Business and political leaders must ensure that women’s entrepreneurial ambitions are not “stifled at the earliest stage”, says Professor Alice Gast.
Inspirational role models and a modest nudge in the right direction can have a major impact Professor Alice Gast President, Imperial
She said: “We cannot afford to leave half of our talent pool untapped. The lack of women involved in building startups should be of grave concern to business and political leaders.
“Imperial College London educates some of the world’s brightest women in science, engineering, medicine and business. It would be a tragic waste if their entrepreneurial ambitions were stifled at the earliest stage.
“That is why we launched the WEInnovate programme. Female students are exposed to mentoring and workshops as their innovative ideas come to life, and enter a Dragon’s Den-style competition to win financial support for their fledgling businesses.
“Although only some win funding, it is striking how many more go on to receive independent investment and build successful businesses. For example, Christina Petersen has secured tens of thousands of pounds for Lys: a wearable technology for managing the impact of artificial light on the user’s health and well-being.
“Inspirational role models and a modest nudge in the right direction can have a major impact, not just on our most promising young minds, but for the future of British innovation.”
WEInnovate, which is supported by Santander Universities and The Swarovski Foundation, is a pioneering entrepreneurial programme for female Imperial students. Formerly known as the Althea-Imperial programme, it was founded thanks to Alexsis de Raadt St James and The Althea Foundation in 2014.
The programme consists of a series of workshops, talks by business leaders, and one-to-one mentoring sessions, and culminates in a final where participants pitch to a panel of academic and industry experts in the hope of winning funding to further their businesses.This year’s total prize pot is £30k, with a top prize of £15k and several runner-up awards.
Earlier this week, Imperial announced the five finalists who will be pitching their business ideas during the showcase event on Tuesday 20 March. The final will take place during Enterprise Week 2018, a week-long showcase of startups, entrepreneurs, and innovators running from 19-23 March.
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