nuclear and railway. James has held positions across professions also, including engineering, project management, learning & development and strategic workforce planning. More recently, James has focused on early engagement and is committed to engaging young people in STEM related activity so that they might choose to follow careers in engineering.