Venture Catalyst Challenge 2020

This year, Imperial’s flagship entrepreneurial competition, powered by Blenheim Chalcot, is getting even bigger. Five tracks. Seven weeks. £90,000. 

Applications close in:








Home » Programmes » Venture Catalyst Challenge

What is the Venture Catalyst Challenge?

The Venture Catalyst Challenge enables Imperial students and alumni, within three years of graduation, to develop an innovative idea for commercialisation.

If you have created something as part of your coursework, have an innovation that spins out of your research, or have a project you’ve been messing around with on weekends, then the VCC is for you! 

Participating in the VCC is your opportunity to turn your innovative project into a tangible product. Scroll down to find out more about the programmehow to get advice on your application and what previous participants are up to now.

It’s as easy as…


1. Apply

Applications close at midnight on Sunday 19 January 2020. If you’d like to chat to the team about your application, come and see us at a stall or clinic. Info below.



2. Learn

Successful applicants will make it through to the seven week programme of evening masterclasses, coaching and expert advice to supercharge your idea.



3. Pitch

The finals will consist of heats for each track followed by the Grand Final, where you will have the opportunity to pitch for a share of £90,000! 



4. Launch

Take your idea into the world and make the most of the opportunities that come from taking part in VCC, You can read about past participants below.

The programme

The VCC is an intensive 7 weeks of evening masterclasses, coaching, and meetings with experts. It is a unique opportunity to grow your knowledge, skills, and network and to supercharge your innovation. Consequently there are a number of dates that, as the team leader, you must be able to make in order to join programme. The key dates are outlined below. On Launch Day please be prepared to book in all your coaching and one-to-one expert sessions. You can see below which weeks they will be taking place.



Saturday 1st February – Full day

During Launch Day we will be:

  • Learning more about what to expect as part the VCC.
  • Booking in all one-to-one sessions for the duration of the programme.
  • Meeting all the 25 participating teams, with each team delivering a one-minute pitches to the rest of the cohort
  • Participating in a masterclass on the Lean Canvas and Customer Discovery.
  • Hearing from programme alumni.
  • Hanging out as a cohort over drinks and nibbles.
  • Masterclass – Wednesday 5 February – 6pm to 8pm

Masterclass on key legal concepts and tools for early stage startups.

  • Business Coaching – Monday 3 February to Friday 7 February

Coaching occurs in the daytime (9 to 5), slots will be available to book on Launch Day. 

Coaching is delivered by professional business coaches in the Enterprise Lab. Please come prepared with the work you completed during Launch Day.

  • Masterclass – 12 February – 6pm to 8pm

We will be exploring market validation and suggesting practical ways to better understand how to decide which market to target and how to go about identifying if it’s the right one for your innovation.

  • IP Expert Meeting – Monday 10 February to Friday 14 February

These are one-to-one meetings with an IP expert in order to discuss the IP around your innovation and iron out any issues you might have around this. It will also help you understand how to share details around your work in public without revealing too much!

  • Check-ins with the ELab team – Monday 10 February to Friday 14 February

These are 20 minute check-ins for you to raise any concerns or queries, and for the VCC programme team to make sure all is well with your team!

These meetings occur in the daytime (9 to 5), slots will be available to book on Launch Day

  • Masterclass – 19 February – 6pm to 8pm

Each team will be delivering an elevator pitch to an investor panel. Investors will then give feedback and recommendations to the team. There will also be a chance for you to ask any questions you have. 

  • Business Coaching – Monday 17 February to Friday 21 February

Coaching occurs in the daytime (9 to 5), slots will be available to book on Launch Day. Coaching is delivered by professional business coaches in the Enterprise Lab.

  • Masterclass – 26 February – 6pm to 8pm

We’ll be reviewing how to create a clear and impactful slide deck in preparation for the VCC Heats.

  • Industry Expert Meeting – Tuesday 25 February to Friday 28 February

Each team will meet with an expert related to their track. This is an opportunity to get insight into your intended market.

  • Check-ins with the ELab team – Monday 24 February to Friday 28 February

These are 20 minute check-ins for you to raise any concerns or queries, and for the VCC programme team to make sure all is well with your team!

These meetings occur in the daytime (9 to 5), slots will be available to book on Launch Day

  • Masterclass – Wednesday 4 March – 6pm to 8pm

This masterclass focusses on helping you tell your venture’s story. This will be a very hands on and engaging class, be prepared to participate!

  • Business Coaching – Monday 2 March to Thursday 6 March

Coaching occurs in the daytime (9 to 5), slots will be available to book on Launch Day. Coaching is delivered by professional business coaches in the Enterprise Lab.

