Innovate UK: diversity and inclusion

How we are supporting people from a variety of backgrounds and walks of life to innovate and succeed in business and ultimately build the UK economy.


At Innovate UK we are committed to encouraging diversity and inclusion in business innovation.

We want to find the best and most talented innovators from a diverse range of backgrounds, and provide them with the resources, advice and self-belief to succeed.

Our approach shines a spotlight where there is currently under representation in business innovation. We support and empower people to innovate, grow businesses, and in turn the UK economy.

Supporting diversity and inclusion in innovation

A report commissioned by Innovate UK was carried out by the Innovation Caucus to explore the barriers, challenges, opportunities and support needs for minority ethnic and disabled people. Read the news item.

Based on the findings, Innovate UK will:

  • Collect equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) data on all Innovate UK competitions
  • Review our own structures, processes and work environments and the ways that we may be perpetuating barriers in terms of who we represent, who we invite to the table, who we partner with and fund
  • Continue to work with partners, and business networks who promote and champion the voice of under-represented communities in innovation by celebrating diverse role models, targeted communications strategies and investigating new models for convening and growing communities
  • Work in partnership with YSYS on their ambition to promote more diversity in innovation particularly by championing BAME innovators, investors and communities to create an ongoing dialogue for change. Alongside partners YSYS are striving to place 100,000 diverse people with opportunities in tech by 2023.
  • Deepen understanding of the impact of intersectionality on access to Innovate UK funding and support through retrospective data analysis
  • Engage with a number of All-Party Parliamentary Groups including the APPG for Disability to listen and connect with partners who are leading in this space and championing innovators with a disability.
  • Expand our understanding of the opportunities and challenges faced specifically by neurodiverse innovators and innovators with hidden disabilities.
  • Review and update our accessibility policy for applicants to ensure support is holistic and appropriate to disabled people’s needs

Women in Innovation: campaign

Women in Innovation is the name of our first diversity and inclusion campaign, which aims to get more women innovating in business.

The campaign kicked off in 2016 with research to understand the challenges of being a female entrepreneur, and a women-only competition with awards offering innovation grant funding and a tailored programme of mentoring and business support. The support helped the award holders grow their businesses, while creating new role models for the next generation.

A second Women in Innovation funding competition launched in 2018 to support even more women solving society’s greatest challenges to reach their full potential.

We announced the 9 winners on International Women’s Day – 8 March 2019. Each will receive £50,000 funding, plus business support.

We are also holding quarterly events to ‘build success’. These are open to female entrepreneurs and will feature practical workshops to help with grant writing, tackling blocks in the innovation process, market validation and pitching to investors.

We will continue to tackle this issue by reviewing our existing funding programmes to better promote and inspire diversity.

Women in Innovation: meet our 2019 award holders

The winners of Innovate UK’s second Women in Innovation competition were announced on International Women’s Day 2019. The 9 entrepreneurs are tackling society’s biggest challenges: clean growth, the future of mobility, an ageing society and AI and the data driven economy.

Read the brochure to find out more about our award holders.

Women in Innovation: meet our 2016 award holders

Watch videos and find out more about some of our award holders.

Claire Spencer, CEO, Data Solver, on attending a mission to Boston for women in tech

Women in Innovation - Claire Spencer

Fanzi Down, Commercial Director, DPS Design, on changing perceptions of the business

Women in Innovation - Fanzi Down

Shakardokht Jafari, CTO and Founder, TrueInvivo, on her drive to innovate new cancer treatments

Women in Innovation - Shakardokht Jafari

Becky Sage, CEO, Interactive Scientific, on being a female entrepreneur in digital tech

What’s it like to be a female entrepreneur in the digital tech sector?

Beth Dawson, Projects Manager, Fuel Cell Systems, on energy and her role as an ‘intrapreneur’

What’s it like to be a female intrapreneur in the energy sector?

Emma Sceats, CEO, CN Bio Innovations, on working in health technology

What’s it like to be a female entrepreneur in the health tech sector?

Ideas mean business: campaign

Ideas mean business is a collaboration between Innovate UK and The Prince’s Trust to engage and inspire young innovators from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Launched in 2017, the campaign is designed to help young people (18 to 30-year-olds) to gain confidence and expertise to innovate and realise their potential, regardless of their background.

This is through a programme of financial support, a package of tools and expert advice to help young innovators to turn their ideas into reality. The winners of the competition were announced in June 2018.

Innovate UK and The Prince’s Trust’s campaign, Ideas mean business

Ideas mean business: meet the young innovators

Watch videos with some of the winning young innovators.

Meet the young innovators - Innovate UK and SBTV

Adam Root, 27, on his solution to solve the ocean’s plastic problem

The Young Innovators - Adam Root

Laura Niehorster, 27, on her plans to help the UK reduce sanitary waste

The Young Innovators - Laura Niehorster

George Howell, 19, on innovating in a rural location and driving a change for young people

The Young Innovators - George Howell


Check out our series of blogs on diversity and inclusion.

The Knowledge Transfer Network hosts blogs on diversity and inclusion from business experts. See all blogs.

Published 7 July 2017
Last updated 20 March 2020 + show all updates
  1. Change to a couple of links

  2. Added information about 2019's Women in Innovation award holders, including a link to the winners' brochure and news story.

  3. Added a description and link within the Women in Innovation campaign about the quarterly workshops women entrepreneurs can attend to get advice and support to make their idea a success.

  4. Updated Women in Innovation campaign to reflect that the second round of the competition has now launched and will be open for applications until 3 October of 2018.

  5. Added information and videos about the winners of our competition for young innovators through the Ideas mean business campaign. Added a link to the brochure with information on the 24 winning projects.

  6. Added a new video featuring Claire Spencer, CEO of Data Solver

  7. Added new videos for the Women in Innovation campaign, one on the new support that will be made available and others featuring some of the award holders and how the programme has helped them to innovate.

  8. Added information about Innovate UK running a second Women in Innovation competition this year and included a link in the collection to the news story with more detail. Added information on the other activities we are doing to support and encourage female entrepreneurs to innovate.

  9. Reordered collection sections into 2 campaigns, Ideas mean business and Women in innovation, following the launch of new campaign. Added new video content and news stories on the launch.

  10. Added latest news stories.

  11. Added links to diversity and inclusion blogs from the KTN. Added photography book to collection of our work.

  12. Added latest news stories to the collection.

  13. First published.