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New female-focused STEM award aims to address gender bias in venture capital funding

Pacific Channel, New Zealand’s leading deep-tech venture capital fund has today announced a new Women in STEM Commercialisation Award worth $100,000.

“This Award is part of the company’s commitment to helping accelerate the leadership of women in STEM fields, bridge the divide that exists between research and industry and address the gender disparity that exists in venture capital funding,” said Pacific Channel managing director Brent Ogilvie.

“As a venture capital firm, there is a clear opportunity to consciously scout and empower women who are excelling in their fields, and who may have commercial interest arising from their research.

“We are all affected by the global challenges facing the world we live in, women in some areas more acutely than men, yet entrepreneurship and access to capital in the area of STEM-based deep-tech to address these challenges still tends to be more male-focused.

“In 2021, venture capital funding to support technology commercialisation in New Zealand equated to $59.5m (an increase of 78% from 2020). Of approximately 2000 high-growth start-ups, only 21.6% have women on the founding team. There is likewise a significant gap in the number of female-led STEM innovations receiving the investment needed to turn IP into technology that creates meaningful global impact and commercial success.

“Globally only 30%[1] of the world’s researchers in STEM fields are female and they make up only 28% of its workforce. With female-led teams capable of generating a 35% higher return on investment, embracing gender diversity in STEM-based commercialisation is not just a ‘nice to do’, it’s business-critical, said Mr Ogilvie.

Researcher and co-founder of Wellington-based start-up company, TasmanIon, Dr Shalini Divya welcomes the Award and talks about her journey as a female entrepreneur.

“The challenges vary and to some, they might not seem significant but combined they can be unnerving.

“Early on in my journey, being new to all the opportunities ahead of me, one of the best pieces of advice I received was to pick my battles. This was especially important because as women, I know we often need to make these choices in our lives. It’s a piece of advice I still constantly draw on and it’s gotten me through some tough situations.

“Having strong women mentors and a pathway that encourages more women to gain the competencies required to successfully commercialise their technology are important steps. I’m really lucky to be on this journey and I hope I can become that mentor for another aspiring female entrepreneur,” said Dr Divya.

Pacific Channel partner Professor Cather Simpson added “Turning science into a business isn’t easy and unfortunately, it can be even harder for women as they have more obstacles to overcome. We need to be doing everything we can to help researchers get their technology out of the lab and into use to help people and the planet.

“I feel privileged to already be helping some very talented female researchers, such as Shalini, as I know first-hand how tough the journey to commercialisation can be. We can all do so much more, and this Award is a great start.

“I’m also thrilled to be one of the judges for the Women in STEM Commercialisation Awards – knowing how many amazing innovations are out there, I expect the judging panel will have a really hard job choosing the inaugural recipient, but it’s a good problem to have,” said Professor Simpson.

The award, which is valued at $100,000 and open to female academics, will provide the recipient cash and resourcing by way of expert advice and assistance to help them commercialise their technology plus an option to access investment from the Pacific Channel Kea Fund to help drive their project forward.

Mr Ogilvie adds “As a team, we have identified a real need to encourage more women to enter and thrive in the world of science commercialisation. With our support, we can be shaping the next generation of founders and leaders. This will in turn encourage more women to take the next steps in their own commercialisation journeys, as they can already see themselves represented in the industry.

“We’re honoured to be in a position to support females in STEM fields and work alongside them to commercialise their technology and help solve some of the world’s biggest social and environmental challenges to take these technologies out of the lab and onto the global stage,” said Mr Ogilvie.



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