It is almost universally recognised that scientific innovation and discoveries are the main driving forces behind a technological advanced economy and a highly skilled labour market. This area has received even greater attention in recent years due to factors such as the increasing competition from emerging economies such as India and China, the opportunities and challenges brought about by globalisation of markets, collaboration in a new form of open innovation, and the service sector’s increasingly technology-intensive activities Innovation is considered to be the key to some of the biggest challenges currently facing the world in terms of global warming and climate change. As a result, there is intense international, inter-regional and inter-firm rivalry to capture the high ground in terms of invention and innovation and their rapid deployment for commercial or social gain (Edquist, 1997; Wynarczyk, 2006; DIUS, 2008).
The importance of infrastructure –hard and soft elements– to support innovation activity at the national, regional or firm level is acknowledged but creativity remains a human activity, whether as an individual working alone or in a team, whether in the public or private sectors. As stated in the UK government’s Innovation Nation White Paper (2008), ‘government can foster innovation but it is people who can create an Innovation Nation (p1)’. While the lone inventor remains an important player in the technological process, in today’s world it increasingly means the highly qualified and trained professional employee, working in R&D/lab teams within private corporations or public sector establishments (Freeman 1982). On the surface there does not appear to be any fundamental reasons why women should not be equal with men in the inventive, innovative processes and R&D activities that result essentially from ‘brain work’. However, limited data that exists clearly demonstrates that Europe, in general, has not been successful in attracting women into industrial research. In 2003, women constituted less than 15% of industrial researchers in the EU (EC, 2003).
Based on a survey of 84 innovative SMEs, carried out as part of the ESRC (Science in Society Programme and Impact Grant), aims to address the ‘gender gap’ in industrial R&D within the context of the ‘open innovation’ in the UK.
Speaker Bio: Professor Pooran Wynarczyk
Professor Pooran Wynarczyk is the Director of the Small Enterprise Research Unit (SERU) at Newcastle University Business School. She is an elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, Manufacturers and Commerce (FRSA) and a judge of the F1 in Schools Challenge, North East Regional and National Finals. She is the Founder and Director of the North East of England Role Model Platform for Innovative Women, the Chair of the Diversity Consultative Group at Newcastle University and a Board Director of the Institute for Small Business and Entrepreneurship (ISBE). Her Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) sponsored research, publications and engagement activities include entrepreneurship, SMEs, innovation, R&D, and science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) pipeline (policy, initiatives, education and employment) with a special focus on gender and young people.