Gender Gap and Innovation: ITWIIN reduces it!
A focus on the world of innovation, startups and gender gap
Gender gap is a global problem and an Italian one, but associations such as ITWIIN are working to reduce it also in the field of innovation and entrepreneurship.
Let’s meet Francesca Romana Grippaudo of ITWIIN
Francesca Romana Grippaudo is a Plastic and Aesthetic surgeon, and Assistant Professor of Plastic Surgery at Sapienza University of Rome, graduated at Sapienza University of Rome, obtained a PhD at Groningen University (NL) and worked as a plastic surgeon and research fellow in UK and Australia.
She patented the Magic bra (Mammary Garment Ideal for Camouflage) and founded Magic srl.
She is President of ITWIIN (Italian Association of Women Inventors and Innovators).
Hi Francesca, can you tell us about yourself and your professional background?
Sure! I have a scientific background; I am a doctor and I do research. I also teach at the university, and I am both a startup founder and president of an organization that favours the development of entrepreneurial and research projects, and innovative startups for women. I joined ITWIIN in 2013, and I am now its President. I am glad to have been able to help many other women in the field of innovation and having contributed to reduce the gender gap.
How did the idea of ITWIIN come about? Can you tell us about the initial phase of the birth of this brilliant project with a focus on gender gap?
Achieving a patent is a long, expensive, and difficult path and gender gap in patents is a well-known concern in Europe, where only 16% of patent applications received at the European Patent Office are filed by women, mainly from technological areas and life sciences.
Most women inventors are working in public research organizations or, as in my case, in a university that believed and supported their ideas. Our Honorary President Rita Assogna worked for many years as a Directorate Adviser and Head Patent examiner at EPO (European Patent Office) in the field of Industrial Chemistry in The Hague, Berlin, and Munich. From that experience, she founded ITWIIN (Italian Associations of Women Inventors and Innovators) in 2007 with other distinguished women with scientific, business and economics expertise to help other women with ideas and innovations to achieve their aspirations, improve self-esteem and motivation, and broaden their horizons and experiences. Since then, ITWIIN has grown up and expanded and now we are members of the European Union Women Inventors and Innovators Network, the Global Women Inventors and Innovators Network and many other Associations.
We ran many projects in these years to spread our mission: with the ONU, in Erasmus+, Donna e Scienza Association, Marie Curie Alumni Association, BPW, APID, Technology and Passion Club, Steamiamoci and other Organization.
ITWIIN is now 15 years old and how can you tell its story if not through the successes of the women who took part in it? In this regard, you have also recently published a book on the first 15 years of ITWIIN. Can you just give us some examples of the satisfaction of reducing the gender gap of the women who have been part of this project?
ITWIIN succeeded to bring together different skills and experiences of women from all over Italy and Europe in different areas including intellectual property rights, trademarks and patents, industrial and academic research, technology transfer, creating a network and a mentoring program.
To win an ITWIIN Award with the subsequent media fame and reputation, and receiving advice and mentoring from other Itwiinners, encouraged many women to develop their startup, to speed up their career, to obtain grants or fundings.
ITWIINNERS stories, i.e., the stories of the winners of ITWIIN prize, can be read in our e-book.
It is difficult to choose among more than 100 excellent women, all of them successful in their fields, but the main satisfaction always has been to realize the project.