  • Pitch Training – Monday 2 March to Friday 7 March

Each team will have a session with a pitch training expert in order to prepare for their pitch at the Heats the week following.

  • Track Heats – Tuesday 10 March and Wednesday 11 March

Teams will be competing in their tracks for a £10,000 prize and a chance to pitch at the Grand Final.

Social Impact Prize and Moonshot Prize winners will also be selected during the Heats and will each be awarded £10,000.

  • Dress rehearsal – Tuesday 17 March – afternoon

All seleccted teams will need to attend the Final dress rehearsal.

  • Grand Final – Wednesday 18 March – 5pm to 9pm

Selected teams will pitch at the VCC Grand Final, where a winner will be awarded £20,000. 

Prior to the pitch event, all 25 participating teams will be invited to exhibit their innovations. 

Come and find out more


Want to disccuss your idea or your application? Drop by the Enterprise Lab during the office hours listed below and we’ll be happy to help.

  • Thursday 5th December 14:30 to 15:30
  • Monday 9th December, 15:00 to 16:00
  • Wednesday 11th December, 14:00 to 15:00
  • Friday 13th December, 11:00 to 12:00
  • Monday 6th January, 15:00 to 16:00
  • Wednesday 8th January, 14:00 to 15:00
  • Friday 10th January, 14:00 to 15:00
  • Monday 13th January, 15:00 to 16:00
  • Wednesday 15th January, 14:00 to 15:00
  • Thursday 16th January, 10:30 to 12:30



You can register to join us for VCC info sessions at Pitch ‘n’ Mix (5th December & 16th January). You’ll be able to learn more about the programme and ask any questions you may have!


Introducing the Tracks…


The VCC is made up of 5 tracks. We introduced these in order to grow the programme and tailor the experts and mentors that teams are introduced to.

All tracks receive the same opportunities and all will attend the masterclasses together.

Creative & Consumer

This is for the ones breaking ground in the creative and consumer facing industries. Whether it’s fashion, art, music, videogames or design then this brand-new track is for you! 

Digital & Fintech

Sponsored by Santander Universities

Perhaps you’re coming up with a new super-handy app, maybe you’re redefining the way people shop or play, or maybe you’re just really into cryptocurrencies and decentralised ledgers.  If this sounds like your project, then this is your track! 

Energy & Environment

Are you solving the energy crisis using a new type of fuel? Have you figured out how to clean up our planet? Will you stop the ice caps from melting and the forests from burning? If the answer is yes then we want your application to the Energy and Environment track!

Health & Wellbeing

Sponsored by P&G Ventures

From acne to cancer, wearables to AI, pain to performance, if you’re disrupting consumer health, revolutionising healthcare or find yourself somewhere in between, we want to hear about it! 

Robotics & AI

Sponsored by Amazon Robotics

Whether it’s industrial heavy-lifters and injectable nanobots, or advances in machine learning and perception, we’re looking for projects that address the current challenges in the fields of robotics & AI. If this is you, we suggest you AlphaGo. 

And the new prizes

This year we’ve introduced two new prizes in order to award a larger number of teams competing in the programme.



Moonshot Prize

Sponsored by Air Asia

A £10,000 prize to be awarded to one of the competing teams, to reward a team that is challenging the status quo and pushing the boundaries of innovation.  



Social Impact Prize

Sponsored by Grosvenor

A £10,000 prize to be awarded to one of the competing teams, to recognise and raise the profile of Imperial teams seeking to make a positive impact on the world. 

Meet previous VCC participants



Capta are developing a low-cost, smart diagnostic tool for diagnosing parasitic worms.

VUI Diagnostics

VUI Diagnostics

VUI Diagnostics are developing a technology to provide simple, affordable and accurate retinal imaging to help address avoidable ...



Naviga is developing a new intuitive controller for prostheses to improve their practicality and functionality.

Jelly Drops

Jelly Drops

Jelly Drops have created hydrating treats that enable people with dementia to hydrate more often and independently.



hydroCotton are growing radically sustainable cotton to help the fashion industry clean up the word’s dirtiest crop.

Breathe Batteries

Breathe Batteries

Breathe Batteries are making charging faster and safer with state-of-the-art control software that uses adaptive algorithms which ...



ApTap is a software plugin that allows end users to organise recurring payments and automatically compares bills to deals on the market.

Skipping Rocks Lab

Skipping Rocks Lab

Skipping Rocks Lab have developed natural packaging made from seaweed. These materials are designed to be home compostable and serve as



Momoby have created an innovative finger-prick test that performs the three recommended pre-natal tests in real time.

Mitt Prosthesis

Mitt Prosthesis

Mitt Wearables are building comfy, easy-to-use, affordable prosthetic limbs for people with limb loss.

