Emma Bortnik is Knowledge Transfer Manager – Diversity and Inclusion for the Knowledge Transfer Network, delivering the Innovate UK InFocus diversity and inclusion agenda, as well as facilitating the growth of innovative UK businesses across all sectors being run by individuals of any gender and from any background. Two campaigns Emma is currently delivering are; Women in Innovation and Young Innovators.
“…Men are three times more likely to own a business with employees. Why is that? We also know that only a staggering 7% of British inventors on GB patents were women (2000-2015). There’s such a huge gap that’s waiting to be filled!..”
A non-linear career
My career to date has certainly not been linear! My first real job was working in Formula 1. I worked as an account manager for a small marketing agency called Parachute Marketing, responsible for sponsorship activation of some major brands and teams. It was a funny world to work in.
From a diversity perspective, I don’t think Formula 1 has the best track record, but during my time in the sport we were seeing some exciting developments and opportunities for women. Monisha Kaltenborn became F1’s first female team boss, Claire Williams was rising through the ranks of Williams F1 (and is now Deputy Team Principal) and Susie Wolff became a development driver for Williams F1. Only last week it was announced that F1 would be ceasing to use ‘grid girls’ from the 2018 season onwards. Progress!
From there I moved across to work for what was then the Electronics, Sensors and Photonics KTN (now merged into the Knowledge Transfer Network). I spent a couple of years working in marketing and operations for the company, but when the opportunity arose to move into a knowledge transfer role, I had to take it. Having seen the huge impact that colleagues in knowledge transfer have made for thousands of businesses it was too good of an opportunity to miss.
My role on a day to day basis
On a day to day basis, I work alongside Innovate UK delivering their diversity and inclusion initiatives. Last year we ran the Women in Innovation competition – we wanted to use our unique position to boost the UK economy by strengthening women’s involvement in innovation.
We were able to find a cohort of incredible women innovators who received funding and / or a bespoke package of support to help them develop their businesses. Many of these businesses are thriving with some really exciting developments in the pipeline. It was only the other day that I heard one of our award holders on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour!
One important thing we’ve been doing for this specific programme is identifying the needs of our award holders and along with colleagues, delivering training and support to accelerate their businesses. We’re now hoping to do the same thing with our newly launched programme in partnership with The Prince’s Trust. This time, working with young people from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Knowledge Transfer Network and Innovate UK
The Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN) is Innovate UK’s business facing network partner. We’re an organisation made up of sector experts who work with UK businesses that want to grow through innovation. Some of the typical things we do are; helping businesses find funding and finance, initiating cross sector collaborations, and introducing businesses to the people they didn’t know they needed to know.
With Government money behind us, we’re able to work with high risk, high growth potential businesses on projects that are pre-commercial. For every £1 of grant funding we receive, we have determined that £50 of value is created for the UK economy within business projects after five years.
Gender balance enabling economic growth
Gender balance is incredibly important to enable economic growth. We believe that the best ideas for innovation can come from anyone. We already know that diversity within business is proven to contribute to enhanced performance and commercial success, but we’re not used to seeing a gender balance across company founders.
Men are three times more likely to own a business with employees. Why is that? We also know that only a staggering 7% of British inventors on GB patents were women (2000-2015). There’s such a huge gap that’s waiting to be filled!
Organisations we support
The Knowledge Transfer Network works with all sorts of organisations, from entrepreneurs, to SMEs to large companies. Any UK based company that wants to grow and innovate can get in touch for advice and support. With our breadth of expertise, once we’ve established an organisation’s needs and capabilities, it allows us to build up a unique cross sector picture to explore new opportunities for them.
Business success stories
There’s been many fantastic success stories from the organisations that we work with. For many of our Women in Innovation award holders it’s only the beginning of their journey, but some of the successes they’ve received so far include; award holder and co-founder of AppAttic, Dr. Rachel Gawley, winning a further Innovate UK grant, and Pauline Dawes, Managing Director of SOMI Trailers, reaching customers she would not otherwise have reached.
There’s many more very exciting things in development for our award holders, which we hope to be able to talk about soon!
Advice to female entrepreneurs looking to grow and commercialise their business
My advice to female entrepreneurs looking to grow and commercialise their business is to get out and meet people. Expand your networks and attend lots of events. You never know who you’ll meet. Explore what funding opportunities are out there – women are much less likely to seek external finance than men, and we want to change that.
Last year, Innovate UK conducted an analysis of all of their competition applications … and only 14% of applications were from women. The Women in Innovation competition helped increase that to 20% and we want to see that growth continue. If you’d like help with knowing what funding opportunities are out there, get in touch with us at KTN.
Coming up next
As the lead for diversity and inclusion, I work with a wide group of different people. In addition to continuing our support for Women in Innovation, we’ve recently launched the Young Innovators programme – a partnership between Innovate UK and The Prince’s Trust – to support young people from disadvantaged backgrounds.
We’re aiming to find the next generation of innovators through the Young Innovators awards. Having held our first Young Innovators event in London earlier in January, I’m incredibly excited about the potential we’re seeing. There’s some fantastic ideas, and as I said, the best ideas for innovation can come from anyone.
For KTN, we’re excited to be able to work with such a wide range of businesses and critically, support the Government drive to use innovation to enhance UK productivity. The Industrial Strategy published in November 2017 has committed serious amounts of new money to tackle key industrial challenges and we’re well positioned to bring exciting new technologies and services to bear on these.