A federation for women led organisations for the advancement of enterprise, innovation and research
On the 11 March 2014, the European Commission’s DG Innovation and Research held the 2nd Innovation Convention in Brussels mainly for anyone involved in innovation, research and enterprise. It focused on engaging and contributing to the innovation debate with business leaders, top researchers and high-level policy makers with the opportunity to gain inspiration from world-renowned speakers and great innovation showcases.
This provided the opportunity to collaborate and organise a fringe event with the theme: 'Bridging The Gender Gap And Accelerating Innovative, Sustainable Growth'. This was jointly organized by two European women networks: the European Union of Women Inventors & Innovators Network (EUWIIN)
(www.euwiininternational.eu), a catalyst and capacity building initiative for the introduction of new products, processes and services with a special focus on women and the European Platform of Women Scientists (EPWS) (www.epws.org), an umbrella association bringing together networks of women scientists and organisations committed to gender equality in all science disciplines in EU research.
Both EUWIIN and EPWS are aware that there is a gender gap to bridge as female innovative entrepreneurship is still proving to be a challenge, since only 8.3% of patents delivered by the European patent Office are awarded to women and women score less than men when accessing the level of innovation of their own business (innovation of product: 13.9% women compared to 14.5% of men.
Innovation of process compared to 4.1% women compared to 7.8% of men: innovation in the organisation 5.2% of women compared to 6.5% of men: marketing innovation 9.1% women compared to 10.45% of men (“Evaluation on Policy: Promotion of Women Innovators an Entrepreneurship”, European Commission 2009). The situation is not much better in academia, where the proportion of female graduates in Engineering, manufacturing and construction is 26% in EU27 (She Figures 2012, European Commission).
Key aspects that came out from the Fringe session was the need for both organizations to collaborate more with the European Commission as while EPWS and EUWIIN pocess an impressive and effective mandate, the European Commission could help facilitate and provide the necessary funding to achieve better efficiency and much needed change for growth.
Marie-Hélène Therre, from EPWS, a participant to the GenderedInnovations project, funded by DG Research, stressed that gender perspective is one key to get insights and to insure growth of knowledge and sustainable outcome in the innovation process; for this purpose, tools and methodology are available to everyone. Claudine Hermann, Vice President of EPWS also emphasized that Innovation is not only in technical objects but also in processes in Economy, Management and Human Resources. Structural changes in research institutions and inclusion of gender aspects in science culture would improve working conditions for both women and men, needed in Innovation.
EPWS and EUWIIN support the fact that research and innovation must play an increasingly vital role in line with Europe 2020 and continue to receive a high and ideally increased proportion of the EU budget however it is fundamentally paramount that its focus on gender is thoroughly effective, demonstrates efficiency with meaningful impact and added value.
Innovative women award winners at the Innovation Conference demonstrated women’s ability to put excellence at the heart of their projects. Bola Olabisi, Director, EUWIIN concluded that it is therefore not always the ideas and skills that women and girls in Europe lack but rather the requisite critical mass to effect great changes in their respective areas of expertise. This crucial conclusion highlights the fact that more must be done to increase gender equity, equality and empowerment to ensure an integrated, developed and prosperous Europe.
The formation of a new Federation –genderINNOV2020 for Europe
A general conclusion of the fringe session was that more must be done was found to be highly supported however the capacity and resources to do more is sadly lacking. Both EPWS and EUWIIN offer much needed support as it is, however they both are currently running on a voluntary basis and face the challenges and barriers that come with seeking European funding such as match funding, resources for completing the highly time consuming applications to name a few.
In order to find solutions, two questions were raised at the fringe session held at the Innovation Convention. They were: How can the networks and associations better collaborate with the European Commission? How could they be better supported by the European Commission? A number of value added responses with the general consensus included.
