Test your business idea and get access to funding and a range of other resources through competitions for startups.
Most startup programmes are run as monthly or annual competitions. They include opportunities to meet your peers, learn from industry experts and refine your ideas, as well as access cash prizes and investment.
- Develop your network and skills
- Explore and test your idea
- Get support for a market-ready or trading business
Learn how to set up a startup
The Young Entrepreneurs Scheme (YES) competition is a three-day residential training programme designed to develop business awareness in postgraduate students and postdoctoral researchers. It offers workshops for all academic disciplines, with input from leading industry figures. Take part and you’ll work in a small team developing a business plan for a hypothetical but plausible idea. Visit the YES site to find out more.
Establish an entrepreneurial network
Pitch @ Palace gives entrepreneurs the opportunity to meet people who could help them realise their business ideas. That includes CEOs, influencers, angels, mentors and business partners. Participants are invited to attend a boot camp and get advice on developing their pitch, as well as accessing investment, making connections and getting strategic input. Visit the Pitch @ Palace site to find out more.
Build your network, promote your brand
The EY Entrepreneur of the Year award celebrates the success of entrepreneurs and the impact they’re making on society and the economy. Nominees will have been running their business for at least two years. As well as boosting the brand, the programme brings the chance to expand networks and learn from industry leaders. Visit the Entrepreneur of the Year site to find out more.
Explore your business idea and pitch for up to £5,000
Test the potential of your business idea in eight free, interactive evening sessions at UCL BaseKX, and get the chance to pitch for up to £5,000. You’ll use recognised tools and techniques to turn your idea into a viable venture, working alongside other entrepreneurs to sharpen your skills and build a solid structure around your business. The Explore programme is run over eight weeks every term, taking place on Tuesdays from 6pm to 8pm. Find out more about our Explore programme and how to apply.
Launch your business venture and pitch for up to £10,000
Get your business ready to go live in eight evenings of hands-on workshops and one-to-one support at UCL BaseKX, then pitch for a prize of up to £10,000. In this focused programme you’ll work on refining your plans, finalising your pitch and laying the groundwork for a successful business. The Launch programme is run over eight weeks every term, taking place on Wednesdays from 5pm to 8pm. Find out more about our Launch programme and how to apply.
Evolve a technology at the BT Infinity Lab
BT Infinity Lab runs competitions as part of its engagement with entrepreneurs and startups across the UK and beyond. Winners work with the company for six months, getting strategic support in areas like technology, product development, legal and marketing. Visit the BT Infinity Lab site to find out more.
For products designed to improve the lives of others
Winners of the Design Council Spark competition receive £15,000 to develop their product, and have the chance to pitch for more. Over 16 weeks they're mentored by specialists in intellectual property, marketing and investment, as well as attending workshops run by leaders in design. Visit the Design Council site to find out more.
Open to early stage ideas from any discipline
The WorldLabs competition for startups has a top prize of £50,000. It aims to help participants showcase their idea, find collaborators and gather support to progress their project. The top 10 shortlisted teams are then invited to pitch at the Elevating Ideas startup conference. Visit the WorldLabs site to find out more.
For innovative technologies in chemistry
The Royal Society of Chemistry runs the Emerging Technologies competition to speed up the development of new ideas in health, energy and the environment, food and drink, and materials. Winners receive up to £10,000 to progress their idea, along with training, mentoring and promotion. Visit the Royal Society of Chemistry site to find out more.
For ideas that tackle the global waste challenge
The Green Alley Award is open to European startups with ideas for recycling, waste prevention or digital circular economy solutions. You could win €25,000 and access to mentoring, networking and learning opportunities. Visit the Green Alley Award site to find out more.
The London Healthtech Challenge
The annual HealthTech Challenge awards the £10,000 Dhruv Batra Prize to a winning healthtech business idea. Shortlisted teams have the chance to refine their idea and pitch with the input of industry professionals. It’s open to teams with at least one post-graduate student or researcher affiliated to an academic institution. Visit the HealthTech Challenge site to find out more.
Support for ventures that improve wellbeing
The global IMAGINE IF! accelerator programme is for startups in life sciences, healthcare, digital health, clean-tech or advanced engineering that are working on improving wellbeing. It provides a cash prize, lab space, mentorships, free advice from professional services companies and networking opportunities. Visit the Innovation Forum site to find out more.
Support for engineering spinouts
Researchers looking to set up a spinout can apply for an Enterprise Fellowship at the Royal Academy of Engineering. The programme provides up to £60,000 equity-free funding, tailored mentoring and training, and PR and marketing support. Visit the Royal Academy of Engineering site to find out more.
For innovations addressing social issues
The Stephen Lloyd Awards are open to early stage projects that could bring about practical, sustainable social change. Ten shortlisted applicants will receive up to £2,000, along with expert support to help them further develop their ideas. The winner will be awarded up to £20,000. Visit the Stephen Lloyd Awards site to find out more.
Seed funding for startups
The Start-Up Series is a monthly seed funding competition. It awards one business up to £150,000 of equity funding, support from an experienced director and media coverage across startups.co.uk. To apply, your startup will need to be based in the UK and have been trading for two years or less. Visit the Start-Up Series site to find out more.
Support for educational technologies
JISC’s annual edtech competition is aimed at early-stage startups with market-ready products that could improve education and research in the UK. Five winners will be mentored by industry experts to help find their market niche and will have access to funding. Visit the JISC site to find out more.
Ideas for a smarter future
The Shell LiveWIRE Smarter Future programme awards a monthly prize of £5,000 to a young entrepreneur with an idea to meet the energy and resource needs of a growing population. Winners have access to events and workshops and the opportunity to be considered for an annual £25,000 award. You’ll need to be aged 30 or under to apply, with a business that has either been trading for less than a year or is no more than 12 months away from trading. Visit the Shell LiveWIRE site to find out more.
Pitch your business to the public and a celebrity panel
At Virgin Voom you could pitch a business idea to Richard Branson and win a share of £1 million. The competition has two categories: Spark & Startup for businesses with less than 20 staff, and Scale & Grow for firms employing between 20 and 250. Pitches are open to public voting with the final decision made by a panel of celebrity judges. Visit the Virgin Media Business site to find out more.
An introduction into Japan for software businesses
The Tokyo Metropolitan Government has launched an accelerator programme for software companies not yet established in Japan. Its aim is to match Tokyo’s hardware businesses with foreign software businesses working with artificial intelligence, big data and the internet of things (IoT). Successful applicants receive free office space, mentoring and support in drawing up business plans. Visit the Tokyo Metropolitan Government site to find out more.