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
Learn how to set up a startup
The Young Entrepreneurs Scheme (YES) is a three-day residential 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.
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 is a way to expand networks and learn from industry leaders. Visit the Entrepreneur of the Year site to find out more.
Explore your business idea
Test the potential of your business idea in eight free, interactive evening sessions at UCL BaseKX. 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
Get your business ready to go live in eight evenings of hands-on workshops and one-to-one support at UCL BaseKX. 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.
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. Enter your team in the UCL round to secure a spot in a regional final. Fifty finalists then attend an intensive eight-week summer incubation programme before making their final pitch. Visit UCL’s Hult Prize site to find out more.
For ideas that make London a better place to live and work
If you have an idea for improving London that’s in the environment, tech or creative industry sectors 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 £10,000 in prizes, as well as expert mentoring and dedicated startup support. Visit the GradVenture site to find out more.
Evolve a technology at the BT Infinity Lab
BT Infinity Lab supports entrepreneurs and startups in a number of different ways, including competitions. Winners work with the company for six months, getting strategic direction in areas like technology, product development, legal and marketing. Visit the BT Infinity Lab 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 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 field
The WorldLabs competition for startups has a top prize of £50,000. It helps participants showcase their idea, find collaborators and gather support to progress their project. The top 10 shortlisted teams get to pitch their business at the Elevating Ideas startup conference. Visit the WorldLabs 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 materials. 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 awards the annual £10,000 Dhruv Batra Prize to an early stage technology for the healthcare sector. 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.
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.
London Higher Student Entrepreneur Competition
UniVenture is open to current or recent students with a business idea that’s at concept or business plan stage. You’ll need to be sponsored by UCL to take part. The top prize is £5,000. Visit the London Higher 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.
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 £10,000 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.
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 runs 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.
Visas and extensive support for graduate entrepreneurs
Sirius is a 12-month programme offering up to 65 visas a year to graduate entrepreneurs who want to live and build their businesses in the UK. If you have an idea with real potential, you could receive funding, business support, office accommodation, training and pitching opportunities. Visit the Sirius Programme site to find out more.