Among all these exceptional women there is Prof. Adriana Albini, the only Italian women in BBC 100 Women of 2020, President of Top Italian Women Scientists, who registered many patents to be used by oncologists to fight cancer; Francesca Petrini, inventor of Petriniplus®, the only extra virgin olive oil supplemented with vitamins to help calcium uptake in the bones; Ing. Fabiana Panella, who patented a system to produce sanitary hot water; Dr. Roberta Martinetti, project Manager in FinCeramica who invented prosthesis to reconstruct bone tissue; prof. Angela Serpe, vice president of 3R Metals srl, a university spin off dealing with metals rescue and recycling; Ing. Massimiliana Carello, co-founder and RD supervisor at BEON D, a Turin Politechnic spin off, developing innovative materials and fuel cell for vehicles; Cinzia di Zio, who invented TechnoMask Crystal to help people with disabilities; Prof. Maria Grazia Piancino, who patented a mobile orthodontic device; Sara Santori, CEO of Conceria Nuvolari, who innovated the leather processing with sustainable procedures. In my own case, as 2013 best innovator for the Magic bra – a bra conceived to camouflage the temporary breast asymmetries during the pathway of breast reconstruction procedures, a time in which no weight should be placed on the breast mound to avoid interfering with the ongoing surgical care -, I received the advice and mentoring to develop the Magic startup to offer this unique patented bra to all women.
We are talking about women, and we are talking about women with excellent qualities, women who have distinguished themselves in the field of startups, entrepreneurship and more. If you had to choose an example to inspire other young female startup founders, what story would you tell us?
Many Itwinners come from public research organizations, and after having obtained a patent, decide to become entrepreneurs and set-up a startup. Silvia Scaglione is researcher at CNR and developed and patented a new technology: Multi In Vitro Organ (MIVO), an innovative fluidic bioreactor emulating portions of the human body, to improve the effectiveness of pharmaceutical tests, discover innovative therapeutic approaches, and reduce animal testing. She then founded the successful startup React4life.
What are ITWIIN’s next short- and long-term goals?
Unfortunately, Italy lacks the tradition of supporting patents diffusion, protection, or profit-making.
To overcome this problem, I created an educational program as a monthly web-based meeting, open to Itwiinners and association’s friends. From January 2021 onwards, many outstanding experts have offered lectures about patents; trademarks; how to defend intellectual property; antitrust laws and the scope of legal action; how to develop a successful startup; how to develop a successful web site; how to contact businesses etc. All these meetings can be seen on the ITWIIN YouTube channel.
To support female inventiveness and talent to develop startups based on patents or innovations and create a fertile environment for female entrepreneurs and research, we are working on cultural change, which is mandatory and appropriate to avoid the actual waste of female talents. Many actions could be easily implemented to reach a gender parity in this field: a female access in career progression in Stem discipline (science, technology, engineering, mathematic), where most of patents are coming from, needs to be facilitated.
We are working on credit access, that needs to be facilitated for women because achieving a patent is an expensive process.
We are working to create female working networks to develop new collaborations and to show researchers’ skills can be created.
Among others proactive actions, we should include the rewarding mechanisms, such as introducing economic incentives for public and private companies and researchers’ groups that prove to have reduced the gender gap, showing their results.
Our next project is to greet the new winners of the 2021 ITWIIN Annual Prize, whose proclamation will be announced during a meeting held with Unindustria on the next November 11th, entitled “From research to business development” (Dalla ricerca allo sviluppo d’impresa).
ITWIIN prize will be given to the Best Inventor, Best Innovator, Exceptionally Creative Woman, Capacity Building and Higher Education and Training, whose call is published at https://www.itwiin.org/it/bando.html.
The call for bids is open until October 10th, 2021 for women of Italian nationality, or living and working on the Italian national territory, or belonging to one of the following categories:
- Entrepreneurs: i.e., owners of a company or personalities holding management roles in regularly registered companies, in compliance with social contributions and insurance obligations, and operating in compliance with current regulations in terms of labour, health, safety, and environment.
- Professionals: consultants or associated partners, authorized to professional practice and registered in the relevant professional associations under current regulations.
- Researchers: graduated women who carry out, under a contract of any kind, research activities in a public or private organization.
If you are interested in other interviews of people and associations that are helping to reduce the gender gap in the world of entrepreneurship, innovation and startups, then read also: Business angel helping female founders to reduce Gender gap, Entrepreneurs and women at the center of Boss.Wmn and Mentor and entrepreneur, leader in a female community