Women entrepreneurship in the UK is a powerful force

In focus: Some government schemes, grants and initiatives for women entrepreneurs in UK

Women entrepreneurs make a huge contribution to the UK economy, both in creating jobs and driving economic growth.

Women entrepreneurship in the UK is a powerful force driving innovation, growth, and change. With a thriving ecosystem and a supportive business environment, women entrepreneurs in the UK are forging ahead, breaking barriers, reshaping industries and making their mark in diverse sectors. Their determination, resilience and creative thinking are fueling economic progress, and paving the way for a more inclusive and dynamic future of entrepreneurship in the UK.

Here are some government schemes, grants and initiatives for women entrepreneurs in UK.

> Taskforce on Women-Led High-Growth Enterprises

To give a boost to women starting fast-growing companies, the government launched a taskforce. The ‘Taskforce on Women-Led High-Growth Enterprises’ supports women entrepreneurs, tackle investing barriers, and increase the number of women-led fast-growing businesses. It was launched by the Minister for Women and Equalities, Liz Truss and it was chaired by Anne Boden, CEO and founder of Starling Bank. The government aimed to increase the number of female entrepreneurs by half by 2030, and the launch followed a package of initiatives to level up employment opportunities for women.

The taskforce uses its convening power to influence high growth investors, the wider business community, and to raise the aspirations of the next generation of female entrepreneurs, especially looking to encourage women based outside of the capital.

Only 1 in 3 UK entrepreneurs is a woman – a gender gap equivalent to 1.1 million missing businesses, and male-led SMEs are 5 times more likely to scale up to £1 million turnover than female-led SMEs.


> Women in Innovation

In 2016, Innovate UK launched Women in Innovation, after research revealed that just 1 in 7 applications for Innovate UK support came from women. Most importantly, boosting the number of female entrepreneurs could deliver £180 billion to the economy.

The objective was to get more women with excellent ideas innovating within UK businesses. Women in Innovation is part of Innovate UK’s commitment to promote greater diversity and inclusion in business innovation.

The programme mainly seeks to find women with exciting, innovative ideas and ambitious plans that will inspire others. The programme support includes a £50,000 grant for each individual, as well as a bespoke package of mentoring, coaching and business support.

The campaign and awards programme that appeared in 2016 and 2018 left a huge impact. The number of women applying to Innovate UK’s funding and support has increased by 70%. The Women in Innovation Awards 2020/21 will build on this success.

NOTE: Innovate UK drives productivity and economic growth by supporting businesses to develop and realize the potential of new ideas, including those from the UK’s world-class research base.

> Small Business Grants available for Women in the UK

>> The Women in Innovation Awards

The Women in Innovation Awards 2020 could be a source of funding for start-ups (even if they are one-year-old) and also stands for contributing to a greener world, developing new treatments and services for healthcare patients, tackling climate change or marrying together artificial intelligence and data.

Since the launch of the awards, the number of applications has increased by 70%, so competition is fierce, but with the potential for such a significant cash injection, it’s worth taking the time to apply.

>>Back Her Business

The Back Her Business initiative was launched by Natwest in 2019. This was aimed to help more female entrepreneurs start their own businesses.The initiative gives participants a crowdfunding platform – to raise the money they need to launch their businesses; and it provides other facilities – like coaching, workshops and mentoring sessions.

How to apply? First, UK-based, female-led start-ups must set up a crowdfunding project with a minimum target of £1,000. Natwest will then match the funding successful applicants receive up to a maximum of £5,000. The initiative is ongoing – so applications can be submitted at any time.

>>Global Fund for Women

The Global Fund for Women extends support to organizations that are led by groups of women and trans people, who are very committed to advancing gender equality and human rights in their communities and tackling the biggest challenges faced by women & girls today.

The fund provides flexible cash grants that can be used to cover start-up varied costs such as -operating and programme expenses or for more specific expenses such as travel and the implementation of educational programmes. To apply, businesses must be based outside the US and be run by a group of women (the fund awards grants to groups, not individuals). Applications can be made all year round.

