Irish scientist scoops EU Prize for Women Innovators

Dr Sarah Bourke was previously honoured by NASA...

Irish scientist scoops EU Prize for Women Innovators

Dr Sarah Bourke (right) being presented her award. Image via Skytek/Twitter

Skytek CEO Dr Sarah Bourke has won a prestigious EU Prize for Women Innovators.

Recognised as one of the leading female entrepreneurs in Europe, the Dubliner was one of three winners of this year's award, alongside women from Portugal and Finland.

The prize comes with a cheque for €30,000.

The panel praised her for her innovation, leadership and commercial progress in pioneering technology.

Dr Bourke founded Skytek with CTO Paul Kiernan in 1997. It develops software used by NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) on the International Space Station. Bourke was key to developing software for the International Procedural Viewer, which has been essential for work carried out in the advanced laboratory for the past decade.

She has alreading won prizes from NASA for her ground-breaking work. She had been named among the finalists in December and was Ireland's only representative on the shortlist.

At the ceremony on Thursday, Bourke took the opportunity to highlight the fact women can achieve great things in the sci-tech field.

She said:

"It is generally accepted that space is very much a male-dominated area in which to work. These awards demonstrate that women are breaking through into the sector and are making significant contributions".

Winning first prize was Dr Susana Sargento of Portugal, who co-founded the Veniam company that turns vehicles into WiFi hotspots. 

Professor Sirpa Jalkanen came in second place. The Finnish scientist had discovered targets for drug development to combat inflammations and cancer.