This is a guest post from Emily Nott, Head of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Programmes at Innovate UK.

 

My recent blog The Power of Diversity Data explained why promoting Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) is a such a big priority for Innovate UK and where we want see the work we do to making a positive difference on this agenda. To influence change, we need to do things differently.

At Innovate UK, we are interested in a broad definition of diversity that includes the nine protected characteristics in the Equality Act 2010 plus regional dimensions, neurodiversity, educational attainment and socio-economic factors.

In July 2020, Innovate UK added an EDI survey to all competitions to understand more about who is engaging in innovation. Now, EDI is being incorporated into application forms for Innovate UK competitions to better understand how the businesses and organisations we work with consider EDI and how EDI is considered in the development of innovation.  We adopt two approaches to this:

Please see below for guidance on how to approach addressing EDI in your application.

Case study: Sustainable Innovation Fund Round 3 Temporary Framework competition

Question 6 in the application form for the Sustainable Innovation Fund Round 3 Temporary Framework competition focuses on EDI. You will be asked:

How are you ensuring that your organisation and idea do not discriminate?

When responding to this, the following guidance on points to consider may be helpful:

Describe or explain: Any equality, diversity or inclusion challenges related to your idea, if appropriate

Points to consider:

Describe or explain: How you will consider equality, diversity and inclusion in the development of your innovation (for example unintended exclusion of minority groups, recognising bias)

Points to consider:

  • How are you considering the diversity of end users for your innovation (product, service, business model)? – is there any user/customer testing or research involved in your proposed project? If data sets are being used are they fully representative?
  • Will the diversity of your team benefit the project?
  • Could lack of diversity in your team contribute to bias and influence decision making? How you intend to avoid this? How can you diversify perspective in your thinking?
  • Project Implicit – Harvard University developed a test to uncover unconscious biases you have about particular groups of people
  • Do you have any strategic partners who can help to maximise your impacts to promote EDI?
  • Do you know the 9 protected characteristics are in the Equality Act 2010? https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/en/equality-act/protected-characteristics
  • Can you articulate why promoting EDI is good for the project and your business?
  • There are lots of things that can go wrong without considering EDI in the developing of your innovation e.g. passport recognition technology that did not recognise dark skin or AI speech recognition that does not recognise female voices
  • For more in depth reading on gender bias: Caroline Criado Perez’s book Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men
  • Are you collecting any EDI data? E.g. on gender, age, disability status and ethnicity. What do you intend to use this for?

Describe or explain: Any policies or approaches to equality, diversity and inclusion your organisation might have

Points to consider:

  • Who makes decisions in your organisation? How diverse is your organisation, board, executive team?
  • Does your company have any policies linked to EDI e.g. Acas Support; Acas Bullying and harassment?
  • Does your company use any standards for EDI e.g. BS 76005 Valuing people through diversity and inclusion – code of practice for organizations?

Describe or explain: How you will promote equality, diversity and inclusion for any roles you are recruiting for in this project

Points to consider:

  • How will your recruitment policies consider EDI specifically?
  • Will you review language and content in your job adverts for bias?
  • How will you ensure that your job opportunities access talent from under-represented groups? e.g. YSYS’ Talent Door and Women on Boards UK

 

Additional resources that companies may find helpful include:

In this competition, Innovate UK will not fund proposals which have a detrimental effect on equality, diversity and inclusion, so please consider this question carefully.

Important things to remember:

  • You don’t have to be an expert on equality, diversity and inclusion
  • The core focus of your project does not have to be on EDI but you must consider how and where you will address EDI as prompted in the application questions
  • There is support available to you at the KTN. KTN are currently developing an EDI toolkit, to help innovators and businesses to explore markets and innovate more inclusively. The toolkit will be rolled out in Autumn 2020 and will be supported with facilitated sessions. If you are interested in joining a pilot session, please contact Siwan Smith.

Any further questions, please get in contact with Siwan Smith or contact Innovate UK Customer Support Service on 0300 321 4357 to speak to an adviser. Our phone lines are now open from 9am to 11.30am and 2pm to 4.30pm, Monday to Friday (excluding bank holidays), to help us manage the unusually high number of calls and emails we are receiving due to the global disruptions.

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