What is this research stream?

The Irish eco-system for entrepreneurship is broadly favourable at a national level (OECD, 2019). However, this does not hold when we look at entrepreneurship from a regional or gender perspective. Levels of entrepreneurship in the Border, Midlands and West region and in the cross border North West City region are below national and European averages.

Women entrepreneurship, especially in the areas of international, high growth and technology-oriented businesses is low compared to levels seen in male entrepreneurship (GEM, 2019).

This research stream investigates the experiences, strategies and outcomes for women entrepreneurs in the North West Atlantic Innovation Corridor region. It considers:

  • COVID-19: how the experience of the pandemic and the forced move to remote working impacted women entrepreneurship.
  • Legitimation: the tacit process of establishing credibility with key stakeholders such as funders and customers, as a potential point of difference and obstacle to women entrepreneurial initiation and success.
  • Capacity Building: the development of key capabilities for high-growth ventures, such as ambidexterity, collaboration and internationalisation.
  • Funding: less than 10% of VC funding goes to women founders.
  • BREXIT: the impact of BREXIT on women entrepreneurship in the cross-border region.
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Who is Involved?

The research is carried out in partnership with key women entrepreneurship programmes and networks on the island. Entrepreneurs will join the project as participant researchers, providing fine-grained data and unique insights into the process of establishing and growing start-ups.

The research will contribute to our understanding of how women entrepreneurs engage with their eco-system in establishing and growing their new ventures. It will:

  • Provide deeper knowledge of how access to finance can be made more equal for female founders, at a structural level as well as at a practice level.
  • Provide evidence-based support for female entrepreneurship supports.
  • Deepen the connections and foster a cross-border research cluster between the HEIs to provide improved intelligence to entrepreneurs and policy makers.
  • Deliver a mentorship programme for embedded women  entrepreneur researchers
  • Deliver entrepreneurship education by embedded women entrepreneur researchers to third-level students across the North-West.
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AwakenHub is the first and only island of Ireland community for women founders and allies. AwakenHub’s mission is to level up opportunity, access and connectivity for women founders throughout the Island of Ireland by removing barriers to investment, scale and success.

Registered as a Social Enterprise (CLG) in July 2020 in response to the need for a community driven organisation representing women founders across Ireland to advance their opportunities in the entrepreneurial and start-up ecosystem. AwakenHub is growing at pace with a community of 3000+ women  and is enabling improved connectivity on common issues of concern in relation to women entrepreneurship ranging from nascent founders, startups, pre-seed and seed investment ready, to those looking to scale their businesses internationally.

Get involved

Are you an aspiring woman founder?

Atlantic Futures is on a mission to combat regional inequality by embedding cross border collaboration & cooperation in the North West for new woman founders.

We will fund three embedded entrepreneurs, women founders from the cross-border north west region, Limerick to Derry, who will be funded for up to two years to work on their entrepreneurial venture in a university setting and receive a qualification.

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Who is Involved?

Dr Isobel Cunningham, ATU Image

Dr Isobel Cunningham, ATU

Dr. Isobel Cunningham is a Lecturer in Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Atlantic Technological University. Her research interests include SME formation development, social and inclusive entrepreneurship, and entrepreneurship education. She is involved in several projects including various European projects and additional New Foundation and Shared Island projects.

Isobel is a board member of various community organisations and supports various community projects that aim to enhance both the entrepreneurial eco system and the life of the people living in the community.

Isobel has published widely in several journals in the area of entrepreneurship. Her paper was chosen as a Highly Commended Award Winner at the Emerald Literati Network Awards for Excellence. Isobel is involved in many research networks across Europe and United States around women/social entrepreneurship and entrepreneurship education.

Dr Laura Bradley-McCauley, Ulster University Image

Dr Laura Bradley-McCauley, Ulster University

Laura is a Senior Lecturer in Marketing at Ulster University Business School and Programme Director for the UK Help to Grow programme. Her research interests include SMEs and inclusive entrepreneurship along with examining the development of global digital financial services.  She has led, and leads, on a number of projects including EU and Shared Island.  She regularly undertakes consultancy with small businesses supported by InnovateUK, InvestNI, Enterprise Ireland and Intertrade Ireland.  She is a board member of a number of social enterprises and charity organisations and is an external examiner at UK and Irish Universities.  Laura has presented at a number of conferences including the Academy of Marketing and European Academy of Management.  She has published widely including the European Journal of Marketing and International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behaviour & Research.  She is engaged in research networks across the UK impacting, and influencing, executive education for small businesses.  She has strong links with industry and policy makers where her research is informing policy development.  She is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing (FCIM) and a Certified Management and Business Educator (CMBE) with the Chartered Association of Business Schools.

Dr Janine McGinn, ATU Image

Dr Janine McGinn, ATU

Dr Rachel Hilliard, University of Galway Image

Dr Rachel Hilliard, University of Galway



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