The Scottish Funding Council’s (SFC) University Innovation Fund supports universities to engage in knowledge exchange and innovation in support of the Scottish Government’s economic strategy. This month, University representatives from across Scotland came together at Heriot-Watt to discuss how best to embed equality and diversity in their University Innovation Fund plans.
Participants included the universities of Edinburgh, Glasgow and St Andrews, and SFC sent an observer. They discussed flawed product design resulting from non-inclusive approaches to the research design phase, as well as a lack of diversity within the innovator population and that of business development professionals.
One example was that of car seat belts, which traditionally have been tested using male crash-test dummies. A 2011 study by the University of Virginia’s Center for Applied Biomechanics found that seatbelted female drivers in crashes had a 47% higher chance of serious injuries than belted male drivers in comparable collisions. For moderate injuries, that difference rose to 71%*.
Another example was of a soap dispenser that recognised only white hands.
The group has committed to work together to address the challenges identified, and has identified priority projects to be taken forward, including improving benchmarking data, showcasing good practice and ensuring visibility of diverse role models. Delivery will be monitored by Universities Scotland Research and Commercialisation Director’s Group, of which Heriot-Watt’s Dr Alicia Greated is a member.
* D. Bose, M. Segui-Gomez, and J.R. Crandall, J.R., Vulnerability of female drivers involved in motor vehicle crashes: and analysis of US population at risk, Am J Public Health, 101(12), pp2368-2373, 2011.