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Innovating women in science

Release date:
11 February 2020
To celebrate International Day of Women and Girls in Science 2020, BP Magazine takes a look at WE Innovate – a BP-sponsored programme supporting women-led start-ups

The programme is run by Imperial College London and in its six years has launched revolutionary ventures from game-changing orthopaedic casts to carbon-negative construction materials derived from waste products. 

 

Last year’s winner was biomedical science student Suchaya ‘Mint’ Mahuttanatan, who founded Cadget.

 

She aims to revolutionize the bone healing experience with a breathable, washable cast that is 60% lighter than those available today. This is achieved through a novel chemistry and needs no additional casting equipment.

 

She told the Imperial College London website: “My advice to any students thinking about starting a business is just to go for it! Step out of your comfort zone and try out your ideas. Don’t be afraid of failure.”

“My advice to any students thinking about starting a business is just to go for it! Step out of your comfort zone and try out your ideas. Don’t be afraid of failure.”

 

Suchaya ‘Mint’ Mahuttanatan, Cadget founder

Giving her presentation to the WE Innovate panel in March 2019

Supporting start-ups

The WE Innovate competition is open to any Imperical College post-doc, female-led start-up. The programme gives applicants the support they need for their first start-up – everything from training on business models and pitching through to networking at events attended by venture capitalists. At the end of the year, five finalists pitch to a panel – including one BP judge – for a first prize of £30,000, in front of a live audience at the WE Innovate Final.   

 

Emma Chapman, who works in Upstream technology, leads BP's support of the programme. She says: “It’s a great initiative and one we are proud to support. It gives young women a platform and the chance to network with the venturing industry.”

 

The programme also aims to open up the mindset of students – particularly STEM students – to careers beyond academia, giving them the push to initiate start-ups, as well as the business skills in their toolbox to succeed. 

 

Today, the United Nations, partners worldwide, women and girls mark the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, celebrating the theme, ‘Investment in Women and Girls in Science for Inclusive Green Growth’.

 

The day focuses on the reality that science and gender equality are both vital for the achievement of internationally agreed development goals, including the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. 

 

Angelo Amorelli, vice president of group research, and Anna-Marie Greenaway, who leads BP’s strategic university partnerships, both see BP’s support of this initiative as “making a tangible difference to promoting diversity in entrepreneurship. More than the funding, it’s about our best people contributing their expertise and experience. We thank them for their time and commitment.”

Mahuttanatan with her award for developing a waterproof and breathable cast

Tackling gender bias

Long-standing biases and gender stereotypes are steering girls and women away from science-related fields.

 

According to data from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), fewer than 30% of researchers worldwide are women and approximately 30% of all female students select STEM-related fields in higher education. Globally, female students’ enrolment is particularly low in ICT (3%), natural science, mathematics and statistics (5%), and engineering, manufacturing and construction (8%).

 

Chapman’s message to any young women who is mulling over the possibility of a job in STEM, or is unsure about their options, is: “Believe in yourself. You can achieve in these areas. I would always say: ‘Keep working at your network – talking to people and learning from them.’”

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