Venture Catalyst Challenge 2019

This year, Imperial’s flagship entrepreneurial competition, powered by Blenheim Chalcot, is getting even bigger. Five tracks. Seven weeks. £80,000. All you need is ONE idea.

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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 idea 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 idea into a tangible product. Scroll down to find out more about the programme and see what previous participants are up to now

Applications for the Venture Catalyst Challenge 2019 are now closed, but keep your eyes peeled for details of the Grand Final which will be released in a few weeks!

It’s as easy as…



1. Apply

Applications close at midnight on Sunday 20 January. 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 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 £80,000! 



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 tracks

This year we have introduced five tracks to the programme to broaden the variety of ventures on the programme.

Digital, Consumer & Fintech

Sponsored by Legal and General

Perhaps you’re coming up with a new super-handy app, or you’ve designed the next hottest wearable. Maybe you’re redefining the way people dress or shop, or you’re really into cryptocurrencies.  If this sounds like your project then this is your track!

Energy & Environment

Sponsored by Shell

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

AI detecting cancers earlier, new kit saving healthcare systems time and money, blockchain preventing drug counterfeiting, we want to hear about it all! Great strides are being made in healthtech, and if you’re leading the charge make sure to apply!

Robotics & AI

Sponsored by Amazon Robotics

“Siri, complete my Venture Catalyst Challenge application please.” We’re not quite there yet, but perhaps you’re working on improving natural language processing to make this a reality for VCC 2020 applicants. If you’re developing an innovative project in robotics, software or AI then this track is the one for you.  

Social Impact

Sponsored by Imperial College London

From reducing plastic waste while alleviating period poverty, to improving the comfort of prosthetics, through to improving access to healthcare in remote areas, social impact innovation can happen in any field. If making a positive impact on the world is at the core of your innovation, then get on board!

The Programme

The VCC is an intensive 7 weeks of masterclasses, coaching, and meetings with experts. It is a unique opportunity to grow your knowledge, skills, and network and to super charge 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 2nd February – Launch Day


  • w/c 4 February – Business Coaching I 
  • Wednesday 6th February – Legals Masterclass


  • w/c 11th February – IP expert session
  • Tuesday 12th February – Investor networking evening


  • w/c 18th February – Business Coaching II
  • Wednesday 20th February – Pitch Design Masterclass
  • Wednesday 20th February – Written Application for Phase 2 deadline





  • w/c 25 February – Expert session
  • Wednesday 27th February – Storytelling Masterclass


  • w/c 11th February – Business Coaching II & Pitch training

WEEK 6 – Track finals

  • Monday 11th March – Track Final I 
  • Tuesday 12th March – Track Final II & III
  • Wednesday 13th March – Track Final IV & V


  • Thursday 21st March – VCC Final Showcase



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 2016) can also be team leaders. 

Team members can be students, alumni, or external. 

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

We’ll ask you for detail around how much progress you’ve made with your idea, however we will select teams based on the strength of their idea rather than on how advanced they are.

Can I submit several ideas?

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 and Imperial Innovations. 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 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 redirected to a landing page on which reads “VCC 2019 Application Received” 

When can I expect a reply regarding my application?

We aim to notify all applicants of their status by 5pm on the 25th 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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