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Skytek CEO competes for top EU Prize for Women Innovators

EU Prize for Women Innovators

Irishwoman Dr Sarah Bourke is in the running for the EU Prize for Women Innovators 2016. The top prize is €100 000 and will be announced in March 2016.

The short-list of nine includes top European women who have brought breakthrough ideas to the market, and benefitted from EU research and innovation funding at some stage. She will now enter the final stage of the competition.

Dr. Bourke’s company is Skytek Ltd, and she is a creator of several advanced software applications that assist astronauts in the execution of day to day and emergency procedures onboard the International Space Station.  There are currently over 10,000 procedures stored in the system.

Today, Skytek is a successful, international software development company serving the world’s most complex and demanding industries. 

In 2014, Skytek announced that it was launching a new weather division to monitor solar storms, and has also developed tools for aircraft maintenance, security and emergency response industries.

A Trinity College Dublin doctoral graduate, Sarah founded Skytek with CTO Paul Kiernan in 1997, and supported by Enterprise Ireland they developed technology that was part of an ISS payload in the Space Shuttle Discovery STS-114 mission.


Carlos Moedas, Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, said: “While there can only be three Prize winners, the remarkable achievements of all the women who entered the contest deserve great recognition. They worked very hard, took risks and may sometimes have faced setbacks, but they got back up again and persevered to fulfil their visions. This is the kind of spirit we need more of in Europe. These outstanding women are an inspiration to other researchers and entrepreneurs, female and male alike.”

All the contestants have all benefitted from EU research and innovation funding at some point of their careers, and recently founded or co-founded a successful company based on their innovative ideas.

The nine finalists are:

  • Prof. Zvia Agur, founder of Optimata in Israel, a leading health company creating pioneering medical software technology for oncology personalisation.
  • Dr. Sarah Bourke, co-founder of Skytek in Ireland, develops software for the International Space Station and received innovation awards from NASA.
  • Dr Sarah Fredriksson, founder of Genovis in Sweden, whose innovative products are used by the global pharmaceutical industry for analysis of complex biological drugs.
  • Dr. Claudia Gärtner, co-founder of Microfluidic ChipShop in Germany, makes portable analytical systems happen-–following the 40 year old vision of the Star Trek “Tricorder”.
  • Prof. Pirkko Härkönen, co-founder of Hormos Medical in Finland, discovered a new hormonally active drug and created test systems for cancer drug development.
  • Prof. Sirpa Jalkanen, co-founder of BioTie Therapies in Finland, discovered unique targets for drug development for harmful inflammations and cancer treatment.
  • Prof. Sylviane Muller, co-founder of ImmuPharma in France, discovered a novel way to treat auto-immune diseases, currently evaluated in a clinical trial for Lupus.
  • Dr. Kira Radinsky, co-founder of SalesPredict in Israel, pioneers in predictive data mining algorithms for micro-economic business and sales interactions.
  • Dr. Susana Sargento, co-founder of Veniam in Portugal, turns vehicles into Wi-Fi hotspots and builds city-scale vehicular networks that collect terabytes of urban data.

The finalists were selected by a high-level jury consisting of independent experts from business, venture capital, entrepreneurship and academia. 64 applications were submitted for the 2016 edition of the Prize, across the EU and countries associated to Horizon 2020, the EU’s funding programme for research and innovation. The companies created by the contestants showcase innovations in a wide range of sectors, with life science and ICT being the most dominant ones.


Following the success of its first two editions in 2011 and 2014, the EU Prize for Women Innovators 2016 was launched on International Women’s Day 2015. The third edition of the contest was open for applications from 10 March 2015 until 20 October 2015, and the three winners – receiving cash prizes of €100,000, €50,000 and €30,000 – will be announced in March 2016.

The purpose of the Prize is to raise public awareness of the need for more innovation and more women entrepreneurs. Although women are increasingly active in research, there are still too few of them who create innovative enterprises. This represents an untapped potential for Europe which needs all its human resources to remain competitive and find solutions to the economic and societal challenges that we are facing.


More information:

EU Prize for Women Innovators: webpage | video | launch of the 2016 edition

Gender equality in research and innovation

Statistics on women entrepreneurs in Europe

Horizon Magazine – Women in science


EC Spokesperson for Research, Science and Innovation

Dr Sarah Bourke
Dr Sarah Bourke

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