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Accelerating Women’s Enterprise (AWE) is a collaborative project funded by the European Union’s Interreg Programme to support women's entrepreneurship in the UK and France.

We're part of a network of organisations either side of the English Channel researching and delivering support to address the gender entrepreneurship imbalance through training and mentoring. Accelerating Women’s Enterprise is supported by the Interreg Programme, who are contributing €2,641,184.73 of European Regional Development Funds, to address economic and social issues in regions on either side of the Channel.

Through the AWE programme, we plan to help more female founders develop entrepreneurial skills and get support to set up and grow their businesses.

The AWE project aims to

  • train 700 female entrepreneurs
  • recruit and train more than 160 mentors
  • help 134 women start new businesses

Sign up to the AWE project

Why are we involved in the AWE project?

By closing the gender gap between male and female entrepreneurs, up to £250 billion could be added to the UK economy.

In March 2019, the Government-commissioned independent review of female entrepreneurship in the UK was published – the Alison Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurship. The review highlighted possible solutions to the barriers women face when starting and growing businesses, such as knowledge of and access to finance, caring responsibilities and a lack of relatable role models and mentors.

The UK is behind other countries, such as the US, which perform better for gender equality in entrepreneurship. The Government aims to increase the number of female entrepreneurs in the UK by 50% by 2030. This is equivalent to 600,000 more entrepreneurs. The publication of the Alison Rose Review highlights why projects like Accelerating Women's Enterprise are so important.

The UK aims to have an additional 600,000 female entrepreneurs by 2030.

Woman in a business meeting

Training and mentoring for entrepreneurs

Would you like to build and grow a business and be part of the movement to close the gender gap in entrepreneurship in the UK? We can help you achieve your business goals through training and mentoring on the AWE project.

If you're already a successful female entrepreneur, you can join the project to pass on your knowledge and skills through mentoring.


You can take part in our free pilot training workshops between September 2019 and April 2020. Workshops will be delivered at our University of Portsmouth innovation centres by members of our AWE project team and staff from nest, our startup incubator.

Following the pilot workshops, regular free workshops will run from September 2020 in our nest and innovation centres in Portsmouth, and on the Isle of Wight.

To take part in the pilot workshops or to be notified when the regular workshops open for bookings, please contact us.


Receive mentoring

If you're thinking about setting up or growing your business, but aren't sure where to start or how to overcome the barriers ahead of you, receiving mentoring from a successful entrepreneur could help you.

Our mentoring programme is currently being developed by the project partners and we'll be running a pilot mentoring programme in January 2020. The full programme begins in February 2020. To register your interest in being matched with a mentor, please contact us. Please note, mentors won't all be female.

Become a mentor

Have you, or someone you know, created a start-up company and want to help other women succeed in business?

Through our mentor training programme, we can train you to pass on your skills and experience to women and help them address their barriers to entrepreneurship. You'll also get insight into how to support women to overcome the additional barriers they face when starting or running a business. This includes factors such as their socio-economic background, income, disabilities, age and caring responsibilities.

Our pilot mentor training programme begins in February 2020 and mentors will be matched with mentees then.

If you have the experience to be a mentor, or you know someone who'd like to take part in the pilot mentor training programme, please contact us.

Online resources

We're producing a starter kit of 35 hours of new learning content backed by research and designed for new female entrepreneurs. 

The starter kit will include all the materials for the workshops we run and any online content we develop. On the completion of the project, this will be freely available to any organisation running support services or accelerator services for female entrepreneurs.

Female entrepreneur with AWE mentor

Our aim with our training resources is to support your startups and early-stage businesses.

How you can take part in the research

As part of the AWE project, we're researching the challenges you face as a woman when starting and growing a business. Our aim is to find out more about the current situation for female entrepreneurs so we can influence policy change at local, national and international levels.

Research interviews

As part of our research, we'll interview women who have already started a business. We'll focus on women who face an additional barrier or disadvantage to setting up a business such as age, caring responsibilities, a health condition or disability. We'll use this resource to inform our training and mentor programmes.

If you'd like to take part in our research or know a female entrepreneur who we should interview, please contact us. Interviews can take place over the phone, over Skype, or face-to-face, will last around 1 hour and take place from July to December 2019.

We'll also interview:

  • Banks and finance providers
  • Business angel and venture capital networks
  • Education and training providers
  • Local Government
  • Business support organisations
  • Local Economic Partnerships (LEPS)

Follow the AWE project

To learn more about our project, please visit the AWE project website to sign up to the project newsletter.

You can also follow the project on Twitter (@AWE_Women) and Facebook. If you’d like to find out more about the training for female entrepreneurs and mentors available at the University of Portsmouth, or if you have any other enquiries about the project, please email

Our team

Dr Zoe Dann is a Senior Lecturer in Enterprise and Entrepreneurship, with a special interest in female entrepreneurship. Zoe is the Principal Investigator and project manager for the AWE project in Portsmouth.

View Zoe's research profile.

Dr Carol Ekinsmyth is an Economic Geographer and researcher of gender and entrepreneurship. A main responsibility for Carol on this project is the data capture and analysis of the England-based element of the research.

View Carol's research profile.

Dr Georgiana Busoi is a Senior Teaching Fellow in Marketing. She is the lead on materials development for the University of Portsmouth in the training element of the project.

View Georgiana's staff profile.

Professor Johnstone is Professor of Organisational Studies at the University of Portsmouth. Professor Johnstone has a strong research interest in gender representation. In 2015 she was made a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences for her contribution to the study of gender equality.

View Karen's research profile

Dr Emily Yarrow is Senior Lecturer in international human resource management at the University of Portsmouth Business School. Emily is passionate about social justice in education and equality of opportunity in organisational life. She has a particular research interest in women’s career development and the power dynamics in organisations.

View Emily's research profile

Mrs Amy Doyle is the founder of the University of Portsmouth's Female Entrepreneurs Network. Amy is the Entrepreneur Liaison for the AWE project, providing a first point of contact for entrepreneurs and organisations interested in participating.

Interested in joining the project?

Sign up to the AWE project

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