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Report highlights inclusivity and diversity challenges in business innovation


Report highlights inclusivity and diversity challenges in business innovation

A new report, published by Innovate UK today, Tuesday 21 July, outlines barriers, challenges, opportunities and support needs for minority ethnic groups and disabled people to participate in business innovation.

The Supporting Diversity and Inclusion in Innovation study, which was carried out by the Innovation Caucus, a research project supported by Innovate UK and the Economic and Social Research Council, also 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 Executive Chair, Dr Ian Campbell, said: “Innovation can come from anyone; diversity within businesses is proven to contribute to enhanced performance and commercial success; this drives our commitment to addressing under representation and promoting equality, diversity and inclusion.

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

Innovate UK will take forward a number of actions based on the recommendations in this report.

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) data will be collected on all Innovate UK competitions to identify opportunities, challenges and appropriate action, while retrospective data analysis will enhance our understanding of the impact of intersectionality on access to Innovate UK funding and support.

Working with the councils in UKRI, Innovate UK will review its structures, processes and work environments and the ways it may be perpetuating barriers in terms of who it represents, engages and partners with, and funds. In particular, Innovate UK will review and update their accessibility policy for applicants to ensure that it is holistic and appropriate to disabled people’s needs.

Innovate UK will continue its work with partners to champion underrepresented communities and promote change.

This includes promoting new diverse role models and engaging new audiences through activities such as online engagement events; working with YSYS on their ambition to promote more diversity in innovation particularly by championing Black, Asian and minority ethnic innovators; exploring new measures to bridge the ethnicity investment gap; and engaging with All-Party Parliamentary Groups to drive change.

Professor Jennifer Rubin, UKRI Executive Champion for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, said: “Fostering a healthy research and innovation sector in which everybody has an opportunity to flourish and contribute is a core commitment of UKRI.

“This report will enhance our understanding of challenges across the business sector, informing the development of new ways of addressing inequalities and improving our approach.”

The study included a review of the literature on the involvement of people with disabilities and from Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities in business innovation; a survey gathering primary data to strengthen the evidence base and fill gaps in current understanding; and in-depth focus groups to gather qualitative data to supplement the survey data.

An Advisory Group, including organisations such as Leonard Cheshire, Disability Rights UK and Capital Enterprise, was established to provide expert advice and insights at various stages of the research.

A total of 866 Black, Asian and minority ethnic business owners, employees and self-employed people were surveyed, and 1,141 disabled people from the same categories. A further group of non-Black, Asian and minority ethnic and disabled business owners, employees and self-employed people was also surveyed.

The study highlighted that a higher proportion of Black, Asian and minority ethnic respondents viewed themselves as ambitious, motivated, confident, optimistic and interested in making a positive difference to society.

Black, Asian and minority ethnic business owners were also more optimistic about the future of their businesses and their ability to adapt. However, support needs were also higher amongst these respondents.

Key barriers to participating in innovation amongst disabled respondents, included concerns about health problems and losing disability or out of work benefits, as well as concerns about prejudice and hostility in the community, which were also shared by Black, Asian and minority ethnic participants.

The impact of intersectionality on barriers faced is strong and should not be under-estimated. The findings pointed towards the importance of socioeconomic factors, gender and age. The focus groups enabled a more nuanced understanding of the barriers, challenges and support needs of the two focal under-represented groups.

Innovate UK will instigate a series of actions based on the findings of the report specifically tailored to supporting underrepresented groups, working with partners including the report’s External Advisory Group to enact meaningful change.

To request copies of this report in large print or in a different format, please contact the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion team at UKRI:


UK Research and Innovation, Polaris House, Swindon, SN2 1FL

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