Putting women at the forefront of deep tech with Women TechEU 

The European Commission has launched a novel EU programme called Women TechEU to support the growth of women womenled deep tech start-ups. 

This exciting new programme to strengthen women in deep tech comes under the new Horizon Europe innovation ecosystems programme and is reinforced by the European Innovation Council (EICs). 

Deep tech is core to Europe’s economy 

Deep tech now encompasses over a quarter of Europe’s start-up ecosystem, with European deep tech companies valued at a staggering €700bn and rising. 

Established on innovation in engineering and advances in science, deep tech start-ups generally have longer R&D cycles, and take more time and capital to develop in comparison to other start-ups. The majority could fail in their early years if they do not obtain the necessary support and investment early on. 

As well as these challenges, women in the industry face extra challenges such as gender bias and stereotypes and remain massively underrepresented across the industry. 

Deep tech innovation has the potential to contribute to the fair and sustainable recovery that Europe needs. However, if women – half the population – are underrepresented as a source of talent and innovation, the European economy could miss out on a plethora of opportunities and technological advancements. 

The gender gap in deep tech 

Current data indicates that merely 15% of innovative start-ups are founded or co-founded by women, while just 6% have all-women founding teams. The data also reveals that women-led businesses raise sizeably less venture capital than their male-only counterparts, including at the crucial early-stage investments and the sums that they raise are generally far lower. In fact, throughout Europe, as little as 5% of venture capital goes to mixed teams and just 2% goes to to all-female teams. 

The Commission is working with Member States and Associated Countries to encourage women in leadership and close the gender gap in technology and innovation. 

Addressing the gap with Women TechEU 

Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth explained: “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.” 

Women TechEU plans on tackling the innovation gender gap by supporting the growth of women-led deep tech start-ups at the early and most risky stage. The programme will extend financial support to women-led start-ups with grants of €75,000, as well as first-class coaching and mentoring, offered through the EIC’s Women Leadership Programme. 

The EIC’s core Accelerator programme also targets women-led start-ups, but the new Women TechEU programme provides support at the earlier, formative stage of companies in order to boost the amount of women launching start-ups to begin with.  

Under the initial pilot call, as many as 50 hopeful deep tech start-ups from EU Member States and Associated Countries will be funded. Applicants 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. 

As well as this, the company is required to 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 at 17:00 (Brussels time, CET) on 10 November 2021. 

Women TechEU is one component of a series of actions being taken to encourage female innovators. Earlier this month, the European Commission declared that it received the record number of applications for the EU Prize for Women Innovators, thus demonstrating the need for initiatives like these honouring and encouraging women innovators and entrepreneurs.

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