>>Cartier Women’s Initiative

Every year, the Cartier Women’s Initiative invites women from around the world to apply for one of its 21 grants. To apply, businesses must be early-stage, have an original concept and have the potential to grow significantly over the next few years. The main leadership position must also be filled by a woman, who owns a significant stake in the company.

Moreover, the successful applicants are given access to workshops, exclusive networking events, one-on-one coaching sessions and the INSEAD Social Entrepreneurship 6-Day Executive programme. 14 of those finalists will also receive grants of $30,000 (£24,000), while the seven winners will receive the equivalent of $100,000 (£80,000).

>> Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology

If you’re a female entrepreneur with an existing business or want to start a business in the tech or computing industries, the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology hosts two awards, the Abie Awards and the Pass It On Awards, which could provide the vital funding you need.

The Abie Awards recognises female entrepreneurs who are working in the tech industry or empowering those who are. There are numerous awards across categories such as technical leadership and technical entrepreneurship. The winners receive cash grants of up to $50,000. The Pass It On Awards offers smaller grants of up to $1,000, which can help to cover the costs of projects that benefit women and girls in computing.

Any woman aged over 18 and either working in or aspiring to work in the computing industry can be nominated. The specific entry criteria will differ depending on the award you’re nominated for.


Although the UK government does not offer business grants for women specifically, it is a major funder of UK STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) businesses.

If your business operates in one of those sectors, you may be able to access grants offered by government organizations such as Innovate UK and the Regional Growth Fund. The UK government’s website lists more than 100 grants that are available across the UK that you may be able to access depending on your industry, region, business stage and number of employees.

>> Female Founders Fund

This early-stage fund seeks to invest in women-led start-ups that are making an impact in e-commerce, web-enabled products and services, platforms and marketplaces that connect buyers and sellers. Although this is not a small business grant, as an equity stake will have to be given in return for the investment, this could be a viable way to raise capital if small business grants are not available.

To apply for funding, applicants should submit their pitches via email.

>> AllBright Collective Pitch Days

Rather than providing funding, this organization supports female-led businesses across various industries by providing everything from networking opportunities and digital courses to access to members’ clubs and introductions to investors.

To be eligible for AllBright’s monthly Pitch Days, which are held in London, your business must be operational and, must have at least one female founder and be generating revenue or have an existing investment.

>> Female Founder Office Hours

Need advice about how to scale up your start-up or are you searching for a source of funding that can help you grow faster? At the Female Founders Office Hours event, hosted at Founders Factory in West London, you can benefit from one-to-one sessions where you will receive tailored advice about your start-up.

This year, more than 100 female founders will be taking part from across the UK. They will have the opportunity to meet four investors (remotely due to the COVID-19 outbreak) and discuss their tech business idea, ask for advice and pitch for investment.

RBS launched £1 billion Female Entrepreneurship Funding and announces targets to help create at least 50k new businesses by 2023

RBS has made available – a new £1 billion in funding through NatWest to support female entrepreneurs in the UK to scale and grow – the largest intervention by a UK lender focused specifically on female-led businesses. Thus the bank’s target that was set was – to support and inspire 500K people to consider starting a business (of whom at least 60% will be female) in order to help create at least 50k new businesses by 2023.

The Female Entrepreneurship Funding builds directly on a key finding from The Alison Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurship (‘the Rose Review’), that the single biggest issue holding female entrepreneurs back is the lack of funding directed towards them.

According to the Rose Review, female-led businesses receive less funding than those headed by men at every stage of their journey. Women launch businesses with 53% less capital on average than men, are less aware of funding options and are less likely to take on debt. Open to both new and existing customers, the Funding represents new lending into the UK economy and is intended to go some way to closing the gap with male entrepreneurs.

The new targets will make RBS the biggest supporter of start-ups in the UK. Plus, the bank will increase support provided through its accelerator programme, and other initiatives and partnerships such as ‘Back Her Business’ and the The Prince’s Trust.

This support is designed to tap into the unrealized potential for the UK economy; and , it will be open to anyone who is looking to start-up a business, regardless of whether they are a customer of the bank or not.

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