Following the launch of the Women in Innovation Awards 2020/21, we’re reflecting on the steps Innovate UK has taken to increase gender diversity in innovation.

The Alison Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurship estimated that an additional £250 billion could be contributed to the UK economy if female entrepreneurs started and scaled their businesses at the same rate as men. However in 2016, just 14% of applications to Innovate UK were led by women – despite success rates between men and women being largely equal! Survey research found securing funding to be the biggest challenge facing women innovators. Furthermore, a third said they found being a woman in a male-dominated industry had negatively affected their career. Thus, there was a clear demand for more focused support services for female innovators.

Women in Innovation

This led to the creation of Innovate UK’s first diversity and inclusion campaign, Women in Innovation. The programme aims to address the under-representation of women engaging with Innovate UK. It encourages female-led innovation through specific events and funding competitions. So far, the programme has made significant progress in closing the gender gap; there has been an impressive 70% increase in the number of women leading Innovate UK grant applications.

Since 2016, Innovate UK has successfully engaged a new community of over 3000 women in innovation. Could you be next? The Women in Innovation Awards 2020/21 aim to find women with exciting ideas and ambitious plans that will inspire others. 10 winners will each receive a £50,000 grant, as well as a bespoke package of mentoring, coaching, and business support. If you think you might be eligible for this funding, you can apply here before 14th October 2020. Be sure to check out our ‘5 steps to success‘ to ensure you write a competitive proposal!


Additionally, Innovate UK has recently forged a new partnership with an award-winning educational-tech charity, Founders4Schools. The charity aims to increase the employability skills of pupils by facilitating encounters with employers. Through this partnership, inspirational members of the Women in Innovation community will volunteer to connect with their local schools. The goal is to encourage young people to explore innovative career pathways, regardless of their background or gender. We look forward to finding out how this initiative progresses.

What needs to happen next to close the gender gap in innovation? Share your thoughts with us in a comment below!