Venture Catalyst Challenge
3 months, 5 tracks and £100,000 up for grabs. The Venture Catalyst Challenge is Imperial College London’s flagship entrepreneurial competition.
If you want to find out more about what it is like to be on VCC, or find out about the 2023 cohort, please visit the VCC 2023 blog.
Come watch the five finalists pitch in the Venture Catalyst Challenge 2024 Grand Final!
What is the Venture Catalyst Challenge?
The VCC is Imperial College’s flagship entrepreneurial competition for Imperial students, alumni and early career researchers, to develop an innovative idea for commercialisation and win big!
Starting January 2024, VCC will take 25 teams through a 3-month programme of 1-to-1 coaching, meetings with experts, evening workshops and pitch training, all with one aim – to help you bring your idea to commercial reality while growing your knowledge, skills, and network. It’s a unique opportunity not to be missed!
Support tailored for your idea
The entrepreneurial universe is vast – so we have 5 tracks to ensure you’re teamed up with the most suitable coaches and experts.
Creative & Consumer
Are you breaking ground in the creative and consumer-facing industries? Then this track is for you! Whether it’s fashion, art, music, videogames or design, we’ve got you covered.
Digital & Finance
Perhaps your project will redefine the way we shop or play. Maybe you’re revolutionising cryptocurrencies and blockchain. If this strikes a chord, this is your track!
Energy & Environment
This track is for teams that are hell-bent on solving the energy crisis, stopping our ice caps from melting and generally cleaning up our eco-act!
Health & Wellbeing
Want to disrupt consumer health, level-up our healthcare system or help us take more ownership of our wellbeing? Then say hello to your new track!
AI & Robotics
If you’re looking into nano technology, advances in machine learning or ways to make the cyber world a safer place, then you’ll get the best support on this track.
Grand Final Prize
Track Winner Prizes
5 x £10,000
The winner of each track will go on to compete in the live Grand Final
1st prize: £10,000
2nd prize: £5,000
Show us you’re challenging the norm and pushing innovation to the limit and you could win an extra cash boost to help you get your idea off the ground.
Social Impact Prize
1st prize: £10,000
2nd prize £5,000
Last but by no means least, we’ll be on the lookout for teams whose work is inspired by a desire to have a positive impact on society.
Meet the 2023 cohort
This year, 25 of the most innovative teams from Imperial took part in the Venture Catalyst Challenge. They’re developing ventures ranging from adjustable prosthetic legs to developing a supersonic aerodynamic enhanced technology for low orbit launches, supersonic travel and space tourism.
By the end of this programme you’ll:
Understand how to design and conduct effective customer interviews
Refine your pitch deck and build skills to pitch with confidence
Build a team with clear roles and a shared set of goals
Create a financial model and learn to identify funding requirements
Understand what IP exists and how to protect it
Understand how to test, update and refine your business model based on customer feedback
- You must be a student, or early career researcher, registered at Imperial College London (first-year undergraduates to final year PhD students, and Postdoctoral Research Associates).
- Alumni within 3 years of graduation (no earlier than 2021) can also be team leaders.
- Team members can be students, alumni, or external.
- You must not have raised more than £100,000 in grants, investment or contracts for your venture.
- Your application should show that you have carried out customer and market research to demonstrate a real problem and an innovative potential solution.
VCC launches on 25th January 2024
There are then 9 weeks of coaching sessions covering various startup skills and topics, including customer discovery, financial modelling, pitching, Investment strategies and lots more. There’ll also be regular team check-ins
We’ll take a 2-week break before the track heats in April, which are quickly followed by pitch deck prep and practice sessions ahead of the Grand Final on 17th April. The programme will conclude with a round of exit coaching and feedback sessions after the Grand Final.
Programme launch event
25 January – 22 March
Programme workshops, coaching sessions and team check-ins
26 March – 8 April
3 & 4 April
The Grand Final
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 3 years of graduation (no earlier than 2021) can also be team leaders, and early career researchers.
Team members can be students, alumni, or external.
Can I speak to someone about my application?
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 customer and market research.
Can I submit several projects?
Yes! As long as you’ve done the required research on them all (see our Entry Requirements) you can submit several ideas.
My degree is very 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?
Your studies always come first and we don’t want to get in the way of them. Our strictest requirement is that you’re available for all the dates we’ve outlined. We’re happy to answer more questions you have about time, but only you’ll know how much work you can take on and fit into your schedule.
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’s 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.
No 2 situations are alike, so feel free to discuss your idea/plan with us before applying for the programme.
In applying for the Venture Catalyst Challenge, it’s 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 doesn’t meet these terms then you may be asked to revise your proposal or leave the programme.
You’ll find guidance on student IP 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:
- 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
- They generate IP which builds upon existing IP generated by College Employees or Associates; or
- They generate IP jointly with College Employees or Associates; or
- They are, or have the status of, College Employee (in which case they are treated by College and the law as employees).
If you are staff, you can find the guidance on Staff IP on Imperial’s Research and Innovation website here.
Do you take any equity in my team/company?
No. We’re in this to help you, and have designed this programme to give you skills and support so you can create your own company and carve out your future.
I'm not sure about which track I fit into, what should I do?
Don’t panic! All you need to do is choose 3 tracks that you think align with your project. If you think your idea only fits with 1 track, then pick that one. It’s our job to determine the best track for your project and we won’t 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?
A confirmation message should appear once you’ve reviewed and submitted your application. If you don’t see any message, please double check that you’ve hit submit after the last question.
When can I expect a reply regarding my application?
We aim to notify all applicants of their status by 5pm on Thursday 14 December.
What are the Terms and Conditions?
You can find the programme Terms and Conditions here.
“The prize will be transformational for the strengthening of our product, and together with the programme’s masterclasses and all-round support, we are now ready to take our idea to the next level!”
Julia Gimbernat, Self.AI
Winner of the AI & Robotics Track, 2022
How to apply
Applications for the 2024 programme have now closed. We will be recruiting for our 2025 cohort in Autumn 2024.
AI & Robotics Track sponsor
Terra was founded by Imperial College alumni. We make it easy for apps and developers to access health-related data from wearables/sensors and make the most of Think Spotify and Netflix creating music and movies based on your real-time heart rate and stress levels. We’re supported by Y-Combinator, General Catalyst, Samsung NEXT, NEXT Ventures, and many more.
Digital & Finance Track sponsor
Santander Universities is the leading global supporter of higher education. We believe that universities are the cornerstone of modern civilisation, nurturing and producing the innovators, creatives and leaders of tomorrow.Through the Universities programme we’re building on Santander UK’s purpose to help people and businesses prosper by providing funding and resources to help students and graduates start, run or scale a business.
Health & Wellbeing Track sponsor
At Novartis, our purpose is to reimagine medicine to improve and extend people’s lives. We use innovative science and digital technologies to address some of society’s most challenging healthcare issues. We discover and develop breakthrough treatments and find new ways to deliver them to as many people as possible.