Catherine Johns, Innovation and Business Growth Director for Business Durham, the economic development company for County Durham, represents the North East Technology Park (NETPark) at the International Association of Science Parks (IASP), and came up with the idea for of a subnetwork of IASP for women after chatting with a female Iranian science park director at the IASP World Conference last year.
Catherine said: “I started to think how we could build on links made at the conferences and events in a sustained way and how the women in the IASP network and the science park industry could help each other.
“We knew that many members already informally mentored each other: ‘Women in IASP’ will bring together that knowledge base and share success stories for the benefit of all our members. It will help us hear the voices of women in IASP, and support them to achieve their professional goals, to the benefit of the science parks and areas of innovation where they work.”
Women in IASP was launched at the IASP World Conference in Moscow with women from 24 different countries. Members of the subnetwork will determine its activities, which will include a regular blog, individual mentoring, social media presence to share success, a dedicated forum on the IASP website, debates and networking.
The launch follows the publication of the book Areas of Innovation in a Global World: Concept and Practice. Catherine, a former Board Director of IASP, was one of 30 global innovation leaders who contributed to the book, writing a chapter on the top five challenges faced when building areas of innovation and co-authoring a chapter on the benefits to start ups of being based in an area of innovation.
Jean-Francois Balducchi, immediate past President of IASP said: “Since IASP’s creation more than 30 years ago women have always played a key role in our different Boards, yet their number and degree of recognition has been still far below the level they deserve. This is why I was very proud as President of IASP to support this smart initiative. This new global subnetwork will raise the visibility of women and help them in their professional development within innovation ecosystems. It will also bring more innovative value, brighter ideas and a refreshing energy to our network.”
Cllr Neil Foster, Durham County Council’s Cabinet member for economic regeneration, said: “I’m delighted that this initiative has come from Durham and that, once again, Durham has shown itself to be creating and implementing innovative ideas at a global scale. At NETPark, we already have a global hub for cutting edge technology businesses so it’s fitting that we play a major role in encouraging a cutting edge group where women in the field can support each other and share best practice, as well as deservedly raising the profile of the outstanding work they do.”