• Women’s networks should continue to work together and build one voice with greater impact
• Align and partner more with knowledge transfer institutions
• Involve MEP’s willing to champion the course and build a more dynamic level of dialogue
• Seek more efficiency from the EC for promotion, visibility of women’s achievements and award winners
In response, EUWIIN and EPWS took on the challenge to develop a Federation that would act as a single organisation for the independent networks and associations.
The name genderINNOV2020 was generally agreed as part of the proposal to form a new European Federation for the advancement of women led innovative SME’s and research organisations as a positive way forward.
The main aim would be that genderINNOV2020 would serve as a recognised vehicle for providing support for women led organisations such as EPWS and EUWIIN and help with their madate and focus on innovation and the application of research outcomes; links with business, education and wider society.
The mandate of genderINNOV2020 would be to participate effectively in the 'Horizon 2020' and act as a catalyst for women led initiatives that build capacity to discover, decipher and develop innovative advances in science, engineering and technology with opportunities for social and economic growth.
Hosting Institution – Bournemouth University
A crucial aspect for genderINNOV2020 for Europe is the hosting partnership that is being newly developed with Bournemouth University under the Centre for Intellectual Property Policy & Management led by Prof Maurizio Borgh.
In order to ensure that genderINNOV2020 for Europe develops into a far reaching initiative with efficiency and maximum impact, we recognize the importance and the added value that Bournemouth Universityoffers. These include:
• Taking on the role of contractor on behalf of genderINNOV2020 for Europe by its capacity to meet EC eligibility and the various possible match funding, monitoring, governance and legislative criterias.
• Assisting with the strategic planning and development of projects that may lead to European funding
• Becoming involved in key mandates such as building on existing projects that sustain the pipeline of female talent in science, engineering, technology and innovation
The Founding Associations of genderINNOV2020 for Europe
European Women Inventors & Innovators Network (EUWIIN)is a catalyst and capacity building initiate for the introduction of new products, processes and services with a special focus on women. With a growing connection of networks from across Europe, EUWIIN continues to identify and promote effective ways of bringing support, tools and information that assists women in achieving significant growth in their businesses and workplaces. Many facts argue in favour of promoting women inventor and innovator activities in Europe. European statistics revealed data and information on female innovative entrepreneurship in the 2009 European Commission report on ‘Evaluation on policy: Promotion of Women Innovators and Entrepreneurship. This showed that at European level: only 8.3% of patents awarded by the European Patent Office were awarded to women: only 20.3% of businesses started with venture capital belonged to women: women scored less than men when accessing the level of innovation of their own business (innovation of product: 13.9% women compared to 14.5% of men. Innovation of process compared to 4.1% women compared to 7.8% of men: innovation in the organisation 5.2% of women compared to 6.5% of men: marketing innovation 9.1% women compared to 10.45% of men. EUWIIN serves to increase the pool of human resources and stimulate wider inclusiveness and the exchange of knowledge in areas of intellectual property rights, access to finance, international trade, equity and commercialisation. Member countries include: United Kingdom, Finland, Estonia, Iceland, Italy, Croatia, Poland, Sweden, Belgium,
European Platform of Women Scientists (EPWS) is an umbrella organization bringing together networks of women scientists and organizations committed to gender equality in scientific research in all disciplines in the 28 EU Member States and the countries associated to the European Union research programme. EPWS mission and activities are to represent, with democratic legitimacy and transparent decision-making structures, the concerns, needs, aspirations and interests of women scientists, in all stages of their career path, in dialogue with national, European and international institutions. The association aims at promoting networking among women scientists, particularly in Central and Eastern Europe and the private sector; enhancing the understanding and the inclusion of the gender issue in science and research policy in all scientific fields; ensuring that women scientists’interests are taken into consideration when setting the political research agenda. Its main activities are Networking the women scientists Networks; Participation in the Policy Debate; Structural Link between women scientists and policy makers. Its members’main disciplines are Social Sciences and Humanities, Natural Sciences and Engineering, Multidisciplinary. EPWS has a wide experience in European women and science issues and is ready and willing to share this expert knowledge.