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European Innovation Council
News article20 October 20214 min read

21 inspiring women entrepreneurs for 2021: Meet the finalists competing for this year’s EU Prize for Women Innovators

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.

EIC Women Innovation Prize

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: Today, we celebrate the outstanding achievements of 21 women innovators. 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 finalists in the Women Innovators category are:

  • Anita Finnegan (Ireland), co-founder and CEO of Nova Leah, a company offering cybersecurity risk management solutions for medical device manufacturers.
  • Asude Altıntaş (Türkiye), co-founder and CEO of Twin Science, a company improving children’s STEAM skills with physical and digital products.
  • Ciara Clancy (Ireland), founder and CEO of Beats Therapeutics, a company developing technology solutions to tackle the mobility symptoms associated with Parkinson’s disease.
  • Danaë Delbeke (Belgium), founder and CEO of Indigo, a company designing innovative glucose monitoring solutions for people with diabetes.
  • Daphne Haim Langford (Israel), founder and CEO of Tarsier Pharma, a company developing disruptive medical solutions for the treatment and cure of autoimmune and inflammatory ocular diseases.
  • Elena García Armada (Spain), founder and CEO of MarsiBionics, a company designing innovative exoskeletons for personalised gait therapy.
  • Florence Gschwend (Switzerland/UK), co-founder and CTO of Lixea, a company developing a sustainable and innovative biomass fractionation process using low-cost ionic liquids.
  • Keren Leshem (Israel), co-founder and CEO of OCON Healthcare, a company developing an innovative intrauterine drug-delivery technology to improve women’s health and quality of life.
  • Lisa O’Donoghue (Ireland), founder and CEO of Votechnik, a company providing automated recycling technology for safe and sustainable disposal of Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) units.
  • Mathilde Jakobsen (Denmark), co-founder and CEO of Fresh.Land, a digital platform that shortens and digitizes the food supply chain, providing easy access to good quality food.
  • Merel Boers (Netherlands), co-founder and CEO of NICO-LAB, a company offering cutting-edge technology to help physicians improve emergency care.
  • Monika Haider (Austria), founder and CEO of equalizent, a company offering education and training solutions for deaf and hard of hearing people.
  • Patricia Scanlon (Ireland), founder and Executive Chair of Soapbox Labs, a company developing an innovative speech-recognition solution for children.
  • Rocío Arroyo (Spain), founder and CEO of AMADIX, a company providing personalized medicine solutions for cancer diagnosis.
  • Sofie Quidenus-Wahlforss (Austria/Germany), founder and CEO of omni:us, a data-driven, AI platform that automates insurance claims.
  • Suzanne Moloney (Ireland), founder and CEO of Hidramed Solutions, a company offering advanced wound care solutions for everyday care of chronic wounds.
  • Verónica Orvalho (Argentina/Portugal), founder and CEO of Didimo, a technology platform for the fast creation of user-generated digital humans

The finalists in the Rising Innovator category are:

  • Ailbhe and Izzy Keane (Ireland), founders of Izzy Wheels. Their company creates fashionable wheel covers for wheelchairs.
  • Emna Everard (Belgium), founder and CEO of Kazidomi, a healthy food e-commerce.
  • Livia Ng (UK), founder and CEO of Neucruit, a company that uses deep tech to build digital patient recruitment strategies that improve the lives of patients and clinical innovators.

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.


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. 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.

The prize is awarded to the most talented women entrepreneurs from across the EU and countries associated to Horizon Europe, who have founded a successful company and brought innovation to the market. The prize is managed by the European Innovation Council and SMEs Executive Agency, and the winners are chosen by an independent expert jury.

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Publication date
20 October 2021