Feminine Finesse: Unlocking opportunities for women entrepreneurship in Italy

In focus: Some government schemes, grants & initiatives that are available to women entrepreneurs in Italy

Ancient history intertwines with awe-inspiring beauty here – from the charming cobblestone streets of Rome to the picturesque vineyards of Tuscany. Beyond its captivating allure, Italy’s enchantment extends to the business realm, which boasts of a dynamic economy, strategic location in Europe & a vibrant entrepreneurial landscape. So, you can step into a world of endless possibilities, where the romance of the country merges seamlessly with thriving business opportunities, making Italy a destination of choice for entrepreneurs and dreamers alike.

In Italy, women entrepreneurs are experiencing a supportive ecosystem with a range of schemes, grants, and initiatives – designed to steer their success and empower their ventures. The Italian government, along with various organizations and institutions, has recognized the significant contributions of women entrepreneurs to the economy and society, and thus, has implemented targeted measures – to promote their growth.

Women entrepreneurs in Italy can avail of various funding opportunities tailored to their specific needs and goals. With the steady rise of women-led enterprises in Italy, these schemes, grants and initiatives have become instrumental in unleashing the full potential of women entrepreneurship and driving economic progress across the nation.

Here are some government schemes, grants and initiatives that are available to women entrepreneurs in Italy.

> Promoting women empowerment: Italia Domani

Italia Domani, the National Recovery and Resilience Plan (NRRP) is aimed at building a valuable legacy for future generations – with a view to achieve a more robust, sustainable and inclusive economic growth. Italia Domani is part of Next Generation EU, an economic recovery project dedicated to member states.

The investment aims to promote the increase of women’s participation in the world of work, in particular by supporting women as entrepreneurs. The measure aims to: reshape existing support systems for female entrepreneurship to increase their effectiveness; to facilitate the implementation of entrepreneurial projects which are already established and operating; to support women’s start-ups through mentoring activities and technical-managerial assistance; and to create a climate conducive to female entrepreneurship through targeted communication activities.


> MISE establishes funds for women entrepreneurship

This financial grant can be traced back to 2 October 2021, when the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MISE) signed the decree creating Fondo Donna Impresa with an initial budget of EUR 440 million (USD 510.2 million) co-financed by the Italian government and the EU. The fund aims to encourage innovative projects led by female entrepreneurs and will offer a range of financial solutions, including grants. The fund will be valid during the period 2021-2026.



The WeGATE website is a one-stop shop for women entrepreneurs. It has three main functions – firstly, it acts as an information hub for women entrepreneurs who are looking to start a business, or are already operating a business eg. women entrepreneurs can find information on business creation, business development, regional markets, good practice examples, case studies and profiles of successful role models. Second, the website provides information and links to some useful activities – like where women can access local entrepreneurship training programmes, networks and mentoring programmes. Third, the website acts as an online platform for networking for users who register, connecting aspiring and success women entrepreneurs and other support providers.

WeGATE – the website was launched in 2016 and the key to its long-term success will involve active engagement of users (women entrepreneurs and support providers) and the continual update of information and links to national and regional programmes and networks.

For more information, please see: https://wegate.eu/

> Women’s Enterprise Fund

The Women’s Enterprise Fund is the incentive of the Italian Ministry of Economic Development (MISE) that supports establishing, developing, and consolidating women- led enterprises through non-repayable contributions and subsidized financing.

The incentives will be dedicated to investment programmes in the industry, crafts, processing of agricultural products, services, trade and tourism. Plus the Fund will put in place action to accompany, train and enhance the entrepreneurial culture of women. The Fund supports women’s enterprises of any size, already established or newly created, located in all Italian regions. Women can also apply for funding with a commitment to set up a new business after being admitted to the Fund.


> Support for Start-Ups

Since 2012 Italy has developed a number of initiatives – to support and promote innovative start-ups (defined as an enterprise in operation for less than five years with revenue of less than five million euros). These initiatives include:

The Italia Start-up Visa and Italia Start-up Hub: To attract innovative start-ups to Italy, the government in June 2014 introduced a special centralized fast-track mechanism for granting entry visas to self-employed persons and to those who intend to set up an innovative start-up. The Start-up hub was launched in December 2014, to assist non-EU citizens who already have a valid residence permit (such as a study visa). It also allows applicants to convert a residence permit to a “self-employment start-up permit” without having to leave Italy.

