Develop your skills, test your ideas and access funding and support through competitions for entrepreneurs and 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 win cash prizes and investment.
- Develop your network and skills
- Explore and test your business idea
- Get the backing for a market-ready or trading business
Develop your network and skills
Learn how to set up a startup
The Young Entrepreneurs Scheme (YES) is a three-day training programme designed to develop business skills 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
At Pitch @ Palace, entrepreneurs get to meet the people who could help them realise their business ideas. That includes CEOs, influencers, angels, mentors and business partners. Participants attend a boot camp and get advice on developing their pitch, as well as making connections, getting strategic insights and accessing investment. Visit the Pitch @ Palace site to find out more.
Explore and test your business idea
Explore your entrepreneurial idea
Test the potential of your business idea at or 3-week Explore programme. You’ll work alongside other entrepreneurs to sharpen your skills, stress test your ideas and establish a market for your business or social enterprise. You'll also have the chance to win £2,000 to help develop your business further.
Build your business or social enterprise
Our 6-week Build programme will help you take the next practical steps to develop your business or social enterprise. You'll also have the chance to win £3,000 to help develop your business further.
A chance to win $1 million in funding
The Hult Prize has been called the Nobel Prize for students. Each year 50,000 students from all over the world compete for the chance to win $1 million in seed funding to launch their social enterprise. Visit the Hult Prize Foundation website to find out more.
For ideas that make London a better place to live and work
If you have an idea for improving London you could win £20,000 and support from City Hall. The Mayor’s Entrepreneur Competition is open to students and recent graduates from London’s universities and colleges entering as individuals or in teams. Visit the Mayor’s competition site to find out more.
Santander Universities Entrepreneurship Awards
Santander works with universities to give early stage student and graduate ventures a boost, with cash prizes, mentoring and business support. It holds entrepreneurship awards annually, with a new theme each year. Look out for the next competition dates in promotions around the university and apply through our Entrepreneurship team at BaseKX.
Pitch alongside other London students and graduates
If you have an idea for a business or social enterprise but need help turning it into reality, GradVenture could get you started. This pitch competition is open to students and recent graduates from seven London universities, including UCL. You’ll have the chance to win a share of £5,000 in prizes, as well as expert mentoring and dedicated startup support. Visit the GradVenture site to find out more.
For new ideas in the care sector
At this hackathon-style weekend in London, teams of students take on some of the biggest challenges facing the care sector. You can apply from any faculty or discipline, ideally in a team of two or three. Twelve teams pitch their ideas to a panel of industry experts, with five projects going through to the final and a chance to win funding, co-working space and mentorship. Visit the Care Innovation Hub site to find out more.
For innovative technologies in chemistry
The Royal Society of Chemistry’s Emerging Technologies competition speeds up the development of new ideas in health, energy and the environment, food and drink, and enabling technologies. Winners receive up to £10,000 to progress their idea, along with training, mentoring and promotion. Visit the Royal Society’s 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 HealthTech Challenge is a business idea competition which awards £10,000, along with mentorship and training, to a health tech idea that will improving healthcare outcomes. 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. Vist the Healthtech Challenge site to find out more.
Global competition for clean technology ideas
The Clean Tech Challenge is open to students at all levels: undergraduates, postgraduates and doctoral students. If your idea is accepted, you’ll compete in teams over three rounds for a £10,000 prize and mentoring from industry experts. The event is organised by London Business School and UCL and attracts applications from around the world. Visit the Clean Tech 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.
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.
Global competition for student startups
The Rice Business Plan Competition is open to student startups anywhere in the world. It’s designed to help you fine tune your business plan and elevator pitch. In addition to competing for up to a $350,000 investment, competitors also have access to mentoring, networking, personalised feedback. Find out more on the Rice University website.
Support for a market-ready or trading business
Seed funding for startups
The Start-Up Series is a monthly seed funding competition. It awards one business up to £250,000 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.
NACUE’s Varsity Pitch Competition
This three-stage competition includes an online public vote, a boot camp with mentors and a final attended by people from the media, government, corporates and startups. Through the pitch process you’ll get your business noticed and have the chance to win £15,000 equity-free cash and marketing opportunities. It’s open to students and recent graduates who are running a business or have an idea they want to develop. Visit the NACUE site to find out more.