Targeted, tailored support
The pair cite Imperial’s WE Innovate programme – an entrepreneurship programme specifically for women entrepreneurs – as an example of the targeted, tailored support needed. They argue: “We have pockets of success when we support women in science and tech – now we must scale that up. Businesses and government alike have a responsibility to take this forward and make the tech renaissance a benefit to all.”
WE Innovate has supported over 350 women to date, with businesses emerging including developers of eco-friendly fertilisers, finger-prick pre-natal testing for use in isolated parts of the world, and flushable, rapidly biodegrading menstrual pads.
Last year’s winner, Lu Ai has created an algae-based alternative to harmful microplastics often found in toiletries, paint and detergent.
“A lack of diversity stifles innovation”
We know women-led firms face specific barriers in accessing venture capital even though they are shown to perform better over time, they say. In the UK, female-founded firms receive just four percent of venture capital invested.
Alice Gast and Alexsis de Raadt St James write: “This is a grave problem, not just for women but for wider society. A lack of diversity stifles innovation, holds back progress and leads to poorer technology. As the world begins to recover from COVID-19, it is essential that we have the brightest minds from all backgrounds on the case.”