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Women in innovation exhibition launch

20 Jul 2017

Naomi Weir reflects on the Innovate UK #infocus women in innovation exhibition at Getty Images Gallery (open until 29th July)

Needing a bit of encouragement and inspiration? Look no further. Head to the Getty Images Gallery in the next 10 days to see the Innovate UK #infocus women in innovation exhibition, or take a look a their images and stories in the news and in the Innovate UK photobook.

“…the most disruptive innovation can only occur when great and diverse minds meet and get access to proper support to realise their ideas. The participation of women in the innovation ecosystem is crucial to the development of work that will truly change the world.” Innovate UK

Innovate UK recognized that the vast majority of their grant winners were men. Women and men had similar success rates but women made up only a small proportion of applicants. Just one in 7 applications for business funding to Innovate UK came from women. A lack of diversity in innovators is bad for innovation, with economic and social implications. The #infocus campaign aims to address that in a number of ways.

Last year Innovate UK launched a women-only business funding competition, and the seriously impressive pool of winners received mentoring, funding and support to take their ideas and businesses to the next level. In meeting many of the innovators, I’ve certainly been challenged by how they look at the world and are each in their different ways trying to find ways of making it better; from smarter diagnostic technology and air quality modelling, to drone technology for large structure inspection, more efficient transport technology, and addressing antibiotic resistance.

But why an exhibition? At the gallery launch last night, Ruth McKernan opened the event saying “you can be what you can see”. This exhibition, in partnership with Getty Images Gallery, with photos by Amelia Troubridge, shows real women innovators and entrepreneurs. Their hope is that the exhibition (which will be going on tour) and the photographs (which will be added to Getty’s stock images) will be part of the growing body of empowering imagery of women and also inspire others to forge their own innovation stories.

Two of the winners spoke at the launch, and one of my favourite quotes was from Shakar Jafari who said that ‘innovation is a way of life’. It isn’t a particular process, or set of knowledge, but it is continuously looking at the world and seeing what you can do to make it better, small or large. Her story, of being an Afghani refugee in Iran to developing a radiation detection system to improve effectiveness of treatment in cancer patients, typifies that statement and is just one of the many extraordinary stories featured in the exhibition.

Part of the support for the winners is the provision of mentoring by some of the Innovate UK Ambassadors with vast experience as entrepreneurs and innovators. I was delighted to be asked to be an ambassador to help promote this initiative, and feel very honored to sit alongside some of these exceptional women in one of the exhibition’s photos.

I left the gallery feeling pretty excited about the future. If the images have the same effect on others, it will have done its job well.