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Women TechEU: Empowering female-led deep tech startups

06 June 2024

Woman working across 3 monitors.  Credit: thisisengineering via pexelsThe Women TechEU initiative, funded by the European Union's Horizon Europe program, aims to empower and accelerate the growth of deep tech startups led by women. The program provides targeted funding, personalised business development support, and access to a network of mentors and experts.

The second call for applications closed on May 20, 2024, receiving a record-breaking 820 applications from across 38 eligible countries. This represents a 75% increase from the 2022 call, demonstrating the growing interest and need for such initiatives.

Beneficiaries of Women TechEU

The first call of Women TechEU has already selected 40 beneficiaries who are set to receive €75,000 grants and comprehensive business development support. These include:

  • Malin Alpsten and Anna Carlsson, founders of Bright Day Graphene, a company developing high-quality graphene from biomass for use in energy storage and other high-tech applications;
  • Dr. Katharina Eissing, founder of Digimind, a clean tech AI company focused on designing and engineering circular and sustainable packaging;
  • Emanuela Gatto, founder of Splastica, a company developing biodegradable and compostable granules that can be molded like plastic;
  • Johanna Nissén Karlsson, co-founder of Vividye, a Swedish tech startup developing removable textile prints to make the textile industry more circular;
  • Monica de Mier, co-founder of NEXTMOL, a company offering computational chemistry solutions to accelerate the research and development of better and more sustainable chemicals.

These are just a few examples of the innovative and impactful startups being supported by Women TechEU. The program is expected to have a significant positive impact on the European deep tech ecosystem, fostering innovation and promoting gender equality in the tech sector.

A closer look at Women TechEU

Women TechEU targets early-stage deep tech startups founded or co-founded by women holding a top management position. The program prioritises companies that are:

  • Led by women: Women should hold at least 25% of the shares in the company and hold a top management position (CEO, CTO, or equivalent).
  • Deep tech focused: The company should be developing innovative technologies with the potential to disrupt existing industries and create new markets.
  • Early-stage: The company should be at a stage before reaching a high-fidelity Minimum Viable Product (MVP) and have raised less than €1 million in equity.

The program offers a range of benefits to its beneficiaries, including:

  • Financial support: A €75 000 grant to support the initial steps in the innovation process and the growth of the company.
  • Mentoring and coaching: Personalized business development support provided by the EIC Business Acceleration Services (BAS), including dedicated networking and pitching events.
  • Access to a network: Opportunities to connect with investors, partners, and other stakeholders in the European deep tech ecosystem.

The next call for applications is expected to open later this year, offering another opportunity for women-led deep tech startups to access funding and support.

Women starting to lead in Science and Tech

This sort of funding may be having a dramatic effect on the EU tech workforce.  According to recent polls, there is compelling evidence that women are increasingly leading the way in science and technology sectors across the European Union. Key findings include:

  • In 2022, nearly 1 out of every 6 individuals in the EU was employed in the science and technology sector, totaling 76 million people. Among more than three-quarters of the countries (21 out of 27), over half of the professionals in this sector were women, reaching a total of 40 million across the EU.
  • The Baltic countries, Bulgaria, and Poland lead the way with women accounting for 58% to 64% of the professionals in the science and technology field.
  • Malta, Italy, and Czechia have the lowest percentage of women in science and technology, yet women still comprise a significant 46% to 49% of the sector's workforce.

These statistics highlight the significant progress made in promoting gender equality in science and technology. Initiatives like Women TechEU are playing a crucial role in supporting and empowering women to reach their full potential in these fields.

The need for vigilance

Despite the positive trends, recent studies also reveal that the EU employment rate for men of working age was 80.4% in 2023, exceeding that of women (70.2%). This highlights the need for continued efforts to address the gender gap in the labour market.

Women TechEU and similar initiatives are crucial in bridging this gap and creating a more inclusive and equitable tech ecosystem. By providing targeted support and opportunities to women-led startups, these programs are paving the way for a future where women are fully empowered to drive innovation and shape the future of technology.

For more information

FASI: funding portal 

Horizon Europe homepage

Women TechEU