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Supporting women to drive innovation in the UK

Posted on 06/11/2016

Even though today’s science, technology and engineering industries have made significant strides towards building a more diverse workforce, women are still notably under-represented.

Women in innovation - the associated challenges and opportunities for the UK economy.

Despite history’s best efforts to write them out of the script, thankfully we are still able to celebrate the impressive exploits and achievements of many of our prodigious foremothers.

Take for example the Greek poet Sappho, born sometime between 630 and 612 BC. Even though early treatment of women in Athenian society may best be described as only marginally above servitude, triumphing over adversity she has come to be regarded as one of the greatest lyric poets from any age. Plato called her “the tenth Muse” and her likeness appeared on coins.

Boudica too (d. AD 60 or 61), queen of the Iceni people of Eastern England, was another early heavyweight with regard to starting the female ball rolling. A formidable warrior who was able to give the Roman invaders a run for their money, she has secured a special place of her own in British folk history.

Then in more recent times other pioneers of note include: Marie Curie who was the first woman to be awarded the Nobel Prize in 1903, for her contributions to radioactivity; the American computer scientist Grace Hopper who helped develop a compiler that was a precursor to the widely used COBOL programming language; Rachel Carson, the american marine biologist and conservationist whose work revolutionised the global environmental movement; Elizabeth Garett Anderson, the first woman to successfully complete the medical qualifying exams in Great Britain and the first woman physician in Great Britain. To name but a few.

Yet whilst women all over the world continue to make inspiring and valuable contributions to the advancement of knowledge, it is still the case that they have to fight harder than their male counterparts for opportunities to study, work in pioneering fields or to receive acclaim for their work.

Even though today’s science, technology and engineering industries have made significant strides towards building a more diverse workforce, women are still notably under-represented.

According to the Women in Science and Engineering (Wise) campaign’s 2014 analysis of UK labour market statistics women make up just 12.8% of the Stem workforce. The proportion had increased by only 0.2 percentage points since their analysis in 2012.

Furthermore, recent reports also show:

  • women in the UK are half as likely to start a new business, with women less likely to seek external sources of finance and when they do, the amounts of capital sought are lower than that demanded by male entrepreneurs
  • boosting female entrepreneurship could deliver approximately £60bn extra to the UK economy
  • UK business could potentially benefit from £5bn a year if companies unblocked the talent pipeline for their 500,000 female middle managers.

Encouraging diversity in innovation

Thus as an initiative seeking to help redress this imbalance, launched last week, Innovate UK’s infocus Women in Innovation Awards are seeking to celebrate and reward women working across four key sectors – Materials & Manufacturing, Health & Life Sciences, Infrastructure Systems, Emerging & Enabling Technologies.

The 12 women winners will benefit from a valuable tailor-made package of support and four of these will each receive a £50,000 grant to get her brilliant idea up and running.

These awards encourage applications from women who:

  • have real potential to become leaders in business innovation and/or successful entrepreneurs
  • have exciting ideas that promise significant economic value to the UK
  • are comfortable taking on the position of role model
  • are willing to engage in activities to encourage and inspire other women to get involved
  • have a clear vision for their future and area of innovation they plan to focus on
  • have a plan to use the award money and support to progress that plan
  • have relevant experience of making innovation happen
  • have the capability and personal drive to achieve success

This is Innovate UK’s first activity for women only and they will use it to build their understanding of women in innovation and the associated challenges and opportunities for the UK economy.

How to apply

– register online

– read the guidance for applicants

– complete and submit your online application form

 

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