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European Innovation Council and SMEs Executive Agency (EISMEA)
News article8 March 2024European Innovation Council and SMEs Executive Agency3 min read

Empowering women innovators: business and innovation support programmes for women entrepreneurs

On this International Women's Day, we highlight all the programmes managed by the European Innovation Council and SMEs Executive Agency that support women innovators, entrepreneurs, and researchers.

EISMEA for women innovators

The European Innovation Council and SMEs Agency contributes to the Commission’s objective to achieve a Union of Equality through different programmes that provide, among others, funding, business accelerator services, coaching and business partnerships to women entrepreneurs.

Supporting female founders and innovators

Women are an important source of talent that too often are discouraged or turned away from the world of tech. The European Institute of Technology’s own study in association with Dealroom revealed that inclusivity unlocks Europe’s potential for innovation. In fact, it found that women-founded tech scale-ups grew 1.2x faster than their competitors over the past five years showing the degree of potential Europe can tap if it makes tech more inclusive to women.

Since 2020, the European Innovation Council (EIC) has introduced several measures to actively promote and support the role of women innovators and researchers to boost Europe’s innovation capacity and ensure relevance of its outputs to all citizens.

This includes the prioritisation of women CEOs invited to Accelerator Interviews, dedicated initiatives as WomenTech EU to support early stage deep-tech startups funded and led by women, and its Women Leadership Programme to provide coaching and mentoring to EIC-funded women entrepreneurs. The EIC also awards an annual European Prize for Women Innovators, in cooperation with the European Institute of Technology, to recognise and promote women entrepreneurs, who have founded a successful company and brought their innovations to market.

A comprehensive support system for women-led companies and young entrepreneurs

The Single Market Programme (SMP) puts in place several actions to support women-led businesses which bring unique perspectives and ideas that lead to greater profitability and sustainable growth.

The Enterprise Europe Network’s comprehensive support system is designed to help them succeed by providing exclusive access to valuable information and knowledge to drive their business forward; opportunities to reach new markets; assistance in finding business partners; advice on obtaining EU funding and connections to the best innovation services.

Women entrepreneurs who are starting a company or would like to gain insights into new target markets can also benefit from the Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs exchange programme where new entrepreneurs gather and exchange knowledge and business ideas with an experienced entrepreneur, for a period of 1 to 6 months.

The ESTEAM (Entrepreneurship, Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) initiative complements this support system by providing a community to girls and women interested in developing their digital and entrepreneurial competencies. Since the launch of the ESTEAM Project in January 2022, more than 2 400 girls and women have participated in the online and in-person activities, from 38 different countries. The next ESTEAM Women Fest will be organised in Prague in June 2024.

Two upcoming SMP actions will also support women entrepreneurs:

The European network for gender conscious investors, that will bring together a network of female and gender-conscious investors, financial institutions and other relevant stakeholders to improve the representation of women in the investment community and financial institutions.

The Support to Women Entrepreneurs initiative, that will collect data on women’s entrepreneurship in Europe to develop evidence-based policy and actions to support women entrepreneurs.


Achieving a Union of Equality that promotes gender equality in all spheres of life, is one of the priorities of the European Commission. The Commission is working with Member States and countries associated to Horizon Europe to overcome the barriers to women entrepreneurship and help create fair, inclusive and prosperous innovation ecosystems in Europe.

Investing in women and inspiring others is key to promote and safeguard gender equality to secure an inclusive society, just economies, and a healthy planet for future generations. This is also in line with the United Nations theme for 2024, “Invest in women: Accelerate progress”.


Publication date
8 March 2024
European Innovation Council and SMEs Executive Agency