Innovation without limits

Rear view of a mixed race disabled businessman attending a seminar with an Asian male speaker in an office building.

Innovate UK conference on supporting innovators who are disabled.

The Innovate UK team is committed to help build the skills and talent pipeline necessary to drive successful innovation. We do this by better enabling opportunities for diverse talent that is often overlooked or not made to feel included.

So, we were proud to develop and host a conference with the aim of better understanding the needs of innovators who have a disability.

Challenges, perceptions and unique viewpoints

The conference was chaired by Philip Connolly, a leading disability rights campaigner. It brought together experts from:

  • business
  • disability support groups
  • government
  • across Innovate UK

It had the aim of better understanding and awareness, which would lead to positive action.

It was so powerful to learn from many lived experiences of innovators who are disabled, as well as the disability support groups who participated. It was so humbling to learn about challenges and perceptions from their viewpoints. And it was so illuminating to see the system through their eyes.

As we went through the conference, we openly examined our Innovate UK systems and ways of working so that we could better support innovators with a disability. We were mindful throughout that not all disabilities are visible or properly understood.

Making our system more inclusive

I feel passionately about helping to create a truly inclusive system for innovation in the UK. This allows and inspires diverse innovators to want to get involved by starting, joining or developing innovative businesses.

The societal and economic rationale for doing this is clear and compelling. Indeed, better inclusion of diverse talent would be a key competitive advantage for the UK. We are missing out in the UK by not capitalising on the diverse pool of talent available to us for innovation.

Our research has highlighted the significant potential to increase the participation of innovators with a disability. Realising this potential now, and for the future, through the creation of new opportunities will be an important focus within a broader, ambitious diversity and inclusion initiative that we are developing.

Action plan to create change

The Innovate UK conference was a significant step in what will be a journey of improvement, awareness, and inclusivity for us as well as the wider innovation system. We want to raise awareness of what needs to change and want to share and inspire other organisations.

The conference showed a huge desire and need to help create change and we are now working on an action plan as a result of the inputs we received, which we will publish and share.

It’s now all about action and impact. I’m committed to making a difference and so is the Innovate UK team.

Get involved

We’re pleased to have been able to work with many partners in the conference but realise that there will be many other important views, ideas that we should be benefitting from. So, we would like to build a community of people who would like to help build a better way to support innovators with disabilities.

If you would like to get involved, offer your help, be updated or join in, please contact us on

Together we can align and scale the impact of our collective support, create more opportunities for diverse innovators and build a more open and fairer innovation system.

Further information

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Top image:  Credit: Wavebreakmedia, Getty Images

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