The winners of this year’s women innovators prize were presented with their awards at the EU’s annual Innovation Convention this week.
The three winners, Saskia Biskup of Germany, Laura van 't Veer, of the Netherlands and Ana Maiques, from Spain beat 67 other entrants to win the first prize of €100,000, the second prize of €50,000 and the third of €25,000, respectively.
First prize winner Biskup, co-founded CeGaT GmbH in 2009, to specialise in the development of biomarkers for diagnosing neurodegenerative diseases. She discovered variants of LRRK2, a gene involved in Parkinson’s disease. "If you have an idea, just go with it,” was her message to young women scientists in Europe.
Second prize winner van't Veer co-founded Agendia NV, which is commercialising Mammaprint, a diagnostic for predicting the risk of the recurrence of breast cancer.
On her own success, van't Veer spoke about a mindset that takes you further than the research and development phase. “You have to be interested in making things into a product,” she observed.
Third prize winner Maiques founded Starlab, a private company that specializes in translating academic research into start-ups and products. Maiques praised the role of public funding in her success. “Examples like ours show that bets have a return,” she said.
Gitte Neubauer, a founder of the drug discovery specialist Cellzome, which has since been acquired by GlaxoSmithKline, won the award in 2011. Her advice for innovation leaders and founders was to stay dynamic. “Change the management team as the market demands it,” she said. “We brought different CEOs onboard for every stage of our business development.”
Across Europe, women account for half of all PhDs, but only 33 per cent of those working in science are female - although this figure is rising. On average, women make up 30 per cent of the entrepreneurs in the EU.