Matoha Ultrascience

Matoha Ultrascience

Matoha Ultrascience have developed a low-cost plastics identification device that will enable operators to quickly and conveniently ...

Humanising Autonomy

Humanising Autonomy

Humanising Autonomy improves safety and efficiency of autonomous mobility systems through better understanding of human behaviour ...

“The Venture Catalyst Challenge was an intense crash course in entrepreneurship, providing us with the skills, opportunity and network we required to bring our platform from concept to product.” 

Luke Geoghegan,  Co-founder of SOCRATES 

Winner of the Health & Wellbeing Track 2019, sponsored by P&G Ventures 

Frequently asked questions

Who can apply?

The programme is open to all students registered at Imperial College London from first year undergraduates to final year PhD students. Alumni within three years of graduation (no earlier than 2017) can also be team leaders. 

Team members can be students, alumni, or external. 

What stage of development does my project have to be at?

We select projects based on the strength of the problem and solution being addressed and the innovative potential presented. At a minimum, your application should show that you have carried out some customer and market research. 

Can I submit several projects?

Yes, you may submit several ideas should you wish to do so.

My degree is very complex and time consuming, I like the sound of the programme but I don't think I can commit the time for this programme. What should I do?

We understand that whilst at Imperial your studies are important! We are not here to get in the way of your studies, just to complement them. A lot of the skills you will learn on the course are directly relevant for your course, but it is up to you to decide how much more you can fit into your schedule. However, please be aware that in order to participate in the programme you will need to be available on the key dates outlined above.

I already have an idea and there is some intellectual property associated with my idea. What is your policy on IP and will you help me navigate questions around IP?

Intellectual Property, IP, Trademarks, Patents, Disclosure, Classifications, Fees, Examinations… IP is complex and can be difficult to navigate. We have in house IP expertise from the Research Office. We also bring in external expertise from patent attorneys to participate in the course. IP is incredibly important and it is even more important to get it right at the start. Our IP experts will help you to decide on what the best course of action is.

As there are no two situations which are alike, feel free to discuss your idea/plan with us before applying for the programme.

In applying for the Venture Catalyst Challenge, it is implied that you own the IP for your idea and that none of the exceptions below apply. Please note that your idea is subject to the College’s IP policies. If your idea does not meet these terms then you may be asked to revise your proposal or leave the programme.

Guidance related to student IP is available through the Summary Guidance for Inventors: Student IP. In the first instance, a student owns the IP they generate in the course of their studies at the College, unless one of the following exceptions applies:

  1. They generate IP which is subject to governing terms or an agreement with an external organisation whereby the IP vests with College or a third party; or
  2. They generate IP which builds upon existing IP generated by College Employees or Associates; or
  3. They generate IP jointly with College Employees or Associates; or
  4. They are, or have the status of, College Employee (in which case they are treated by College and the law as employees).

Do you take any equity in my team/company?

No, this programme is designed to give you the skills to create your own company and carve out your own future with our highly experienced team’s support.

Can I speak to someone about my application?

Yes, you can come down to the Enterprise Lab on Level 0 of Sherfield Building during the clinic times outlined here, and someone from the Enterprise Lab Team will be available to chat!

I'm not sure about which track I fit into, what should I do?

All applicants should simply choose the top three tracks that they think are most relevant to their project. If you think your idea only fits into one track, please only select one track. The Enterprise Lab team will then determine whether that is the best track for the project. We will not be judging your idea based on the tracks you have selected. 

I haven't received a confirmation email after submitting my application, is this normal?

We are not sending out confirmation emails. Once you make your submission, you will be shown a thank you message acknowledging receipt of your application. There’s nothing else for you to do!

When can I expect a reply regarding my application?

We aim to notify all applicants of their status by 5pm on the Monday 27th of January. 

What are the Terms and Conditions?

You can find the programme Terms and Conditions here.

Headline sponsor, Blenheim Chalcot


Blenheim Chalcot is the UK’s leading venture builder, specialising in building digital businesses that transform industries.

Founded in 1998, it has portfolio sales of over £350m, 3,000 employees, and a successful track record of launching over 40 companies across sectors such as IT services and outsourcing, education, software, financial services, sport and media.

For its ventures, Blenheim Chalcot brings more than just investment; it supports businesses from inception to exit through venture building services, such as shared offices, IT, finance, legal and marketing. It also connects ventures with its global networks. The partners at Blenheim Chalcot have held senior roles at Google, Monitor and Capital One and are highly engaged with portfolio companies on a daily basis.

Blenheim Chalcot’s mission is to turn ventures into impactful and profitable companies with sustainable business models – “building gazelles, not chasing unicorns”

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