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6 August, 2018 - 12:05 By Tony Quested

Innovate UK launches £400k competition to woo more female innovators

Elena Dieckmann

Innovate UK has launched a £400k funding competition to help identify and encourage more female entrepreneurs and has urged Cambridge and East of England women to get involved.

The vision is to get more women involved in shaping the future face of innovation to the broader benefit of the economy.

Innovate UK says the initiative is crucial to increase the proportion of UK women engaging in entrepreneurial activity which at present is around half the level of men. 

It wants to find female innovators who are tackling some of the biggest challenges facing society and has enlisted Business Weekly’s involvement. Business Weekly and the university’s Cambridge Judge Business School run a Woman Entrepreneur of the Year competition as part of our annual awards.

Eight places are at stake in Innovate UK’s Women in Innovation Awards 2018, alongside a £50,000 grant and support package to help candidates reach their full potential.

While evidence shows that the proportion of UK women engaging in entrepreneurial activity is around half the level of men, since launching the inaugural Women in Innovation campaign in 2016, Innovate UK has seen a 70 per cent increase in registrations for funding from female applicants.

Having identified one of the main barriers for female applicants as being the lack of role models, Innovate UK is highlighting the positive changes female entrepreneurs are driving across the UK to help change the face of innovation.

Examples include Afghan refugee, Shakar Jafari, who has developed a radiation detection system for cancer; and Elena Dieckmann, named one of Forbes’ 30 notable social entrepreneurs under 30 years old after co-founding Aeropowder, an award-winning start-up that creates novel materials from waste feathers.

The female entrepreneurs Innovate UK is seeing will be delivering artificial intelligence and a data economy, addressing the UK’s ageing society, creating eco-friendly growth and developing the future of mobility.

The competition is open to female founders, co-founders or senior decision makers working in companies that have been operating for at least one year. This year, a total of eight inspirational women will be selected by a panel of experts to receive a £50,000 grant in addition to a bespoke year-long package of mentoring, coaching and business support.

Fanzi Down, Women in Innovation 2016 award winner and commercial director at DPS Designs urges women to apply. “So many women – myself included – don’t self-identify as innovative, preventing them from stepping forward for transformative opportunities like this. 

“I’d challenge any woman with a vision to apply, to discover what reaching their full potential could really mean for them.”

Ian Campbell, executive chair of Innovate UK, said: “We’re more determined than ever to support women who have the potential to be the UK’s next successful business innovators. 

“These awards are about helping to close the innovation diversity gap, while at the same time bringing new ideas to tackle the big challenges set out in the government’s modern Industrial Strategy.” 

The Women in Innovation 2018 Awards will also be supplemented by a broader programme of business support, tailored to UK-based female innovators and including quarterly workshops to help unlock the potential of women nationwide.

Applicants should visit https://apply-for-innovation-funding.service.gov.uk/competition/204/overview for further information. The closing date is October 3, 2018 with winners announced mid-December.

• PHOTOGRAPH SHOWS: Elena Dieckmann

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