On International Womens Day, Innovate UK announces new support

Dr Ruth McKernan

Ahead of the 2018 International Women’s Day, celebrated on March 8 every year, Innovate UK announced new funding and support will be made available to women through a second round of its female-only competition.

The programme, to launch later this year, will consist of a funding competition and support package to encourage more female-led innovation.

Alongside this, Innovate UK will start running quarterly innovation accelerator workshops to help get more women innovating in business nationwide. It will also review its existing programmes to see how it can better promote and inspire diversity.

The second Women in Innovation competition will seek ideas that address the four grand challenges posed by government’s Industrial Strategy. These are: AI and the data economy, clean growth, future of mobility and the ageing society

The first Women in Innovation programme was launched in 2016, following research that found just one in seven applications for Innovate UK funding came from women.

To address this, Innovate UK ran its first women-only competition. This provided £50,000 funding each for 15 female-led businesses plus mentoring. It has also run an entrepreneurial mission to Boston for seven women in tech.

Since the programme launched there has been a 10 per cent increase in female registrations for Innovate UK support.

Speaking at a special Women in Innovation event in London ahead of International Women’s Day, Dr Ruth McKernan CBE, Chief Executive of Innovate UK, said:

“It is fantastic that more women are coming to us for innovation funding and support, but we need to go further.

“Our 2018 Women in Innovation programme is designed to help many more women achieve their business ambitions, drive UK growth and productivity, and harness the full talent pool.”

The wider economic impact of addressing the gender imbalance is significant. Research suggests that if participation is increased to the same levels as men, women-led SMEs could potentially contribute an incremental £180 billion gross value added (GVA) to the UK by 2025.

Speaking to Business & Innovation Magazine, Dr McKernan added: “Before we launched Women in Innovation we commissioned a survey to find out what is holding women back. The feedback included lack of confidence, lack of role models, and asking for less money. But there was a lot in the survey also about wanting support and having ambition.”

One piece of advice she offers to women in business is to be prepared. “I know from my own experience if you are in a meeting and you are a woman, it’s a good idea to ask the first question. Be confidence of your facts. Be the best prepared person in the meeting. It’s also a good idea to challenge anyone who overstates their position, especially when you know it. You want to establish very early that people who can’t justify what they are saying won’t get away with it. It’s entirely reasonable to ask for evidence when a person overstates their case or makes something up on the fly. They might say ‘I read such and such last week’ –ask them to substantiate it. They are likely to go quiet for the rest of the meeting.

International Women’s Day (March 8) began in the early 1900s. It is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.

The 1900s was a time of great expansion and turbulence in the industrialised world that saw booming population growth and the rise of radical ideologies. International Women’s Day is a collective day of global celebration and a call for gender parity. No one government, NGO, charity, corporation, academic institution, women’s network or media hub is solely responsible for International Women’s Day.