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Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL)

A female software engineer working behind the caption Women in Sustainability Innovation


This transformative six week accelerator aims to support women founders and entrepreneurs to strengthen their business skills and grow their sustainability startup.


Free accelerator programme, delivered through a series of online workshops, twice a week, with an average time commitment of 2-4 hours per week. Participants will also be invited to attend an in person kick-off session and  completion reception in Cambridge.

Who should apply?

Women founders of innovative startups that tackle systemic sustainability challenges.

Key dates

  • Applications close Wednesday 11 May
  • Programme runs Wednesday 8 June - 27 July 2022
  • Programme kick off event, Cambridge, Wednesday 8 June
  • Completion reception, Cambridge, Wednesday 27 July

Applications for this acclerator have now closed.


About the accelerator

Celebrating women pioneering sustainability innovation, this programme is designed to equip female founders with the skills, confidence and networks to accelerate positive change.

Women remain underrepresented in business and entrepreneurship - and especially so in technology and innovation. As it stands, female-owned companies account for just 32% of SMEs in the UK, while a mere 24% of the overall UK STEM workforce identifies as female

What’s more, research shows that higher representation of women in leadership roles and at Board level leads to stronger sustainability policy and decision making, where economic growth goes hand in hand with social progress and environmental protection.

The CISL Accelerator exists to support and connect diverse groups of founders and entrepreneurs as they push boundaries in sustainability. By joining this programme you will: 

  • Explore cross sector social and environmental challenges
  • Test your commercialisation plans and learn how to mitigate risks in your startup journey
  • Gain storytelling skills and insights
  • Learn from leading women in business and entrepreneurship through our innovation showroom
  • Benefit from tailored coaching on how to build personal resilience
  • Hone your negotiation skills to help navigate some of the most challenging industries.
  • Perfect your pitch and gain insight on access to funding
  • Join a network of likeminded innovators to support your startup journey
  • Benefit from 1-2-1 mentor support fitted to your business needs


Programme Schedule

Programme lauch – Join an in person reception in Cambridge to meet your peers

Week one –Test your sustainability value proposition and develop your  sustainability compass

Week two – Share experiences with successful innovators breaking new ground in the industry and explore how to use the Lean Startup approach to mitigate your start-up risks.

Week three – Finance  your startup

Week four – Hardwiring personal resilience and sustainable storytelling

Week five – Sustainability systems and negotiating skills

Week six - Pitching – do’s and don’ts and practice, with expert panel feedback.

Week seven – Round off the programme with an in person completion reception at CISL’s new incubator, the Canopy, in Cambridge



Clare Shine

CEO and Director, CISL

Laetitia Girolami-Boyer

Sustainable Finance Markets Director, BNP Paribas


Viola Jardon

Senior Programme Manager, CISL

Emma Fromberg

Course Director, CISL


Margarita Skarkou

Venture capital investor, 2150

Angela Honegger

PhD Candidate, University of St. Gallen and External Consultant, Ashoka


Anna Stetter

Strategy & Business Development, Fenx AG

Shaunie Brett

Director, Come Across


Ian Robinson

Head of Product and Design, Cazoo

Freddie Birley

Founder, Pop


Lennaert Jonkers

Venture Partner and Entrepreneur, Social Impact Capital and DevelopMinded

Irene Maffini

Accelerator Portfolio Director, Sustainable Ventures


Alina Klarner

Head of Ventures, Impact Shakers

Dama Sathianathan

Partner, Communities and Networks, Bethnal Green Ventures


Roderick Beer

Managing Director, UK Business Angels Association

Ncheta Dasilva

Founder, Zola Eve


Paul Rous

Managing Director, Regenerate Ventures



Showcased Innovators

Elsa Marie D’Silva

Founder / President, Red Dot Foundation & Safecity

Thaslima Begum

Founder, TEEK TAKA


Isabelle Gough

Co-founder and CEO, Cercula

Josephine Philips

Founder and CEO, SOJO



Who should apply?

Women founders of innovative startups that tackle systemic sustainability challenges. Applications are also open to trans and non-binary candidates.

Applicants must be based in England and be available to attend the full six week programme. The online sessions will mostly be delivered on a Tuesday and Thursday, between 13 June – 21 July 2022. There is an approximate time commitment of  2-4 hours per week. 

This programme is part funded by the European Union’s European Regional Development Fund, and is available for free to SMEs based in England, with priority given to those in parts of the East of England. 


Application process

Applications closed on Wednesday 11 May 2022.