Irish Woman Wins a Top EU Woman Innovator Prize
The 2016 EU Prize for Women Innovators is the largest prize of its kind worldwide, and aims to raise public awareness of the need for more innovation and more female entrepreneurs. It also aims to highlight the achievements of the most successful women innovators with entries from throughout Europe.
Dr Bourke beat off competition from 64 other candidates from throughout Europe to claim third place and is the first Irish woman to win the award. Selected by an independent jury Dr Bourke was awarded the prize for the innovation, leadership and commercial progress in pioneering technology that is used by European Space Agency, NASA and the International Space Station and also developing tools for aircraft maintenance, emergency response and the security industries. Skytek has also recently developed a new coastal monitoring system with the Irish Naval Services using satellite technology and introduced a Space Weather Division.
Speaking this evening, Dr Bourke stated that she believes these awards are very important to promote awareness, particularly among young females, that women can compete and achieve at the highest levels in the technology sector. Commenting on the opportunities for women in technology she said “It is generally accepted that space is very much a male dominated area in which to work. These awards demonstrate that women are breaking through into the sector and are making significant contributions”.
Dr Bourke is passionate about the need to encourage and promote young females to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematical (STEM) fields. She believes that the Irish education system needs to address the STEM gender imbalance and actively promote science at a very early age within the primary school system. Dr Bourke believes that so much can be done locally in schools to promote science among young girls. “It’s great to see that the Young Scientist competition continues to attract the brightest young scientific minds, but it is equally great to see coding clubs, e.g. CoderDojo, gaining in popularity with young girls” she commented.
Carlos Moedas, Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, who presented the prize to Dr Bourke at the award ceremony last night, said: “I want to congratulate the three winners of the 2016 EU Prize for Women Innovators on their outstanding achievements. Europe needs to support more innovators like them: the people who combine scientific excellence with a head for business; the people who turn their research into employment opportunities and their ideas into positive impacts for our society and our economy.” It is the first time an Irish woman has figured as a finalist in this prestigious competition.
Under Dr Bourke’s direction, Skytek has a long list of achievements in the space industry including developing software named the International Procedural Viewer (iPV) that controls and manages astronaut operations on board the International Space Station. Over the past few years, Skytek has won three awards from NASA for outstanding software innovation.
Having founded Skytek with the company’s CTO Paul Kiernan in 1999, Bourke and the team have also contributed to other advancements in the monitoring of solar storms and earth observation. Skytek has also recently developed a new coastal monitoring system with the Irish Naval Services using satellite technology.
About the EU Prize for Woman Innovators
The EU Prize for Women Innovators, its purpose is to raise public awareness of the need for more innovation and more women entrepreneurs, whose numbers are sadly still behind those of their male peers. The winners received prizes of €100,000, €50,000 and €30,000 respectively. They were chosen by an independent jury from a total of 64 applications.
The other winners who received prizes of €100,000 and €50,000 respectively were Dr. Susana Sargento, Portugal and Prof. Sirpa Jalkanen Finland.
To learn more about the EU Prize for Women Innovators and the participants in this year’s prize: http://ec.europa.eu/women-innovators
The 2016 EU Prize for Women Innovators is the largest prize of its kind worldwide, and follows previous editions in 2011 and 2014. The Prize aims to raise public awareness of the need for more innovation and more female entrepreneurs, and to highlight the achievements of the most successful women innovators. Women are underrepresented in terms of creating innovative enterprises – only 29% of entrepreneurs in the EU are women.
Although the proportion of female researchers in Europe is increasing, women are still under-represented in scientific disciplines and careers. The latest ‘She Figures’ statistics published by the European Commission on the occasion of the award ceremony show that women are gaining ground in science but their progress is still slow and uneven. Women PhD graduates rose from 43% in 2004 to 47% in 2014.
Women are also making progress as heads of research institutions, rising from 16% to 20%. However, the proportion of women researchers in general remains stable and the share of female professors has only slightly increased to 20.9%. The ‘She Figures’ publication is the main source of Pan-European comparable statistics on the state of gender equality in research and innovation.
Established in 1997 , Skytek, is a Dublin space technology company with broad expertise in the area of critical infrastructure support systems. Its procedural support technology (iPV) has assisted astronauts on board the International Space Station for nearly ten years. It has also developed information and operation-based tools for the Aircraft Maintenance, and Emergency Response industries. Its procedural technology helps guide Astronauts through complex tasks while its data analysis and collaboration technology helps streamline emergency response provider’s capabilities and increase efficiency in aircraft maintenance.