This week was what's called a constituency week. This is where MEPs spend the working week in their constituencies instead of going to Brussels. My week started with a visit to Harwell as part of my work on the ITRE (Industry, Research and Energy) Committee. Although strictly outside of the South West I couldn't pass up the opportunity to visit Harwell and see for myself the amazing research they do there.
Harwell is a world famous centre for innovation, cutting edge scientific research. Bringing together the Satellite Applications Catapult, the Science & Technologies Facilities Council, the European Space Agency, the Diamond Light Source, RAL and many other organisations, it is a crucible of scientific excellence.
I had the privilege of visiting a few of their experiments, like the ISIS muon laser beam project, which is deepening our understanding of medical science, or the Satellite Applications Catapult, which is providing real time monitoring of marine environment reserves from criminal activity.
Harwell is an unparalleled example of the necessity of scientific collaboration. Collaboration made easier by our membership of the EU. Harwell receives millions of pounds in funding for scientific research, including a collaborative scholarship programme for cutting edge research.
The EU makes it easier for our scientists to work together and develop ground breaking scientific developments on healthcare and climate change, issues that affect us all. I got to see it in action at Harwell, and I want as many people as possible to know how much more we can and do achieve working together in the European Union.
This week we marked Safer Internet Day 2016. I spoke to St. Mary's Middle School in Puddletown, Dorset on this year's theme of "playing your part for a better internet."
I asked children who they thought was responsible for looking after the internet, and what we can all do to make the internet a better place, and most important who they should speak to when they experience problems online.
I believe strongly in promoting safer internet habits, just like the sponsors of Safer Internet Day, the Exeter based Safer Internet Centre, which is 50% funded by the EU. that includes sponsoring Safer Internet Day!
I was interviewed for local radio about how the EU's support for child safety online this week. Without EU funding, the Safer Internet Centre would not be able to do its work. I think it is really important for people in the South West to know how the EU supports UK organisations trying to make the internet a safer place.
The Safer Internet Centre is also a member of the Internet Watch Foundation. I have been an IWF champion for a year now, and that means ensuring child safety online is a central part of my work in the parliament - which is focusing now on the Digital Economy and Society. I will keep you updated on developments related to the EU's digital policies as they develop.
As part of my tour around the region, this week I held public meetings in Bridgwater and Thornbury to answer constituents question on the upcoming EU referendum and the benefits of our continued membership. You can read my arguments to stay here. The following day I met with the offices of Thangam Debbonaire MP, Kerry McCarthy MP and Karin Smyth MP to discuss topical issues on a European level including potential Brexit and TTIP.
I had the pleasure of meeting with Bristol Women's Voice. This brilliant group is a powerful voice for women aiming to make women’s equality in Bristol a reality. Acting independently, the work of the group ranges from running campaigns and events to developing forward thinking strategies for combating violence against women. They also give support and advice to women on a range of issues and, most importantly, celebrate the many successes that have been achieved by women in Bristol!
We discussed the recent campaigns that BWV have been working on and how I can help to give these support and raise these issues on a European level. In particular, BWV have developed an incredibly proactive initiative called BRISTOL ZERO TOLERANCE. This initiative focuses on freeing the city from gender-based violence, abuse, harassment and exploitation. A central stream of the project is highlighting the 'cost of gender based violence to business'. By underlining the financial costs to the businesses in terms of productivity and health caused by gender based violence, it really puts into perspective the risk that is faced by women in their organisations and the obligation they have to both raise awareness and implement training to help combatting gender-based violence. This extremely strong model developed by BWV is something I hope to bring to the FEMM Committee on a European level.
On Thursday I visited the University of West of England to meet with Professor Sue Durbin. Sue is a wonderful woman with a passion and relentless energy for pushing the boundaries and increasing the number of women in the engineering industry. Having met with UWE last summer, I received an update on their continuing projects and schemes. Sue introduced me to their new brain child, Alta-Mentoring, which is an innovative online portal which matches senior and established women in the engineering industry with other women, those who are perhaps just starting out or who are looking for a deeper understanding of the sector.
This relationship is on a mentor-mentee basis and has a huge potential to change the landscape of the representation of women in engineering - changing the culture from the top-down. Currently only women make up only 24% of STEM jobs (science, technology, engineering and maths), so this work conducted by UWE is invaluable and must be shared on a European level.