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The rise of the female inventor

More women are patenting their inventions and building innovative businesses, according to new research.

Analysis by the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO) reveals that female innovation is on the rise worldwide; and it reports that the gender gap in patenting, while substantial, is now decreasing.

Since 2000 there has been a 60% increase in the proportion of female inventors worldwide. However, absolute numbers remain relatively low. In 2000 only 6.8% of all inventors worldwide were female, in 2015 this rose to 11.5%. In the UK, female inventorship has risen by 16% in the past 10 years.

Data drawn from more than 234 years' worth of patent applications has revealed how the proportion of female inventors varies by country. Russia (15.7%) and France (11.7%) have the highest proportion of female inventors, while countries such as Germany (5.5%) and Japan (3.7%) have some of the lowest. In Britain the proportion of female inventors is 7.3%.

The highest proportion of female inventors is in fields such as biotechnology and pharmaceuticals, while the lowest proportion is seen in mechanical engineering. Patent applications increasingly involve a team of inventors - in 2014, more than 25% of worldwide patent applications involved at least one female inventor.

The UK Government said "there is more to do to help budding female inventors realise their potential". This week it awarded £750,000 to 15 female entrepreneurs as part of Innovate UK's Women in Innovation award. The winners each received £50,000 as well as a package of business support.

Baroness Neville Rolfe, Minister of State for Energy and Intellectual Property, said: 

"We are providing more talented women around the country with the funding opportunities they need to develop their business ideas and help to build an economy that works for all. I want to see even more women being given the support they need to bring their business plans to market."

Dr. Ruth McKernan, Chief Executive of Innovate UK, said: 

"It is very clear that harnessing the talent of women entrepreneurs could significantly enhance UK economic growth. I am delighted that we are taking action; supporting and funding female entrepreneurs to help them succeed and inspire other women to come forward, apply for funding and turn their ideas into successful businesses."

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