EU Prize for Women Innovators 2021 – 7 Finalists are Irish!

27th October 2021

Posted In: Innovation

21 of the most talented and inspiring women entrepreneurs working in Europe are in the shortlist for the EU Prize for Women Innovators 2021. The prize celebrates the outstanding achievements of female entrepreneurs running innovative companies.

It is funded by the EU’s Horizon Europe programme for research and innovation and managed by the European Innovation Council and SMEs Executive Agency. This year’s finalists are pioneering game-changing innovations across a wide range of industries and help tackle global challenges.

Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, said: This exceptional group of women are making a significant contribution in their fields, and tackling society’s biggest challenges.

By telling their story, we hope to inspire other women to engage with and realise their potential as future innovators.”

Seventeen candidates are competing for three prizes of €100,000 each in the Women Innovators category. A further three candidates are competing for the Rising Innovator title that recognises excellent female entrepreneurs under the age of 30 and comes with a €50,000 award.


The opportunities created by novel technologies and disruptive innovations promise to deliver the fair and sustainable recovery Europe needs, but Europe could miss out on these opportunities if half its population is overlooked as a source of innovation and creative talent.

Today, three quarters of start-ups in Europe are founded by men, while only 8% are founded by all-women teams.

This lack of diversity in turn translates into low amounts of capital invested into female-led and managed companies which is well documented.

In 2019, 92% of all funds raised by European VC-backed companies went to all-male founding teams.

Achieving a union of equality that promotes gender equality in all spheres of life, is one of the major 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.

First launched in 2011, the EU Prize for Women Innovators celebrates the women entrepreneurs behind game-changing innovations. In doing so,

the EU seeks to raise awareness of the need for more women innovators, and create role models for women and girls everywhere.

Seven of the 21 entrepreneurs nominated for the finals are Irish.

Five of the Irish projects are competing for three prizes of €100,000 each in the Women Innovators category. Ailbhe and Izzy Keane of Izzy Wheels are competing in the rising Innovator category that recognises excellent female entrepreneurs under the age of 30 and comes with a €50,000 award innovator category.

The success of these women-led start-ups reflects the strength, innovativeness and competitiveness of the start-up sector in Ireland according to Garrett Murray, National Director for Horizon Europe at Enterprise Ireland: “This announcement is a phenomenal success for the finalists and for Ireland. It is a testament to the capability and talent of women leaders and entrepreneurs within the Irish innovation and commercialisation system. It also highlights the international competitiveness of Ireland’s women entrepreneurs and our Irish start-up community.

In line with Enterprise Ireland’s strategy, these awards help promote Irish women entrepreneurs and provide a platform for them to build on their existing capabilities, scale and create jobs.

The Women TechEU is also a brand new initiative of the European Union. The scheme offers first-class coaching and mentoring to female founders, as well as targeted funding to help take their business to the next level. Women TechEU offers:

•Financial support to the company as an individual grant of EUR 75 000 to support the initial steps in the innovation process, and the growth of the company

•Mentoring and coaching provided by the EIC Business Acceleration Services (BAS), under the new “Women Leadership Programme”, which include dedicated networking and pitching events

•The possibility to participate in dedicated activities organised by InvestEU and Enterprise Europe Network.

The call for proposals is open and the deadline for submissions is 17:00 (CET) on 10 November 2021 – Women TechEU (

Irish Finalists:

  • Anita Finnegan, co-founder and CEO of Nova Leah, a company offering cybersecurity risk management solutions for medical device manufacturers.
  • Ciara Clancy, founder and CEO of Beats Therapeutics, a company developing technology solutions to tackle the mobility symptoms associated with Parkinson’s disease.
  • Lisa O’Donoghue, founder and CEO of Votechnik, a company providing automated recycling technology for safe and sustainable disposal of Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) units.
  • Patricia Scanlon, founder and Executive Chair of Soapbox Labs, a company developing an innovative speech-recognition solution for children.
  • Suzanne Moloney, founder and CEO of Hidramed Solutions, a company offering advanced wound care solutions for everyday care of chronic wounds.

The finalists in the Rising Innovator category are:

  • Ailbhe and Izzy Keane, founders of Izzy Wheels. Their company creates fashionable wheel covers for wheelchairs.

The winners of the EU Prize for Women Innovators 2021 will be announced at the European Innovation Council Summit taking place on 24-25 November 2021. At the same event, the Commission will award the European Capital of Innovation Awards, and the European Innovation Procurement Awards.