The Investment Compact Decree-Law, which was passed into law in March 2015, allows entrepreneurs to establish innovative start-ups online and without the use external professionals, with lower costs and the use of digitally-signed articles of incorporation.

Supporting venture capital investments: To encourage more investment in high-growth companies, the then Minister of Economic Development, Federica Guidi, on 29 January 2015 passed a decree – to allocate a share of the resources in the Fund for Sustainable Growth of €50 million ($55m) to the Italia Venture I fund which is managed by Invitalia Ventures. The fund co-invests with other funds in high-growth companies. Zero-interest loans: Invitalia’s Smart&Start Italia scheme was launched in 2015 to grant zero-interest loans to start-ups.

Research and development (R&D) tax credits: With the Stability Law of 2015, the government introduced significant tax benefits for companies that co-operate with research centres, laboratories and start-ups to conduct research and development (R&D).

Guarantee finance: Italy’s Guarantee Fund for SMEs (Fondo di Garanzia), which has been in operation since 2000, also assists start-ups by guaranteeing 80% of a bank loan.

Tax incentives: Article 29 of Growth Decree 2.0 allows individuals who invest in innovative start-ups to deduct 19% of the amount invested from their taxable income, up to a maximum amount of €500,000. Companies can deduct 20% of the amount invested in share capital from their taxable income, subject to a maximum of €1.8 million. The deduction rate for persons increases to 25% and that for companies increases to 27% for investments in those innovative start-ups defined as having social goals, or those that exclusively develop and market innovative high technology products or services for the energy sector.

> UniCredit

How does financing for women-led businesses work here?
UniCredit will select projects and grant financing to businesses operating in productive sectors – agriculture, crafts, industry, retail, tourism and services. Pure financial investment and/or real estate projects are not covered by the agreement. Tangible and intangible (e.g. research costs, patent development, licences, etc.) assets and working capital are also eligible for financing. Projects can reach a maximum individual cost of EUR 25m, with EIB funds covering up to 100% of the investment up to a limit of EUR 12.5m.

> Main achievements on gender equality since 1995

The Italian Constitution regulates gender equality. To be more specific, Article 51, which was amended in 2001, through its new wording envisages that – “Any citizen of either sex is eligible for public offices and elected positions on equal terms, according to the conditions established by law. To this end, the Republic shall adopt specific measures to promote equal opportunities between women and men”. In addition, Article 27 sets forth that – “Working women are entitled to equal rights and, for comparable jobs, equal pay as men”. Working conditions must allow women to fulfill their essential role in the family and ensure appropriate protection for the mother and child. The fact that the Italian legislator has decided to include the principle of gender equality in its Constitution, thus making it become a constitutional principle, clearly shows the importance of this topic for the Italian Government and legal system. Beside the Italian Constitution, the National Code of Equal Opportunities between Women and Men,
which has been established by Legislative Decree No 198 of 2006, is considered as the Italian legal framework on gender equality and women’s empowerment.

The Italian Government has made significant progress in the promotion of women’s empowerment – an area where much more needs to be done and which remains one the main challenges in the field of gender equality in our country. Another central objective set by Italy over the years has been the achievement of gender equality in education.

> Support for young entrepreneurs
  • Smart Start Italy is aimed at innovative start-ups that have been established for no more than 60 months or in the launching phase and guarantees beneficiaries a subsidized loan and a tutoring service.
  • National Innovation Fund is a multi-fund that operates through venture capital strategies and makes direct and indirect investments in capital of start-ups, scaleups and SMEs.
  • The “New zero-interest enterprises” measure has the objective of supporting, throughout the national territory, the creation and development of micro and small enterprises with predominantly or total participation by young people or women.
  • Sustainable investments 4.0, an intervention aimed at supporting the implementation of investment programs aimed at enabling the technological and digital transformation of the company or at favouring the transition of the manufacturing sector towards the paradigm of the circular economy, in order to overcome the contraction induced by the COVID emergency and to guide the recovery towards strategic areas for competitiveness and sustainable growth of the economic system.
  • Capital goods – Nuova Sabatini, is a financing program aimed at facilitating access to credit for companies and increasing the competitiveness of the country’s production system. The measure supports investments to purchase or lease machinery, equipment, plants, capital goods for production use and hardware, as well as software and digital technologies.

It is also possible to refer to the ANPAL guide – for entrepreneurship incentives. The
document provides a periodic summary of the available hiring incentives and supports
for new business at national and regional levels.

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