08 March 2021

The Coast to Capital Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) shares progress on establishing equal opportunities for women for International Women’s Day 2021.

International Women's Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating women's equality. The theme for this year is #ChooseToChallenge.


At Coast to Capital, work is continuing with NatWest to help deliver the recommendations from the Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurship. The LEP has played a lead role in developing the ‘Expert in Residence’ programme to help more women-led businesses access funding and support. The programme, which has been running for almost two years, has achieved tangible results with 25% of women-led businesses successfully securing COVID-19 business recovery grants this year, compared to 10% of male-led businesses.


Coast to Capital has also continued to work extensively on its Equality, Diversity and Inclusion strategy to help drive transformational change, using gender-led progress as a template for other protected characteristic groups.


A key achievement is pioneering the use of a new AI platform – mnAI - to identify, approach and engage with more women-led businesses. The platform will unlock new opportunities including:


  • obtaining a deeper understanding of the number of women-led businesses across different geographies and sectors
  • providing baseline analysis by geography and sector on Growth Hub engagement
  • using data to ensure equal business support opportunities are provided
  • the ability to work collaboratively with partners


Recognising the value of this ground-breaking partnership with mnAI, Coast to Capital have engaged other LEPs to extend the pilot. The project has now been adopted by Catalyst South, a newly formed alliance of six LEPs (Coast to Capital, Enterprise M3, Hertfordshire, South East, Solent and Thames Valley Berkshire).


This will help ensure a coordinated and strategic approach to equality across the region and additional benefits are being identified from the use of the data which will have far reaching impact on business support and investment work.


Julie Kapsalis, Coast to Capital Chair (Equality and Diversity Champion) said:



“I am incredibly proud of the leadership role that Coast to Capital continues to play in supporting women's enterprise. It has been a privilege to contribute to the Rose Review and to have the opportunity to bring together a dynamic partnership between NatWest, mnAI and the LEP to take forward this ground-breaking work on the gender disaggregation of data. I am delighted that the pilot we have run in Coast to Capital has been adopted by my colleagues across the Catalyst South region as part of our wider commitment to diversity. By working at scale across Catalyst South, we can have a greater impact on our local communities. I look forward to taking part in the Innovate UK event to share more details of our approach to this work.”



Julie Baker, Head of Enterprise and Climate Engagement and Partnerships at NatWest Group (Commercial Bank) said:



“I am delighted that NatWest is able to collaborate with Coast to Capital and mnAI on one of the key Rose Review interventions of gender disaggregated data. At NatWest we have been gender disaggregating our data since 2016 and, as a bank, we have seen first-hand the impact that this has had on our customers. It is critical that we understand their requirements and build programmes to support and understanding the data is often a great starting point. I am excited to see how we can scale this work throughout the UK with the LEP network and look forward to participating in the Innovate UK event.”


More details will be shared at an upcoming workshop on ‘Unlocking Business Intelligence through AI’ at the newly launched Innovate Local: Southern Pioneers event on Monday 8 March. Register at https://web-eur.cvent.com/event/a477b8bd-0da9-486f-a3c5-39209f767d61/summary

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