Today, in celebration of International Women’s Day (Tuesday 8 March), three trailblazing female entrepreneurs from Yorkshire and the Humber have been recognised by Innovate UK’s Women in Innovation Awards for their game-changing innovations which are tackling some of society’s biggest challenges.
Jennifer Turner, Ali Gordon (pictured) and Saile Villegas from Yorkshire and the Humber are amongst 38 pioneering women across the UK who will be awarded a cash injection of £50,000 each, as well as bespoke mentoring and coaching to enable them to scale up whilst bringing new, disruptive products and services to market.
Many of the ideas have been borne out of a response to challenges emerging from the pandemic and climate crisis.
From healthcare to fashion and from femtech to dining-out the diverse entrepreneurs being backed today as International Women’s Day encourages people to ‘break the bias’, include:
Jennifer Turner (47), from Sheffield, whose 20 year career as an NHS physiotherapist inspired her to develop the S-Press, a portable leg strengthening device designed to reduce the muscle wastage that can occur when people, particularly the elderly, are in hospital.
Ali Gordon (46), from Wakefield, founder of Eat Out Round About®, who has developed a social dining app where people can connect with friends and discover local places to dine out based on where it will have the biggest local impact, helping re-build the hospitality sector post pandemic.
Saile Villegas (28), from Leeds, co-founder of Seeai, who has developed 'Fraxpert', an Artificial intelligence (AI) that can detect hard-to-see bone fractures to support radiologists in diagnosis.
The flagship Women in Innovation Awards is a key part of Innovate UK’s commitment to boosting the number of UK female entrepreneurs. As highlighted in the recent Rose Review, if we could enable women to start and scale businesses at the same rate as men, it could add up to £250 billion to the UK economy.
Now in its fourth year, Innovate UK’s Women in Innovation programme continues to support high-potential female business leaders from diverse backgrounds. This year, over a third of the winners are Black, Asian or from another ethnic minority group, 16% have identified as disabled, and there are award winners in every nation and region of the UK.
Commenting on her award and S-Press, Jennifer Turner said, “My years as a physio in the NHS showed me the gaping hole in our ability to effectively treat the most frail and physically restricted patients admitted to our wards. A person can lose up to 20% of their muscle strength in the first week after admission, which can have devastating effects on their independence and ability to return home. I'm looking forward to developing the S-Press further with Innovate UK's support and it is a huge honour and very humbling to receive the Women in Innovation Award."
Encouraging new government research shows nearly 40% of UK FTSE 100 board positions are now held by women, compared with 12.5% 10 years ago. Female entrepreneurs are also on the rise, the number of UK businesses currently owned by women is 32.37% (Source UENI 2020 Report on Gender and Small Business).
Commenting on the award and Eat Out Round About®, Ali Gordon said, "I was inspired by the Government's Eat Out to Help Out Scheme that helped stimulate economic activity but was unsustainable. We want to get people and businesses thinking and engaging more locally so that local economies can thrive. The award has meant we can learn from our trials in Wakefield and look forward to expanding into more locations. Helping those keen to support their local economy to experience more benefits through local dining. I feel honoured to have won the Innovate UK's Women in Innovation Award and to be part of such an inspirational group of women."
Emily Nott, Head of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion at Innovate UK said: “It has continued to be a challenging year of uncertainty but these pioneering, resilient women inspire us to dream big and make an impact despite the difficulties we face. Innovate UK will work alongside these winners to ensure they have the resources and support required to turn their innovative ideas and aspirations into a reality, while encouraging a new generation of women to come forward and pursue their ambitions.”
Indro Mukerjee, CEO of Innovate UK, said: “We have an incredible opportunity to make a real difference to the talent and skills pipeline for UK business innovation by inspiring, involving and investing in greater diversity. With practical actions like our Women in Innovation programme, we can help make a real difference to developing the successful innovators and businesses of the future.”