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Women in Innovation – how to interpret health, women and ageing

May 27, 2021

Dr. Giulia Sirigu
Innovate UK Business Growth Scaleup Director

Women in Innovation – how to interpret health, women and ageing

About the event

On 25th May, we hosted our Women in Innovation event focusing on how to interpret health, women and ageing. This was a great event which included a range of topics covered by a diverse group of expert speakers and thought leaders in their area!

 Our key speakers were:

  • Dr Giulia Sirigu – Senior Innovation & Growth Specialist from Innovate UK EDGE
  • Charlotte Haseler – Senior Innovation & Growth Specialist from Innovate UK EDGE
  • Professor Nic Palmarini - Director of the National Innovation Centre for Ageing 
  • Dr Katherine Horner - Senior Project Manager at the University of Manchester Innovation Factory
  •  Eileen Donnelly - CEO and Founder of Ripple & Co

The event covered various topics including; diversity, inclusion, role models, inspiration, feminism and Femtech. We answered questions such as ‘how can we make the health sector more inclusive?’ and ‘what do you need to know about social enterprise and innovation to create an impact?’.


Diversity and Innovation Nexus: why it is important and what to do

Opening the event, Giulia from Innovate UK EDGE talked about diversity and how this could boost innovation, improve financial results and allow companies to diversify and have more gender balance – therefore resulting in a higher return on equity.

Giulia also gave us some insight into UKRI - UK Research and Innovation, discussing the partnership between Innovate UK EDGE and UKRI and how they work with the government to invest over £7 billion a year in research and innovation by partnering with academia and industry to make the impossible, possible. Giulia also presented the funded support available.

Women in Healthcare

Professor Nic Palmarini from the National Innovation Centre for Ageing echoed many of Giulia’s points by highlighting the importance of women in the healthcare sector and why ageing should be interpreted from a different perspective:

  •  Women (are 50% of the population now) control 80% of healthcare decisions
  • Women in the workforce spend 29% more per capita on healthcare than their male peers, and they’re 75% more likely to use digital tools to track their health.


Nic continued to discuss the link between technology, innovation and the creation of a new narrative around gender and ageing. He introduced the concept of Femtech - The term was coined by Ida Tin, founder and CEO of Clue, an app which enables users to share information regarding menstrual cycles with partners, family, and friends. Tin believes that connected mobile technology is the future of female health.

Nic also shared this powerful quote when explaining why this type of innovation is becoming more and more important: “FemTech matters because women’s voices are (finally)becoming more influential”.

How can we make the health sector more inclusive?

Dr Katherine Horner, Senior Project Manager at the University of Manchester Innovation Factory talked through women, health, and biotech – and how we can make it more inclusive…   

  • Focused R&D, innovation and studies
  • FemTech– currently accounts for 4% of the funding of healthcare R&D - good news is that the market is growing!
  • Specific diseases/indications e.g. endometriosis, lupus, coronary blockages...

The conclusion from this question and discussion point was that we need to talk more openly about it, in forums and groups such as Women in Innovation and work together to incentivise change. The overall goal is to encourage companies to re-brand and de-stigmatise within the industry by making their product and brand more inclusive and welcoming to all women. 

Katherine also shared some of her favourite quotes from empowering women such as: 

  • “Go out and meet innovators from all backgrounds, because once you have a wide network, it helps you with developing different solutions to the innovative space you are working in”
  • “Believe in yourself. You are as good as the next (wo)man.” 
  • “No one will give you power, you have to use your own voice and speak up. If you know you are on the right track, chart your course, be honest and authentic.”

Creating an impact: what you need to know about social enterprise and innovation

Charlotte, Senior Innovation & Growth Specialist from Innovate UK EDGE discussed what you need to know about social enterprise and innovation, the growth in social enterprise, social enterprise in health, women in social enterprise and the different support organisations that can offer help and services to companies and employers.

  •  Almost a third of Social Enterprise UK members operate in health and social care in the broadest sense
  •  Social enterprises are often seen as natural partners to the NHS when it comes to delivering health and social care services
  • Social Prescribing – Where a holistic approach to an individuals wellbeing is considered, they are then connected to relevant services within the community  for practical and emotional support

The importance of wellbeing in the workplace:

We rounded the event off with some interesting insights and statistics from Eileen Donnelly CEO and Founder of Ripple & Co who highlighted the importance of wellbeing to provide an inclusive environment.

Eileen explained mental health in the workplace, how poor mental health can cost employers and the different drivers of satisfaction across different areas of an employee’s life, from job satisfaction to interpersonal relationships.

The most common causes of long-term absence are:

  • 23% Mental Ill Health
  • 20% Stress
  • 21% Acute medical conditions
  • 19% Musculoskeletal
  • 17% Other

 38% of Gen X (39-54 years old) have left a role due, at least in part, to mental health reasons.

Can I learn more? 

Sure – if you’re keen to hear more about Women in Innovation and our events, or more about Innovate UK EDGE and the support that we can provide then email: InnovateUKEDGE@inventya.com REF: Women in Innovation.

Keep an eye out for information on our June event – or register now! https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/149738484839

What support can I benefit from?

Companies in the healthcare sector can benefit from Innovate UK EDGE support to grow and scale and go international – find out more below:

Innovate UK EDGE

Since 2007, Innovate UK has invested around £2.5 billion to help businesses across the country to innovate. Doing this Innovate UK has helped 8,500 organisations create around 70,000 jobs and added an estimated £18 billion of value to the UK economy.

Innovate UK offers support for businesses trying to succeed in markets in the following ways:

  •  Funded by Innovate UK EDGE
  • 5-9 days of tailored growth and scaling support
  • For small to medium-sized business up to 500 employees
  • 1-2-1 coaching / advisory support delivered by a Senior Innovation and Growth Specialist
  • Internationalisation support

May 27, 2021
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