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NEnA, Germany



The ‘NEnA’ scheme provides training, coaching and mentoring for female scientists in nano technology fields who are involved in starting up a business. After the women go through a screening of their competences and start-up potential, interdisciplinary teams of founders are formed who then develop their business idea during the programme.


Scientists in basic research often feel very distant from entrepreneurship and believe that it will be difficult to set up a business. This is particularly true for women scientists, who tend to be less visible in public, have less developed networks and be less likely to start a venture than their male colleagues.

Key Activities

The project was initially operated by the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF) during the period 2006-10 with a national consortium of universities as part of the nano4women career development initiative. It was subsequently continued by individual universities where other funding support was available. For example, the project is still in operation in the Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg, Physics Institute, with support of the German state of Sachsen-Anhalt. EUR 525 000 were invested by the BMBF from 2006 to 2010. Thereafter, annual costs of nearly EUR 100 000 were covered by the regional government.

The project in Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg, Physics Institute offers a week-long Business Academy with matching of female scientists and research proposals with practical relevance. A careful screening and selection process (including a review of achievements, motivations and questionnaire-based testing of entrepreneurial potential) leads to a group of high potential participants who then experience interventions for personal development, hard skill development accompanied by individual coaching. After the academy, the local project partners (normally) continue coaching and advisory activities.


Some 100 master, PhD or Post-Doctoral students have participated in the federal programme from 50 German universities and research institutes. An ex-post survey indicates that 92% of participants felt motivated by NEnA to start a new venture and that 75% of participants intend to start a venture upon perception of a market opportunity. The ex-post survey also revealed that out of 23 teams, 11 business ideas are being acted upon by at least one of the participants in view of venture creation (nine application for promotional funds that involve business plan elaboration) or development (two teams already had registered a company prior to NEnA).

This case study was adapted from material published in: OECD/European Union (2015), The Missing Entrepreneurs 2015: Policies for Self-employment and Entrepreneurship, OECD Publishing, Paris.