New programme to inspire next generation of innovative female entrepreneurs


Professor Maggie Dallman, Dame Stephanie Shirley, Professor Alice Gast, Alexsis de Raadt-St. James and Sherry Couto

Imperial teams up with the Althea Foundation to invest $100,000 in a three-year pioneering entrepreneurship programme and prize for women students.

Leading figures and supporters of women in entrepreneurship gathered this morning to celebrate the launch of the Althea-Imperial programme - a new scheme to identify and inspire the next generation of female entrepreneurs. Imperial College London has teamed up with The Althea Foundation, the social venture philanthropic organisation, to invest an initial $100,000 in a three-year entrepreneurship programme and prize for its female students.

As the deadline for applications approaches (Monday 27 October), female undergraduates and postgraduates were invited to submit their business ideas to be included in a pioneering and bespoke development programme designed to encourage and support more women studying science, technology, engineering and medicine (STEM) to play a leading role in the next generation of innovative business leaders.

A full house for the launch of the Althea-Imperial Programme

A full house for the launch of the Althea-Imperial Programme

Entrepreneurs and keynote speakers Sherry Coutu and Dame Stephanie Shirley joined Imperial President Professor Alice Gast and programme champion Professor Maggie Dallman, also Dean of Imperial’s Faculty of Natural Sciences, on stage. They talked about their experiences, shared their entrepreneurial wisdom, and encouraged female students to apply to the programme.

How I wish this Prize had been around when I started out

– Dame Stephanie Shirley

Angel investor Sherry Coutu made an enlightened and passionate case for the extra £1 trillion GDP that could be created by involving more women with a STEM background in establishing and scaling up new ventures. Software entrepreneur and charity founder Dame Stephanie reflected on a lifetime in business and shared the secrets of her success, which include only employing people who are better than you.

Dame Stephanie went on to invite established business people to share their journey and their successes, to encourage students to step forward and take a risk by applying to the programme, and to encourage mentors to give generously of their time. She finished by observing: "How I wish this Prize had been around when I started out". 

"We are pleased to be collaborating with the Althea Foundation on this important programme", said Professor Alice Gast. "Entrepreneurship is at the heart of much of our work, and this programme offers us the opportunity to encourage women to develop their entrepreneurial ideas and create new and innovative enterprises. 

"If we are serious about economic growth, we must find more ways to support women in STEM fields and encourage them to pursue their ideas and start their own businesses. We look forward to working with mentors and business leaders to inspire, invest in and unlock the talent of the UK's next generation of women entrepreneurs." 

"The Althea-Imperial programme has been designed to transform entrepreneurship opportunities for women in STEM," says Alexsis de Raadt St. James, Founder and Chairman of The Althea Foundation. "Although more women are studying for STEM degrees than before, over 70% of them drop out of STEM careers. This new programme aims to reverse this loss of investment and talent by providing support for female Imperial students to pursue their entrepreneurship ambitions, and become the business leaders of the future.

Dame Stephanie Shirley, Sherry Coutu and Professor Alice Gast

(l-r) Dame Stephanie Shirley, Sherry Coutu and Professor Alice Gast

The Althea-Imperial programme will support women students to develop their ideas through a range of sessions and workshops featuring business leaders, and one-to-one mentoring sessions for them to prepare their innovative ideas before pitching to a judging panel in May 2015. It will also create a community of peer support, as well as connect students to the broader entrepreneurship community at Imperial. The programme will support student entrepreneurs through the development of their ideas, with modules aimed at:

* helping them to solve grand challenges

* unlocking their creative skills

* developing their team leadership skills

* learning from failure

* harnessing public speaking skills in order to promote their ideas.

"We are launching this programme to ensure that Imperial continues to contribute the world's best minds to a new wave of female entrepreneurial leaders", says Professor Maggie Dallman, Dean of the Faculty of Natural Sciences and champion of the Althea-Imperial programme. "Speakers, mentors and judges on the programme represent some of the best minds in business today and I am delighted to be able to offer this exciting development opportunity to our students as part of their Imperial experience." 


Natasha Martineau

Natasha Martineau

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