At the start of Science Week, on International Women’s Day, Science Minister Amanda Solloway announced the 40 innovative recipients of this £50,000 investment.

Innovate UK: an investment in innovation

These awards are administered by Innovate UK, which “drives productivity and economic growth by supporting businesses to develop and realise the potential of new ideas.” It’s part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

In 2016, analysis of funding applications to Innovate UK found that only 14% of them were from women. And so ‘Women in Innovation’ became their first “diversity and inclusion campaign, which aims to get more women innovating in business.” It’s aimed at women founders, co-founders and “senior decision makers” with businesses that have been running for at least a year.

So far, it’s had great success. It ran campaign and awards programmes in 2016, 2018 and this year’s 2020/21 Women in Innovation Awards. Since it started, the number of women applying to Innovate UK for support and funding has increased by 70%.

Women in Innovation 2020/21

The innovative thinking of 40 women is being nurtured with £50,000 investment and bespoke mentoring and business support.

Head of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion at Innovate UK, Emily Nott, said:

“With 2020 proving to be an incredibly difficult year for everyone, and particularly women, continuing to support female entrepreneurs in 2021 has been a real priority for Innovate UK. We have had an enormous response and we can see some positives from the pandemic, with some of our shortlist inspired to start up a business in response to some of the challenges it has brought.

“Working alongside the winners, Innovate UK will help them grow further. We can’t wait to see what else these inspiring women achieve and how they can be an example to inspire the next generation and to encourage more women-led businesses in this country as we rebuild and recover. It forms a key part of the government’s ambitious R&D Roadmap, published in July 2020, which committed to supporting the UK’s innovators and risk-takers by backing entrepreneurs and start-ups with the funding needed to scale up their innovations.”

As she announced the new recipients, Amanda Solloway said:

“As we build back better from COVID, it is a priority of mine to continue equipping our brightest female innovators with the tools they need to succeed, while encouraging a new generation of women to come forward and pursue their ambitions.

“Today we are supporting 40 of our most trailblazing female entrepreneurs, helping them to turn their innovative ideas and aspirations into a reality, creating the products and services that will help improve our lives and boost our economy.”

Some of this year’s winners

Just look at the amazing things they’ve invented.

Samantha Bunyan

  • Co-founder of Cecence, Salisbury
  • Developing eco-friendly alternatives to aeroplane interiors to help reduce the carbon footprint of air travel.

Joan D’Arcy

  • Founder of Plastic@Bay, Durness
  • Developed Local Ocean Plastic Recycling Facilities to convert plastic waste from the sea into construction materials.

Lisa Pape

  • Founder of Walk with Path, London
  • Created a smart insole that helps chronic mobility sufferers to walk with more balance. It responds to the individual foot pressure of the wearer and vibrates, helping them feel the floor.

Sophie Walker

  • Co-founder of DSPOSAL
  • Digital software to help large organisations make better decisions about waste management and tackle waste crime.

Becca Hume

  • Founder of TAPSOS, Belfast
  • An app initially created to help deaf people contact the emergency services without the need for verbal communication. Now being developed for use by victims of domestic violence.

These are all amazing innovations, thoroughly deserving of the investment and support. We hope they’re also benefiting from R&D tax relief to bolster their next R&D projects.

Jamie Smith