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  • Writer's pictureJuliana Hechanova

International Women's Day: Exploring Opportunities for Women Innovators in Europe

As we celebrate International Women's Day, we recognise the abundant opportunities available for women in Europe's dynamic startup ecosystem. While challenges persist and there's a call for increased representation and inclusivity, there's also a growing momentum to support and empower innovators, entrepreneurs, and researchers.

Numerous programmes and initiatives across Europe are dedicated to providing women with the resources, funding, and networks they need to thrive in innovation and entrepreneurship. Let's delve into these opportunities and how they are shaping a more inclusive and diverse innovation landscape in Europe.

The European Innovation Council (EIC), in collaboration with the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), offers the Women Leadership Programme (WLP). This programme aims to enhance the skills and expand the networks of women entrepreneurs and researchers, targeting female founders, managers, and researchers involved in projects aspiring to transition their research into businesses. The upcoming 5th WLP cohort, starting in April 2024, is tailored for female researchers and aspiring leaders from EIC Pathfinder and EIC Transition schemes, with another cohort planned for late 2024 focusing on female (co-)founders and C-Suite leaders.

The European Prize for Women Innovators celebrates visionary women entrepreneurs driving groundbreaking innovations across Europe. Managed jointly by the European Innovation Council, SMEs Executive Agency, and the European Institute for Innovation & Technology, the prize selects winners through an independent expert jury. The recent edition, announced at the EIT Summit in February 2024, includes ten finalists, with winners to be awarded at the R&I Week Opening event in March 2024.

The prize encompasses three categories: Women Innovators, Rising Innovators, and the EIT Women Leadership Award, each offering substantial monetary rewards to winners and runners-up. Eligibility extends to women of diverse backgrounds who have founded innovative companies in EU Member States or Horizon Europe Associated Countries at least two years prior.

Women TechEU, funded under the European Innovation Ecosystems work programme of Horizon Europe, provides comprehensive support to female founders. Through this initiative, female entrepreneurs receive financial assistance in the form of individual grants totalling EUR 75,000, along with invaluable mentoring and coaching through the EIC Business Acceleration Services (BAS) under the "Women Leadership Programme." Managed by an external consortium since 2023/2024, Women TechEU offers further opportunities for female entrepreneurs to thrive.

Funded by the European Union through its Horizon Europe Research and Innovation programme, EmpoWomen addresses the underrepresentation of women in the deep-tech sector, particularly in emerging European countries. This two-year programme selects 25 women-led companies through open calls to participate in a specialised acceleration programme, receiving services, awards, and 45,000 euros in equity-free funding each.

In conclusion, the opportunities available for women innovators in Europe's startup ecosystem are promising. Despite ongoing challenges, initiatives such as the Women Leadership Programme,  the European Prize for Women Innovators, EmpoWomen, and Women TechEU, are making significant strides in empowering women to succeed in innovation, entrepreneurship, and research. 

At Futuro Perfecto, we fully support these initiatives and aim to assist women-led startups, SMEs, and organisations in securing the funding they need to develop their technologies, scale their businesses, and bring innovative solutions to market. We imagine a more inclusive and diverse innovation landscape where all voices are heard and celebrated.

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