Spotlight Story | Scholarships for girls in Cologne - funded by ERRE-zdi

The zdi center in Cologne has been offering regular MINT girls holiday camps for years. These events are always popular and girls are excited to share their STEM interest with other like-minded girls. Nevertheless, the network team observed that the young women preferred to choose a commercial or humanities profession or course after leaving school. With a one-year STEM scholarship, they now want to encourage schoolgirls to choose STEM as a career. A report on "girls for innovation".

The offers for girls that we have been organizing in our network for years have always been well attended and well received. But our experience from the courses was that the girls, despite their great interest in MINT and great MINT talent, often opted for the commercial sector or chose courses in the humanities and social sciences when choosing a career. Because of this, we decided to take up the topic in the ERRE-zdi program and to develop a new format with the first Cologne MINT scholarship "girls for innovation", in which we can work intensively with a fixed group of girls work together.

The project "First Cologne MINT scholarship for schoolgirls: girls for innovation" is about the long-term development of girls as an important target group for the MINT working world from the perspective of the labor market and about increasing the corresponding specialist potential in Cologne. At the same time, we want to encourage girls on an individual level to deal with MINT career prospects and to show that they are not "lone fighters" with their MINT interests.

The five building blocks of the scholarship

The main focus of the scholarship is to inspire girls for the scientific and technical world of work, to show them possibilities, potential and opportunities and to accompany and support them on their way into this world of work in the long term. The scholarship consists of the following five components:

From August 2019 to July 2020, the first cohort went through the scholarship year. These were 20 schoolgirls in grades 9-11 from different schools in Cologne who were enthusiastic about science and technology. In addition to the summer schools at the beginning and end of the scholarship year, the scholarship holders come together for a total of 10 MINT-Future Fridays, in which the five building blocks are addressed. One focus is the one-year MINT project work by the scholarship holders in small groups. In the first year of the scholarship, the girls intensively pursued six MINT project topics in small groups. The project ideas are developed independently by the girls, and experts support the implementation depending on the needs of the group. Two of the groups took part in the federal environmental competition with their topics.

Good opportunity to start cooperations

As part of the first implementation of the scholarship, many cooperations have arisen and a large network has been built up. All interested partners were invited to the project pitch at the end of Summer School I, for example. Company visits were also included in the MINT Future Fridays. In the course of the scholarship, further collaborations arose, among other things within the framework of project work. Furthermore, female role models from a wide variety of MINT departments (from universities, companies, freelancers and the self-employed) were regularly invited to the MINT-Future Fridays.

The first run of the Cologne MINT scholarship for schoolgirls "girls for innovation" was successfully completed in July 2020. All 20 MINT-enthusiastic girls participated with enthusiasm from the beginning to the end of the scholarship. All MINT project ideas have come to a good conclusion (despite the imponderables of the corona pandemic) and could be presented with a prototype.

"I'll take a lot with me from this scholarship ... including increased self-confidence in the STEM field."

"What I took away from the scholarship year was that you shouldn't be afraid to try something and that you can achieve anything if you try hard enough."

"What was new for me was definitely that you had so many girls around you that you could share the same interests with and you also learned a lot of new things."

"The scholarship year was one of the best and most educational years of my life in a non-academic way."

Girls are proud of their own achievements

The second cohort of scholarship holders started in August 2020. The 10 new scholarship holders (the number of participants was reduced due to Corona) are currently pursuing three project ideas in teams and are participating with great interest and commitment!

Participation in the Cologne MINT scholarship "girls for innovation" is something that fills the girls with pride. The parents and teachers of the girls have also regularly given us positive feedback. At the same time, the project is a large investment of time for the girls. Project work in particular is a very independent form of work that demands a lot from the girls in terms of independence, organization and perseverance. They are all the more enthusiastic about the successful completion of the project and the feeling of having achieved something.

After the end of the second year of the scholarship, we will include the MINT scholarship in the regular offer of the zdi center. We are particularly encouraged by the commitment of companies that support the girls' projects as reliable partners.

More information about the scholarship

The scholarship is described in detail on the website and there are insights into the project work of the scholarship holders ( The zdi-Zentrum Köln regularly presents updates from the scholarship via its Instagram account zdi.cgn. A photo documentation of the entire scholarship year 2019/2020 can be downloaded at:


zdi center Cologne
Tonia Bald
Tel.: 0221 990829-223

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