Women in Ireland encouraged to apply for EU innovator prize

13 Mar 2015

(Left to right) Laura van 't Veer, Saskia Biskup, and Ana Maiques, winners of the 2014 EU Prize for Women Innovators

The EU has launched its third annual EU Prize for Women Innovators to inspire and highlight the need for more female entrepreneurs.

Innovation needs talent, and we can’t afford to miss out on the talent that women bring. That was a strong message from the launch last week of the the third edition of the EU Prize for Women Innovators.

The contest seeks to reward women who have achieved outstanding innovations and brought them to market. Prizes of €100,000, €50,000 and €30,000 are up for grabs, and previous winners have included Saskia Bishop (Saskia Biskup) in 2014, who co-founded a biotech company that helps to diagnose rare disease and Gitte Neubauer in 2011, whose research seeks to better target drugs against inflammatory diseases and cancer. Neubauer co-founded Cellzome, which GlaxoSmithKline acquired in 2012.

European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation Carlos Moedas launched the latest round last week during a working lunch with outstanding women in academia, research, industry and media.

“There may have been some improvement in recent years but, in Europe, female researchers and entrepreneurs remain a minority,” he stated. “Whether economically, intellectually or socially, we cannot afford to continue missing out on this vast pool of untapped talent. The EU Prize for Women Innovators recognises women entrepreneurs for their valuable achievements, inspiring both men and women alike.”

Shining light on the challenge

The initiative gives visibility to the challenge we are facing in research, innovation and entrepreneurship, where a large pool of talent is untapped, according to Lucia Caudet, spokesperson for Research, Science and Innovation.

She shares some stark statistics: in 2012, 46pc of the PhD graduates in the EU were women, but they represented only 33pc of researchers; just one of every 10 universities in the European Union has a female rector, and 20pc of researchers at the top grade of an academic career are women; women represent only 30pc of all entrepreneurs in Europe.

“We need to promote women entrepreneurship and leadership in Europe,” says Caudet. “Europe needs more women to step up their game and pursue their success as top managers in companies. Europe’s well-educated women researchers need to take the step of becoming leaders and bring their ideas to market.”

Inspiring contestants

The prizes have undoubtedly helped previous winners, but the competition has also inspired many others.

“Our forerunner contests in 2011 and 2014 proved that there exists a vibrant community of women leaders and entrepreneurs in Europe,” says Caudet.

“We have received strong submissions from top women leaders from Ireland as well as all corners of Europe who work in a wide range of sectors. They have founded and co-founded successful companies and managed to bridge the gap between science and research and the market. By showcasing their ambitious stories in this contest we inspire other women to follow in their footsteps and become entrepreneurs.”

Women in Ireland – apply!

The contest is open to all women who have founded or co-founded their company and who have at some point in their careers benefitted from EU’s research and innovation funding. You can see the contest rules here. Contestants will be able to submit their applications until 20 October 2015, and a high-level jury will evaluate and select the three winners.

So, what is Caudet’s advice for women in Ireland who are eligible to go for the prize? “In one word: apply!” she says. “The next winner could right now be reading this. The three winners of this year’s competition will be announced in spring 2016 and I am already excited to meet them.”

Women Invent is Silicon Republic’s campaign to champion the role of women in science, technology, engineering and maths. It has been running since March 2013, and is kindly supported by Accenture Ireland, Intel, the Irish Research Council, ESB, Twitter, CoderDojo and Science Foundation Ireland.

Inspire 2015 is Silicon Republic’s unique international sci-tech event running 18-19 June in Dublin, connecting professionals passionate about the future of STEM with fresh perspectives on leadership, innovation and diversity. Buy your early bird tickets nowGet in early and grab the ‘Two-for-one’ tickets before the end of March. You don’t want to miss this!

Dr Claire O’Connell is a scientist-turned-writer with a PhD in cell biology and a master’s in science communication