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This is what it looks like to be a female innovator in the UK

Studies show that only 14% of all people working in STEM are women. These UK female entrepreneurs are challenging the status quo...

Did you know that the proportion of UK women involved in entrepreneurial activity is around half the level of men?

Did you also know that, when filtered down to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths), this figure falls to just 14% of women?

In an effort to challenge this lack of gender diversity in STEM and innovation, Getty Images, photographer Amelia Troubridge and Innovate UK have come together to showcase what it looks like to be a UK female innovator in 2017.

Forget what you think female innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship looks like and prepare to be inspired by female founders who are working across STEM to pioneer innovations in everything from cancer detection and manufacturing to sustainable alternatives for animal products.

Celebrating the inherent differences of female entrepreneurs – across spectrums of age, education, background, and approach – view the incredible female entrepreneurs from the women in innovation series below…

Pae Natwilai Utoomprurkporn, TRIK

Pae Natwilai Utoomprurkporn

Pae Natwilai grew up and studied in Bangkok before receiving a scholarship to study global innovation design at Imperial College London and the Royal College of Art. This is where her fascination with drones began, and the seed was planted for her start-up, TRIK.

Natwilai describes TRIK as ‘Google Maps for large structure inspection’ where drones are used to scan structures and create interactive 3D maps.  Manual inspection using traditional scaffolding or rope access takes days or weeks to complete, and can cost thousands of pounds.

TRIK is developing software that allows this process to be completed in a few hours, at a fraction of the cost.

Elena Dieckmann, AEROPOWDER

Elena Dieckmann

Elena Dieckmann grew up in Nuremberg, Germany. And after a brief foray into the working world in international management in Russia and the Middle East, she returned to academia to study at the Dyson School of Design Engineering and the Royal College of Art.

Mother to a young daughter, Dieckmann feels hyper-aware of the impact our society will have on future generations. It is this awareness that led her to co-found AEROPOWDER, a start-up turning waste feathers from the poultry industry into innovative materials.

AEROPOWDER’s feather-based products use a waste by-product in a novel way and are sustainable in creation, use and disposal.

Rebecca Street, Love Is All

Rebecca Street

Rebecca Street is an established bridal designer, coupled with design technician for luxury design houses, including Alexander McQueen and Mulberry, with whom she's fitted clothes for celebrities like Kate Moss and Keira Knightley.

She is known for her sculpting skills, her technical knowledge of textiles and construction, and for pushing boundaries in the area of wearable technology. Street's focus now is on her technique for applying precious metals to fabrics, which are washable; the immediate application for this is luxury fashion and the additional implications of this technology range from medical devices to printed electronic circuits.

Carmen Hijosa, Piñatex

Carmen Hijosa

Carmen Hijosa began her life in Spain, but her career has taken her across the globe, including the UK, Ireland, Germany and the Philippines. Having specialised in the design and manufacture of leather goods, Hijosa discovered that she could make a non-woven textile – a fabric bonded together without knitting or weaving – from the long fibres in pineapple leaves. Her work resulted in the creation of Piñatex, a unique, natural and sustainable textile made from pineapple leaf fibres.

Piñatex is now entering into a new research and development phase to upgrade the product in order to be ready to enter into more stringent markets such as furnishing and automotive.

Shakar Jafari, Trueinvivo Limited

Shakar Jafari

Shakar Jafari was born in Afghanistan, but she and her family were forced to move following the outbreak of war and loss of their home when she was just six years old.

After six months of travelling, they arrived in Iran as refugees. It was here that Jafari discovered her passion for nuclear physics, radiation and the science behind its medical applications.

This passion was truly put to the test when Jafari's father was diagnosed with cancer. During the months before his death, Jafari promised him that she would try to make a difference to the lives of other people with his condition. Jafari is now the founder and CTO of Trueinvivo Limited in the UK, which has developed a radiation detection system for cancer care that aims to save lives, money and offer a better quality of life to patients.

Carolyn Pearson, Maiden-voyage

Carolyn Pearson

Having left school with only a handful of qualifications, Carolyn Pearson's passion for learning only really started when she took up part-time studies during her twenties. She achieved BAs in business and IT and an MBA with distinction, before completing the Cranfield School of Management’s Advanced Development Programme in Leadership.

After heading up tech teams within Sony, KLM and the BBC, Pearson founded, a private social network through which professional women can connect when travelling on business.

Pearson has built an 11,000-strong community in over 100 countries and, in doing so, helped ensure safety of women travellers all over the world.

Anna Hill, Rive Cycleway Consortium Ltd

Anna Hill

Anna Hill is an artist, designer, innovator and entrepreneur. She’s motivated by the constructive, creative use of space technology and how it can solve some of our biggest environmental problems. As the co-founder of the River Cycleway Consortium Ltd, Hill is responsible for the Thames Deckway, a floating cycle and pedestrian path.

During her time living close to the river in Rotherhide, Hill was inspired by the Thames and how greater use of the river could help London to deal with its growing congestion, pollution and cycling safety issues.

Hill's floating cycle-paths will create a unique high-impact civil engineering project for smart cities that aims to provide safe, green transport infrastructure.

Fiona Marston, Absynth Biologics

Fiona Marston

Fiona Marston is a passionate innovator in all aspects of her life and was inspired to follow a career in medical research by her mother’s battle with a rare degenerative illness.

If she were here, her mother would say that Marston was born self-motivated. It’s what’s driven her 25 years’ experience in healthcare, biotechnology and venture capital, and on to become CEO of Absynth Biologics, an organisation that addresses people’s growing immunity to antibiotics.

The strategic support Marston has received though Innovate UK’s ‘infocus women in innovation initiative' is already having a positive effect on Absynth, and competitive grants have enabled the team to further support their focus on R&D.


Inspired by this series? Now read these six habits of successful female entrepreneurs.