The Commission announced, March 1 2022, the results of the first call under the new Women TechEU pilot programme, supporting deep-tech start-ups led by women.
The scheme offers grants, worth €75 000 each, to support the initial steps in the innovation process, and the growth of the company. It also offers mentoring and coaching under the European Innovation Council (EIC) Women Leadership Programme, and EU-wide networking opportunities.
Following the evaluation by independent experts, the Commission will be supporting a first cohort of 50 women-led companies from 15 different countries. Over 40 companies are based in EU Member States, including one fifth from Horizon Europe widening countries. Also, roughly one fifth are based in countries associated with Horizon Europe.
The companies proposed for funding have developed cutting-edge and disruptive innovations, across a range of areas, from early cancer diagnosis and treatments, all the way to reducing the negative impact of methane emissions. They address sustainable development goals (SDGs), like tackling climate change, reducing food waste, as well as widening access to education and empowering women.
Projects will start in spring 2022 and are expected to run for 6 to 12 months. The women leaders will be enrolled onto the European Innovation Council’s Women Leadership Programme for tailored coaching and mentoring activities.
Following the very encouraging response to this first pilot, the Commission will renew the Women TechEU programme in 2022. The budget for the next call will be increased to €10 million, which will fund roughly 130 companies (up from 50 this year). The call will be launched in 2022.
Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth said: “I am particularly proud of the successful outcome of the first Women TechEU call. The high number of outstanding applications confirms there is a need for women in deep-tech to get support for their companies at the early, riskiest stage. We will assist these 50 women-led companies with funding, mentoring and networking opportunities and we will scale up this programme in 2022.”
Deep tech accounts for over a quarter of Europe’s start-up ecosystem, with European deep tech companies now valued at a combined €700 billion and counting. However, women remain largely underrepresented in deep tech.
Founded on innovation in engineering and advances in science, deep tech start-ups tend to have longer R&D cycles, and often take more time and capital to build than other start-ups. Most could fail in their first years if they do not receive the right support and investment early on. Women in deep tech often face the additional hurdle of gender bias and stereotypes, particularly prevalent in sectors like technology.
For every woman that does not have the opportunity to launch and lead a tech company, Europe loses out not only on talent and diversity, but also can also result in missed opportunities for economic growth.
The new Women TechEU programme addresses this innovation gender gap by supporting women-led deep tech start-ups at the early, riskiest stage of companies. With this scheme the EU seeks to help increase the number of women-led start-ups and create a fairer and more prosperous European deep-tech ecosystem.
Women TechEU is part of a series of EU measures to boost female innovators. Key initiatives include the EU Prize for Women Innovators, ambitious pitching targets for women-led companies under the European Innovation Council Accelerator, a gender balanced EIC Board, integration of the gender dimension in the relevant EIC Challenges and a pilot gender and diversity innovation index to track progress.
The EU Prize for Women Innovators received a record 264 applications in 2021, signalling the fast-growing number of women-led start-ups in Europe. The prize celebrates the women behind Europe’s breakthrough innovations and seeks to create role models for women and girls everywhere.
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