New EU pilot scheme to address lack of women in deep-tech

19 Jul 2021

Image: © nuclear_lily/

The Women TechEU scheme will offer grants and mentoring programmes to women-led start-ups to create a more equal deep-tech industry.

The European Commission has launched Women TechEU, a new pilot programme which aims to support women-led deep-tech start-ups.

The pilot is being introduced to address the gender imbalance issue within the industry and to promote women in deep-tech innovation.

Up to 50 promising deep-tech start-ups from EU member states will be funded under the first Women TechEU pilot call.

The scheme will offer financial support to women-led start-ups, with grants of €75,000 and first-class coaching and mentoring to be made available through the European Innovation Council’s Women Leadership Programme.

The deep-tech industry currently accounts for over a quarter of Europe’s start-up ecosystem, but women are under-represented in these deep-tech companies, which are now valued at a combined €700bn.

Data presented by the European Innovation Council (EIC) shows that only 15pc of innovative start-ups are founded or co-founded by women, and just 6pc have all-women founding teams.

Women-led businesses raise less venture capital than their male-only counterparts, including at the vital early-stage investments and the amounts that they raise tend to be lower.

Across Europe only around 5pc of venture capital goes to mixed teams and only 2pc to all-female teams.

The Women TechEU initiative, which comes under the EIC’s new Horizon Europe innovation ecosystems programme, is attempting to narrow this innovation gender gap by supporting women-led deep-tech start-ups at the earliest, and often riskiest stage of development.

“Through Women TechEU, we want to increase the number of women-led start-ups and create a fairer and more prosperous European deep-tech ecosystem. We believe that today’s support to deep-tech female founders will increase their chances of success and boost the overall European innovation ecosystem by drawing in more female talent.” said Mariya Gabriel, European commissioner for innovation and research.

Last week, two days after the pilot scheme was announced on 13 July, Gabriel spoke over Zoom with representatives from the European Women in VC group. The group presented her with a detailed report and series of recommendations calling for increased funding for women in VC.

The report was accompanied by a petition demanding equal access to capital for European female-led VC funds.

Those who wish to apply to the Women TechEU pilot scheme must have founded or co-founded an early-stage deep-tech start-up, and hold a top management position (CEO, CTO or equivalent) in the company.

The company must be registered and established in an EU member state or associated country for at least six months at the time of the submission. The call for proposals closes on 10 November 2021.

Further information on how to apply is available here.

Blathnaid O’Dea was a Careers reporter at Silicon Republic until 2024.