Norfolk women not big on patents

A charity supporting women in business has leapt to the defence of Norfolk’s enterprising talent,after it was branded one of the least innovative places in the region. New research into the number of individuals and businesses applying to register patents places the county at the bottom of the pile. The study by the East of England Development Agency (Eeda) also found that just eight per cent of the region’s applications to the National Patent Office were made by women.

However, the Norfolk-based Women’s Employment, Enterprise and Training Unit (Weetu) said there was
a wealth of innovative minds in Norfolk. The voluntary organisation, which offers advice, training
and support to develop employment and enterprise opportunities for women, admitted that
educational choices played a part in the lack of women registering patents. Nicky Stevenson,
acting manager of Weetu, said: “While patents reflect the level of inventions I don’t think it
reflects the level of enterprising skills of women in the region – it’s far, far higher than this.
However, educational choices that girls and young women make not to go into science, engineering
and technology is going to have an impact on their ability to design products for patenting,
which is essentially an engineering or design skill.

Ms Stevenson believes the tendency for girls and young women to choose “softer subjects” in the
arts needs to be addressed in schools. The research found individuals and businesses in Norfolk
made just nine per cent of applications in the East to the National Patent Office in 2005/06,
placing it joint bottom with Bedfordshire. Leading the way for innovative ideas was
Cambridgeshire, with 32pc of all East of England applications coming from the county, followed by
Essex and Hertfordshire with 20 percent and 18 percent respectively.

Richard Ellis, chair of Eeda, said: “If a business is to stay at the top of its game it must
continually innovate and patenting an idea is the best way to protect it. The patent statistics
reflect how strong a county is for innovation and indicate that Norfolk businesses may benefit
from more help to develop their ideas and innovations. There is a huge amount of support and
advice available to help them.”

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