On March 18, the European Commission announced the winners of the 10th edition of theEuropean Women Innovators Awardthe prize which reinforces the role of women in driving technological change and promoting growth in the European Union.

Who are the women innovators of the year, what ideas do they offer to the world of science and technology and how can we improve their presence in research, particularly in Italy?

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The Innovative Women Prize opens European Research Week every year

The European Prize for Women Innovators (EPWI) reopened this year European Innovation Week (18-24 March) an event which, through the European Research Days, brought together nearly 12,000 people in Brussels to discuss the future of innovation exactly forty years after the approval of the first European research programs.

Many things have changed since then, notably the role of researchers, almost 69 million people according to Eurostat data in 2022: among them, 52.2% are women. For this reason, the EPWI aims to promote the figure of the researcher and to support, including financially, the solutions presented by innovative women, emerging or already leaders in the scientific field.

The Prize also gives us an up-to-date overview of the countries in which female search is it really a success and what are the most advanced technologies focused on.

Who are the innovative and emerging women?

The women rewarded by the European Innovation Council with the EPWI are all entrepreneur leading companies, engaged in the development of innovative technologies ranging from medicine to sustainable mobility in countries belonging to the European Horizon research project.

To win like Innovative woman of the year is Rana Sanyal from Türkiye with his smart nanomedicines for targeted chemotherapy. Then the German Natalia Tomiyama with electric trailers adaptable to pedestrians and cyclists and finally, Elena García Armada (Spain) with her pediatric exoskeletons and robotic knees.

Reward as Many emerging innovators researchers and managers under 35 years old with projects related to artificial intelligence applications for telecommunications (María González Manso, Spain) or to electric propulsion modules for nanosatellites (Sara Correyero Plaza, Spain) and even to medicine, with innovative technologies for preventing side effects of cancer treatment by Bàrbara Oliveira (Ireland).

THE Italian researchers they are also missing this year: the last to win were Valentina Menozzi and Alice Michelangeli in 2020 with an automated biotechnological wound care system based on the use of the patient's blood.

What is Italian research on women missing to emerge?

Women and research: beyond gender inequalities in the scientific world

The world of Italian research is dominated by atavistic problems related to poor financingthe gap between the solutions presented and industrial demands, the limits of development of doctorates and professional opportunities for professionals in the STEM sector and the low propensity of women to choose scientific careers (Matilda effect).

To improve the presence of female researchers, studies like those presented by Deloitte in 2022 (STEM Observatory) agree on the need to start by overcoming the gender gap that has always afflicted the scientific sector since primary and secondary schools. To promote gender diversity, the PNRR with Mission 4 “Education and Research” has already allocated 250 million to school-university transition courses to help third-year students choose the right faculty and above all to understand their abilities. also in these subjects. .

It is indeed crucial to emphasize awareness of scientific, technological, engineering and mathematics disciplines: to do this, the Ministry of University organized this year a STEM week from February 4 to 11 to stimulate interest of younger people in the scientific world.

Women in research, the female example driving change

This is not enough, the most important contribution must arrive from the business world who aspires to these skills and which these workers want to integrate. Today, April 15, UICMA and ACIMAC, Confindustria associations of reference for packaging and ceramics, are organizing in Bologna a panel on the professions of the future for high school students composed entirely of women, each bringing a point of privileged view of the Italian manufacturing industry. industry.

It is precisely this renewal visibility of innovative women be the turning point in women's research: it is only by offering positive models of successful women that it is possible to encourage young people to consider the world of innovation as a viable field of study.

Data from the “Women's Careers in the Academic Field” Focus of the Ministry of the University confirm that in 2022, thanks to the first regulatory interventions for reduce gender equality and awareness-raising activities, the percentage of women having obtained a doctorate in the STEM field has exceeded 42%, a value more than 5 percentage points higher than the European average (around 37%), a slow increase which will have to drive to the full emergence of Italian innovators in Europe and around the world.

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