The funding will come via the Inclusion Matters programme. It is the first initiative of its kind launched as part of the collective approach by UK Research and Innovation to promote equality, diversity and inclusion.
It includes Oxford Brookes University in collaboration with the University of Oxford, undertaking a project to identify barriers that exist for women scientists, engineers and mathematicians in key stages of the university spinout process – as well as entrepreneurial activities to commercialise research and innovation.
The University of Birmingham will also look at how to increase the number of female academics and those from ethnic minority backgrounds.
“It is not yet fully understood why academics from these groups struggle to progress in their careers. We are delighted to participate in this important collaboration and investigate the underlying causes,” it said.
“The Inclusion Matters call projects display ambition, creativity and a commitment to addressing the pressing equality and diversity issues facing engineering and the physical sciences,” said Dr Alison Wall, EPSRC’s associate director, Building Leadership.
“Through new research, innovative approaches and a broadening of activities, they will inform and shape significant cultural change across institutions and share their learning with the whole sector. By furthering equality, diversity and inclusion we want to ensure that researchers from all groups are able to fulfil their talent and ambitions.”
Professor Patricia Thornley, of The University of Manchester, and one of the two Chairs of the panel which assessed the applications, added: ”Anyone who has recently walked into a university engineering department or STEM employer knows that the workforce does not reflect the UK’s wider population.
“This programme goes beyond previous initiatives to improve understanding of what actually works in improving diversity and delivers an evidence base. It focuses on delivering cultural change and such radical transformation requires deep institutional commitment.”
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