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Report highlights inclusivity and diversity challenges in business innovation

Professor Helen Lawton Smith from Birkbeck’s Department of Management is part of the research team behind the Supporting Diversity and Inclusion in Innovation report.

A new report published by Innovate UK has identified the barriers, challenges, opportunities and support needs for minority ethnic groups and disabled people to participate in business innovation.

Led by a team of researchers including Birkbeck’s Professor Helen Lawton Smith, the Supporting Diversity and Inclusion in Innovation study explores how initiatives can effectively promote diversity and inclusion in business innovation.

Key findings included:

  • Participation in business innovation is influenced not only by minority status, but by intersections with other social categories, such as gender, age and class/socioeconomic status
  • There are many commonalities between different minority and under-represented groups, but some significant differences were apparent in terms of perceptions, attitudes, motivations, barriers and support needs
  • More policy initiatives are required to transform the system, tackling structural discrimination and the root causes of inequality and exclusion

The authors made a number of recommendations, including:

  • Developing a clear policy rationale for taking action to increase equality, diversity and inclusion in business innovation, that recognises the structures of exclusion and the moral imperative, beyond the economic business case
  • A hybrid/blended approach - evidence-based targeting of under-represented groups alongside increased efforts to embed diversity and inclusion into mainstream programmes, to address multiple disadvantage
  • Greater collaboration including joined-up policy and partnership approaches, across initiatives / government agencies; and bottom-up initiatives, co-designed with minority communities

Innovate UK will take forward a number of actions based on the report’s recommendations, including a review of structures, processes and work environments and updating its accessibility policy for applicants to ensure that it is appropriate for disabled people’s needs.

Innovate UK Executive Chair, Dr Ian Campbell, said: “The report highlights the need for Innovate UK to purposefully recognise and engage with structures of exclusion both within our own organisation and the wider innovation landscape when shaping and implementing future activities aimed at addressing under-representation.

“The recommendations will help inform how Innovate UK can make its support more visible, accessible, and attractive for the widest pool of innovation talent across the country.”

Professor Helen Lawton Smith said: “Addressing, equality, diversity and inclusion issues has a key role to play in ensuring that the UK maximises its potential for innovation, thereby contributing to all our prosperity.”

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