Oxford Brookes projects funded to address “pressing equality and diversity issues facing engineering and physical sciences”

Thursday, 09 August 2018

Engineering

Oxford Brookes University is leading a national project to improve equality, diversity and inclusion within engineering and the physical sciences.

Eleven projects have been funded at universities across the UK with £5.5m from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). This is as part of Inclusion Matters, the first initiative of its kind, which has been launched as part of the collective approach by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) to promote equality, diversity and inclusion. 

The project being led by Oxford Brookes University will look at the promotion of equality, diversity and inclusion in university spinout companies. These companies are formed following research or activities conducted at a university and for which the higher education institution retains involvement. 

The research aims to identify barriers as well as enabling factors that exist for women scientists, engineers and mathematicians in key stages of the spinout process and entrepreneurial activities to commercialise research and innovation.

This project vision is to achieve a step change in institutional capabilities to increase the participation of women researchers in STEM disciplines in university spinouts and to mainstream gender in the ecosystem which drives innovation.

Professor Simonetta Manfredi, Professor in Equality and Diversity Management, Oxford Brookes University

Directing the programme is Professor Simonetta Manfredi, Professor in Equality and Diversity Management at Oxford Brookes Business School and founder of the University’s Centre for Diversity Policy Research and Practice (CDPRP). She said: “Too few women researchers are leading spinout companies. There has not been enough attention focussed on the progression of women researchers at all career stages on the entrepreneurial pathway from research to spinout leadership.

“This project vision is to achieve a step change in institutional capabilities to increase the participation of women researchers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) disciplines in university spinouts and to mainstream gender in the ecosystem which drives innovation.”

The project is in collaboration with the University of Oxford, Vitae, The Royal Society of London, Elsevier UK, International Training Centre of the International Labour Organisation, WomenCount, OxLep, The Royal Society of London, European Space Agency Business Incubator Centre Harwell, PertinaxPharma and Biosystem Technology. 

In March this year Professor Manfredi wrote for Times Higher Education (THE) about the need to tackle the under-representation of women in university spinout companies.

Oxford Brookes is also collaborating on another of the projects announced today by the EPSRC, led by the University of Lincoln.

The Advanced Strategic Platform for Inclusive Research Environments (ASPIRE) offers an innovative, evidence-based approach to deepen efforts in improving equality, diversity and inclusion. The overarching aim of the ASPIRE project is to create a dynamic and interactive web-based platform to increase the inclusiveness of research environments

The web-based toolkit will be used to harness best practice across the sector, enable measurement and monitoring of the implementation of inclusion initiatives across institutions, link implementation with markers of culture change and provide recommendations for scaling across the sector.

Dr Alison Wall, EPSRC’s Associate Director, Building Leadership, said: “The Inclusion Matters call projects display ambition, creativity and a commitment to addressing the pressing equality and diversity issues facing engineering and the physical sciences.

“Through new research, innovative approaches and a broadening of activities, they will inform and shape significant cultural change across institutions and share their learning with the whole sector. By furthering equality, diversity and inclusion we want to ensure that researchers from all groups are able to fulfil their talent and ambitions.”

Full details about the Inclusion Matters initiative and the eleven projects can be found on the EPSRC’s website.