European project FemStart

Fostering the Public Debate on University Support of Female Scientists to Start a Business

FemStart was an initiative funded by the European Commission’s 6th Framework Programme for Research and Technology within the Science and Society Priority. It was launched on 1st September 2006 and started a public debate on the issue of how female scientists can be motivated to start their own businesses after university.

Coordinator of FemStart was Steinbeis-Europa-Zentrum. Other partners were the Ministry of Economics of Baden-Württemberg – ifex (DE), Polytechnical University Valencia (ES), Wroclaw University of Technology – Wroclaw Centre for Technology Transfer (PL), Banking Institution of Higher Education Riga (LV), University of Agronomics and Veterinary Medicine Bucharest (RO) and Twente University (NL).

Entrepreneurship itself now enters European universities through curricula and start-up support systems. Women represent around 50% of students at universities but are very much unrepresented in terms of scientific or entrepreneurial careers. Which specific problems prevent women in science choosing this career? Why are entrepreneurship support structures in universities unable to encourage women to think about an entrepreneurial career?
FemStart aimed to foster public debate on this issue based on the experience of the EU Network ProWomEn, which investigated the promotion of women entrepreneurship in general but could not consider the issue of women scientists starting a business in detail. Public debate on “women entrepreneurship” is very controversial as common opinion is that there is no need for special support structures for women. But statistics on the number of women starting a company or receiving start-up support show a vast under-representation of women compared to their part in the working world and similarly for women in science and female scientists starting a company. Research on these issues gives clear evidence that women do need special encouragement and are a target group for specific support measures to get involved in entrepreneurship.

By organising a series of events at 6 universities in different European regions, FemStart started a debate by inviting experts on entrepreneurship support and education, public body representatives and administrations from the local regions and nearby countries and regions. Female scientists were invited as well as representatives from the university and public/private, political sectors and development agencies and multipliers that actually support and advise women entrepreneurs. Women entrepreneurs or scientists that have already started a business were also invited to share their personal experience during the events.

FemStart Events on a glance:

  • Stuttgart, DE – 14th/15th February 2007
  • Valencia, ES – 26th/27th April 2007
  • Wroclaw, PL – 17th/18th October 2007
  • Riga, LV – March 2008
  • Bucharest, RO – May / June 2008
  • Twente, NL – October 2008

FemStart raised awareness of the issue, delivered good practices and allowed discussion among experts and non-experts on how to adapt existing measures to improve the integration of women scientists in entrepreneurship support actions at universities.

Project Coordinator: Steinbeis-Europa-Zentrum Dr. Petra Püchner / Tracey French

Portrait Tracey French
Tracey French
0711 123 4015