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Strengthening female involvement in innovation by presenting 15 exceptional women with £50,000 grant funding awards – Dr. Emily Nott, Lead for Diversity and Inclusion for Innovate UK

Women in Innovation - Innovate UK

Dr. Emily Nott is the lead for diversity and inclusion for Innovate UK, where she is responsible for the scope and delivery of the infocus diversity and inclusion agenda. Innovate UK works with people, companies and partner organisations to find and drive the science and technology innovations that will grow the UK economy – delivering productivity, new jobs and exports keeping the UK globally competitive in the race for future prosperity.

Emily Knott - Innovate UK
Dr. Emily Knott

“…The quality of the applications we received was extremely high, as evidenced by the assessor scores and comments. We even increased the budget and overall number of awards to reflect this…”

My role at Innovate UK

I am lead for diversity and inclusion. This was a new role for the organisation when I took it on (beginning in March 2016) and it has been a really exciting challenge to develop our approach in this area. We use the infocus brand to describe all of our work on diversity and inclusion.

My work so far has involved developing a statement of intent for diversity and inclusion and I have been responsible for the scope and delivery of our first infocus action – the Women in Innovation awards. Important next steps are to publish an action plan for diversity and inclusion by the end of March 2017 and to identify future areas for the infocus campaign.

Why the Women in Innovation awards were set up

We set up these awards because we know that there is a massive opportunity to boost the economy by engaging more women in innovation in business and we want to help to make this happen. Our objectives are to:

  • Use Innovate UK’s unique position to boost the UK economy by strengthening women’s involvement in innovation
  • Celebrate women in innovation and create role models
  • Find potential leaders in innovation / successful entrepreneurs and invest in them and support them to achieve their goals for the future
  • Raise awareness of Innovate UK and increase the number of women applying to Innovate UK
  • Build understanding of barriers to women applying to Innovate UK and how to overcome these

Application process and timescale

We opened the awards for applications at the start of June 2016. Applicants were required to register an interest by midday on the 24th of August 2016 and the deadline for applications was midday on the 31st of August. The applications were assessed by external experts and on the basis of the assessor scores and comments we identified 34 finalists to invite to final interview. The interviews were used to determine the 15 women who were each to receive the £50,000 grant funding.

Sectors represented

We invited applications from across Innovate UK’s four broad sector focus areas (Emerging and Enabling Technologies, Health and Life Sciences, Infrastructure Systems and Materials and Manufacturing). We received the largest number of applications in Emerging and Enabling Technologies, followed by Health and Life Sciences, then Materials and Manufacturing and then Infrastructure Systems. The innovation ideas were very wide ranging from a floating cycle-way, fully autonomous drone software, affordable solar power technology, sustainable materials from poultry feather waste and a digital education portal to enable school children to engage and understand the molecular world.

The quality of the applications we received was extremely high, as evidenced by the assessor scores and comments. We even increased the budget and overall number of awards to reflect this.

Support for the participants

All 34 winners and finalists will be provided with a mentor and a tailored business support package. In addition, the 15 winners receive a £50,000 grant.

Awards event

We announced the results of the infocus Women in Innovation awards at two events on Tuesday the 15th of November.

Firstly there was an afternoon event to introduce our winners and finalists to the media. This was hosted by Emma Barnett (from The Guardian, BBC 5 Live Daily and Woman’s Hour). It involved a panel discussion with our fantastic Women in Innovation Ambassadors and all fifteen winners were invited on stage to introduce themselves, their business and their innovation idea.

In the evening all 15 winners were invited to the National Business Awards to recognise and celebrate their success in style!

Future plans for Women in Innovation

Now is when the hard work really starts! The awards kick off in January for the next year. We are currently working closely with our wider family (Knowledge Transfer Network, Enterprise Europe Network) and key partners (Intellectual Property Office, Royal Academy of Engineering, Women’s Business Council and others) on the design and delivery of the super charged mentoring and support package.