To address the challenge of decarbonisation and fully realise the aspirations of the Industrial Strategy and Clean Growth Strategy it is essential that the potential and expertise of all energy researchers is mobilised; including ensuring that women are not under-represented. The 1992 report 'Realising our potential: a strategy for science, engineering and technology', identified that there is ‘a widespread waste of talent and training, throughout industry and academia, due to the absence of women. Women are the country’s biggest single, most under-valued and therefore under-used human resource’. Data on gender equality in research & innovation (R&I) in Europe suggests that there has been limited progress since the report (European Commission, 2016).

In order to establish and explore if women are under-represented in energy research this project will carry out analysis of gender balance in the energy research portfolio, engage with female energy researchers across career stage regarding their lived experience and review current and potential solutions.

This will include creating a database of energy research funding over the last five years which identifies gender, PI/Co-I, career stage and value of funds. Funder policies and approaches to promoting gender equality, including membership of funding boards, will be analysed and a series of interviews and workshops will be conducted with female energy researchers from across the energy portfolio. The proposal is being developed collaboratively with UKRI and we will work with existing gender bids funded by UKERC.

A report will be produced which provides an evidence base to explore the issues, discusses the problems, reviews current solutions, highlights existing good practice, and makes recommendations. This report aims to support decision-making by funders seeking to progress gender balance in their portfolios.

This project aims to provide a rich (qualitative and quantitative) evidence base regarding the gender balance in the energy research portfolio. This includes analysis of funding allocated by UKRI, EU Horizon 2020 funded projects led by UK institutions and projects directly funded by BEIS; as well as analysis of grant giving bodies and panels. This will provide multiple lens through which to consider gender and funding decisions. The aim is to highlight any absence of gender balance in a way that drives change.

The findings of the database, interviews and workshops, and the final report, will support decision-making by funders seeking to (1) progress gender balance in their portfolios; and (2) take steps to ensure all available expertise is deployed in advisory roles.

Ultimately the findings of this project aim to contribute to increasing the diversity of energy researchers, ensuring that the maximum amount of talent is realised. As well as the direct benefits to energy research, this has the potential to enhance the image of UK R&D as an innovative and open enterprise that inspires participation.

Project contacts: Jess Britton & Dr Julie Smith, University of Exeter (J.Britton@exeter.ac.uk; J.Smith16@exeter.ac.uk)