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. One epic Grand Final.

The programme

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. Applications for VCC 2020 will open in early December 2019.

VUI Diagnostics wins the Venture Catalyst Challenge 2019

VUI Diagnostics, founded by Imperial medical students Simon Rabinowicz and Uddhav Vaghela, won the Venture Catalyst Challenge 2019 for their invention, which could dramatically speed up the diagnosis of diseases that lead to sight loss.

The team took home the £30,000 top prize after battling it out against five other startups at the final on Thursday 21 March, as well as the Audience Vote award which will allow them to spend time with Blenheim Chalcot partners and meet with investors.

It’s as easy as…



1. Apply

Applications for this year have now closed. But you can start prepping your idea for next year by getting advice and support from the Lab in the meantime.



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.

Meet the VCC 2019 teams:

Digital, Consumer & Fintech

Sponsored by Legal and General


Helping fintechs and banks add new revenue streams by improving customer engagement and retention through a seamless bill management experience.

Astropreneur Limited

Astropreneur Limited is an aerospace finTech UK start-up on a mission to democratize investment in aerospace projects and assets.

Blub BaBy

An app using machine learning and AI techniques designed to help parents interpret what their baby wants based on the sound of their cry.


Canny is an online shopping tool that allows its users to add products from any website to their shopping basket or wishlist and allows users to set their individual target purchase price.


Kelin is a social network app targeted at women with 200,000 users. It provides free and easy access to a community and access to expert support.

Wildcard - Mind2Matter

The world’s first earphone to understand your emotions & tastes, via your brainwaves, to suggest new music you’ll love. 

Track winner - SOCRATES

SOCRATES is a medical education assistant that enables users to develop consultation, diagnostic and clinical-reasoning skills outside of the hospital using real patient data.

Energy & Environment

Sponsored by Shell

Track winner - Breathe Battery Technologies

Breathe Battery Technologies is developing state-of-the-art charge control algorithms.


A filtration system that can be applied in various wastewater treatment settings.


A low-cost working filter that removes microplastics present in water.


Growing radically sustainable cotton with a novel circular approach to help the fashion industry clean up the world’s dirtiest crop.


Morphosis is a modular process that transforms vegetable food waste using anaerobic digestion in order to grow plants locally in urban areas.


SETA are using biotechnology to develop a technology that would provide a means of removing harmful chemicals from common drinking sources.

Super-sorbent aerogel

An effective solution for dealing with oil spills, cellulosic aerogels act as sponges that can absorb oil and not water and can remove several types of oils including dispersed and emulsified oil.

Health & Wellbeing

Sponsored by P&G Ventures


Multus Media

Multus Media are creating a new, animal-free growth medium using novel engineering techniques which will drive costs down while avoiding the use of animals.


Bionutromics are developing a solution to improve manufacturers personalised nutritional supplements for the healthcare and consumer health market through our bespokde digital platform. 


QuickCount is developing a point of care, handheld device providing essential red to white blood count statistics by using only a drop of blood from the fingertip, causing minimal patient discomfort.


Spyras are developing paper sensors that can analyse in real-time breathing and compounds on breath to predict life threatening events.

The Natural User Interface (NU)

NU Interface (NUI) allows for intuitive, touch-free control of any smart device. Based on sound technology it makes technology feel like part of the human body.


A wearable device developed to continuously monitor soft transplanted organs to provide prompt intervention if a complication occurs.

Track winner - VUI Diagnostics

A portable medical device and software to make retinal imaging cheaper, faster and smarter.

Robotics & AI

Sponsored by Amazon Robotics



A complete 3D scanning system specifically designed for AR/VR applications that is portable, faster and more affordable than existing solutions.

Bionic Aerial Robotics

A company that produces robotic drones of prey that not only have the silhouette of, but also fly and behave like a predator to help with bird control strategies.


Mindset is an application which can swiftly and sensitively evaluate neurological symptoms by conducting established diagnostic tests.


We use AI to help engineers optimise petrochemical processes.


QuantumX is building a multi-scale physics simulator which predicts the mechanical properties of materials from the underlying quantum interactions of atoms.


RADICA is making the process of localising arrhythmias using the ECG easier, quicker and more accurate using artificial intelligence (AI).

Track winner - Naviga

Naviga’s myoelectric prothesis controller aims to increase the acceptance, usage and functionality of current prosthesis.

Social Impact

Sponsored by Imperial College London

Track winner - Capta

Capta is developing a handheld microscope that connects to any smart device and can automatically diagnose parasitic worms.


Coillection helps households reduce the damage caused by waste cooking oil for the conversion to biodiesel, a carbon neutral fuel and an important renewable energy source


A social startup that uses AI to facilitate online donations by linking news stories to relevant charities, thus empowering readers to take action and donate in one-click, without leaving the page.

LaVie Bras

LaVie Bras is working to improve the breastfeeding experience by creating nursing bras that utilise antimicrobial, absorbent materials and beautiful designs.

Naked Package

Naked Package is using food waste to make biodegradable plastics that are microwave-safe.


Schoolx facilitates access to education in disadvantaged communities such as refugees by using the powers of both technology and community.

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

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




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”.

Find out more:

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