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Barnsley took centre stage in the digital transformation discussion as a panel of inspiring female leaders from South Yorkshire’s tech industries shared their expertise with local businesses.

Hosted by Innovation Network South Yorkshire, a partnership between the University of Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam University, the event attracted over 60 attendees eager to explore the future of digital transformation.

Joining the panel of digital business leaders were representatives from Enterprising Barnsley, the Barnsley and Rotherham Chamber of Commerce, and both Sheffield universities, with a focus on facilitating future collaborations to drive regional growth.

Speaking at the event were:

  • Bella Abrams, Director of IT Services, The University of Sheffield
  • Jilly Cross, Founder, Bravand 
  • Gabrielė Barteškaitė, Founder, Future Greens
  • Tracey Johnson, Tech Ecosystem Lead, Enterprising Barnsley
  • Jurga Zilinskiene MBE, CEO and Founder, Guildhawk 
  • Ann Norton, Assistant Dean, College of Business, Technology and Engineering, Sheffield Hallam University
  • Melanie Oldham, Founder and CEO at Bob’s Business | The Cybersecurity Culture Company and Founder, Yorkshire Cyber Security Cluster 
  • Carrie Sudbury, Chief Executive, Barnsley & Rotherham Chamber of Commerce

Discussions explored the impact of Artificial Intelligence, capitalising on digital innovation, the digital skills gap and how to bridge it, and harnessing the varied regional support available to businesses. The panel also shared powerful insights on the challenges women navigate in a traditionally male-dominated field, leaving attendees with plenty of food for thought.

Tracey Johnson, Tech Ecosystem Lead at Enterprising Barnsley, said: “The Innovation Network’s events are the perfect way to bring South Yorkshire’s entrepreneurs and business innovators together with the expertise and knowledge of our amazing universities. 

“The event demonstrated the wealth of knowledge, expertise and personality in our region and the keen desire to share this widely for the collective good. We enjoyed the insights of a panel of phenomenal entrepreneurs with a timely reminder that a diverse economy is a good economy.”

Bella Abrams, Director of IT Services at the University of Sheffield, said: “I was really pleased to be able to attend the amazing panel event in Barnsley.  

“The wide-ranging conversation ranging from innovation to talent recruitment and working with both Universities was fantastic from all of our amazing and inspiring panellists followed up with great conversation afterwards with event attendees.  

“Events like these showcase the opportunities that result in working with our two institutions and it’s great to hear what the impact is like across the region.”

Jurga Zilinskiene MBE, CEO and Founder, Guildhawk Ltd, said: “In South Yorkshire, innovation isn’t just key—it’s imperative. The tech sector’s rapid pace demands we adapt quickly, bringing our teams along. 

“Partners like Sheffield Hallam University and Innovate UK are invaluable. As we saw at the event in Barnsley, Innovation Network is vital in uniting stakeholders to share expertise and learn collectively from both triumphs and setbacks.”

You can download pictures from the event here. Feel free to share them on social media – and be sure to tag us so that we can like and share (please credit photographer Tracey Welch). 

We also love to hear about the new connections made at Innovation Network events and the exciting ideas and initiatives they can lead to. If you have a story to share, please contact us at

Our next Innovation Network event will be in June 2024. Stay tuned to our social media channels for the latest updates.