This week last year, in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, and the ground swell of public concern over the reality of systemic racism, I posted a commitment to promote diversity and inclusion in our enterprise and innovation programmes. I promised that we would look to go beyond words and to focus on deeds: Specifically, I said that we would monitor our positive actions and the impact of those in our data.
We have kept that data in three dimensions: inclusion and promotion of black and ethnic minority entrepreneurs; inclusion and promotion of female entrepreneurs, and inclusion of entrepreneurs with disability. In summary, there is positive progress but more to be done.
Before getting to the results, I think it’s worth registering that discrimination continues to be problematic in science and enterprise. Universities – unfortunately – are not yet islands of enlightenment in this respect. In respect of racism, this recent insightful article from Nature offers some historical context of the roots of racism in science. Systemic discrimination is by its nature not easy to notice. Hence only by registering the statistics and making concerned efforts at inclusion can we really tackle it.
In terms of gender discrimination in enterprise, overall the proportion of female–led startups and invested companies remains stubbornly low – though I’m pleased to notice a small uptick in this in the UK data according to recent Beauhurst research. “For the first time in a single quarter, more than £1bn was raised by UK companies with at least one female founder. For every pound invested, 22p was secured by female–founded businesses, compared to 13p in every pound invested in Q4 2020, and falling just short of the 23p record from Q3 2016.” This is only a couple of measures, but both show we have a long way to go.
Within our own spinout portfolio in QUBIS, I am pleased to report that 50% of the spinouts that have received seed funding investment this year have been female–led companies. Christina O’Neill of VascVersa, and Shannon Beattie of GenoME were both successful participants in the Innovate UK Innovation–to–Commercialisation of University Research (ICURe) programme led by Queen’s University in 2018 and 2019 respectively. This pull through from programme inclusion to real investment impact is key to achieving real change.
Our Programme Data:
We are collecting data on participation and progress from our three core enterprise programmes:
Lean Launch Programme
EIT Food Seedbed
All three appear to have made progress in recent cohorts, though we were slow in capturing data for ICURe (with the first cycle missed but the second fully monitored as below). We do have a full year’s worth of data for the Lean Launch Programme, and we are working with EIT Food on Seedbed to collect data.
We have been delivering the EIT Food Seedbed Incubator customer discovery programme across Europe since 2019 and our EIT Programme Manager, Kerri Crossey, along with Lukxmi Balathasan, Business Creation Manager at EIT, have been able to monitor female participation. From this we can see that in 2019 47% of teams had female participation, and that this increased in 2020 to 57% female participation. We will look to refine this to specifically track female–led startups in future.
For our Lean Launch Programme we have been collecting data that provides the three measures mentioned above – and specifically in relation to leadership of the nascent enterprises. This provides the following stats:
Lean Launch Programme
LLP7 (All teams)
LLP7 (QUB teams)
LLP8 (All teams)
LLP8 (QUB teams)
LLP9 (All teams)
LLP9 (QUB teams)
LLP10 (All teams)
LLP10 (QUB teams)
For the ICURe Programme we are now working with NXNW and Innovate UK to collate this data for our national programmes. The latest Cohort was comprised of:
Cohort G NXNW ICURe
Applications from QUB participants
Successful applicants from Queen’s
If we have made progress on our inclusivity it’s not by accident. Our Innovation Programmes team, supported by QUBIS colleagues, has very intently made specific efforts to adapt the messaging and branding of our enterprise programmes, and to move to more balanced panel and team composition. This is best detailed in this blog from Amanda McCullough who really led our drive on this along side support from Emma Burke at Innovate UK.
Whilst the trends reflected in this data are largely encouraging, this is just a start to the journey for inclusive entrepreneurship, so we will continue to monitor progress of these teams and future cohorts across all programmes. We will look to improve our data collection and to act to promote equality of access, participation, and – vitally – outcomes. Greater diversity of leadership in invested growing ventures is the goal. We commit to work in partnership and with allies such as Awaken Hub and others looking to promote diversity in enterprise. If you want to help on this agenda, please get in touch.