Researchers awarded nearly £600k to boost diversity in Engineering and Physical Sciences


9 August 2018 09:40
A man and a woman discuss work in a lab
A consortium of universities and industrial partners are working together to create a more inclusive culture in Engineering and Physical Sciences in the North of England

Lancaster University is part of a consortium of universities and industrial partners working together to create a more inclusive culture in Engineering and Physical Sciences in the North of England.

The project is part of a £5.5 million announcement from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) via the ‘Inclusion Matters’ call. This is the first initiative of its kind that has been launched as part of the collective approach by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) to promote equality, diversity and inclusion.

A consortium of nine universities and six companies has received £591,463 aimed at boosting the representation of women, disabled people, LGBT+, and people from Black and Minority Ethnic backgrounds in Engineering and Physical Sciences in the North of England.

Engineering and the Physical Sciences contribute hundreds of billions of pounds to the UK economy each year, but people from Black and Minority Ethnic backgrounds, women, LGBT+ and disabled people remain poorly represented across these sectors.

Research reveals women engineers and physical scientists are underrepresented in all grades, especially in senior academic posts. Unequal opportunities, paucity of role models from under-represented groups, and a lack of understanding among senior leaders as to the barriers these groups face all serve to compound and sustain a lack of diversity.

The partnership, led by Durham University, is embarking on an exciting new research project to tackle this issue in the North of England. Researchers hope that creating a more inclusive culture in the sector will lead to a more diverse talent pool and, ultimately, better science and engineering with which to address pressing global challenges.

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council has generously provided funding for the two-year project, which is part of a wider £5.5m national initiative.

Dr Sarah Green, Deputy Head of Engineering at Lancaster University, said: “Through an inclusive, collaborative approach between Higher Education Institutions and industry, the Inclusion Matters project offers an excellent opportunity to identify and develop improvements in equality, diversity and inclusion practice, for the benefit of all.”

Professor Joe Sweeney, Head of Synthetic Chemistry at Lancaster University, said: “Using novel methods, and with focus on equality, diversity and inclusion issues which are poorly-served by current practices, this project will bring an innovative, forward-looking approach to solving a crucial societal and economic challenge.”

Professor Emma Flynn, Programme Director and Associate Provost at Durham University, said: “Engineering and physical sciences are vital industries. Yet, for too long there have been sections of our society that aren’t represented sufficiently within these sectors.

“This scarcity has serious consequences: not only is it bad for equality; it limits our collective ability to tackle some of the most pressing and complicated issues facing our world today.

“We hope this project, and the activities within it, will make a bold step towards a more inclusive culture in these regional sectors, a more diverse pool of talent and creative minds, and, ultimately, better science and engineering that will benefit us all.”

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