Venture Catalyst Challenge

3 months, 5 tracks and £90,000 up for grabs. The Venture Catalyst Challenge is Imperial College London’s flagship entrepreneurial competition.

Applications for the 2023 programme will open in October 2022. If wish to apply, you can register your interest below.

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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!

We’re talking 3 months of evening workshops, 1-1 coaching, meetings with experts, alumni panels 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!

Workshop and pitch final of the venture catalyst challenge

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.

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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.

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Want support to develop your entrepreneurial idea?
VCC Workshop

The Prizes

Grand Final Prize

£20,000
The VCC winning team will be chosen by our judging panel

Track Winner Prizes

5 x £10,000

The winner of each track will go on to compete in the live Grand Final

Moonshot Prize

£10,000

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

£10,000

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 2022 cohort

This year we have 25 of the most innovative teams from Imperial taking part in the Venture Catalyst Challenge. They’re developing ventures ranging from an acoustic metamaterial for noise cancellation to a fully autonomous ocean-going sailboat! 

VCC 2021 cohort on zoom

Entry requirements

  1. You must be a student, or early career researcher, registered at Imperial College London (first-year undergraduates to final year PhD students, and Post-Doctorate Researchers).
  2. Alumni within three years of graduation (no earlier than 2020) can also be team leaders.
  3. Team members can be students, alumni, or external.
  4. You must not have raised more than £100,000 in grants, investment or contracts for your venture.
  5. Your application should show that you have carried out customer and market research to demonstrate a real problem and an innovative potential solution.

Programme Schedule

APPLICATIONS OPEN

Applications to the programme will open from Monday 3rd October 2022 and will close at 23:59 on Sunday 4 December 2022.

    WEEK 1

    Cohort Meet & Greet: Thursday 26 January, 6:00pm – 7:30pm

    WEEK 2

    Launch Event: Thursday 2 February, 6:00pm – 7:30pm

    Pre-programme IRL meetings: Monday 30 January, – Friday 3 February

    WEEK 3

    Business Coaching: Monday 6 February, – Friday 10 February

    Customer Discovery Workshop: Thursday 9 February, 6:00pm – 7:30pm

    WEEK 4

    Team Culture Masterclass: Thursday 16 February, 6:00pm – 7:30pm

    Legal Expert Meeting: Monday 13 February – Friday 17 February

    Check-ins with the E-Lab team:  Monday 13 February – Friday 17 February

     

    WEEK 5

    Fundraising Panel Masterclass: Thursday 23 February, 6:00pm – 7:30pm

    Business Coaching: Monday 20 February – Friday 24 February

    Finance XiR: Monday 20 February – Friday 24 February

    WEEK 6

    Alumni Panel: Thursday 2 March, 6:00pm – 7:30pm 

    Sponsor Meeting: Monday 27 February – Friday 3 March

    IP Expert Meeting: Monday 27 February – Friday 3 March

     

    WEEK 7

    Office Hours: Monday 6 March – Friday 10 March

    WEEK 8

    Business Coaching: Monday 13 March – Friday 17 March

    Financial Modelling Workshop: Thursday 16 March 

    WEEK 9

    Perfect Your Deck Workshop: Thursday 23 March, 6:00pm – 7.30pm GMT

    WEEKS 10-12

    No Sessions Monday 27 March – Friday 14 April

    WEEK 13

    Heats Pitch Practice: Monday 17 April – Friday 21 April

    Storytelling Workshop: Tuesday 18 April, 6:00pm – 8:00pm

    Cohort Pitch Practice: Thursday 20 April, 6:00pm – 7:00pm

    WEEK 14

    VCC Track Heats: Date & Time TBC

    Finalist Slide Deck Review: Date & Time TBC

    WEEK 15

    Finalist Pitch Practice: Date & Time TBC

    Dress Rehearsal: Date & Time TBC

    VCC Grand Final: Date & Time TBC

    WEEK 16

    Post programme face-to-face meetings: Monday 8 May to Friday 12 May

    Feedback Calls: Monday 8 May to Friday 12 May

    FAQs

    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 2020) 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?

    Absolutely! You can chat to us during our online clinic times by booking into an Idea Surgery.

    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 two 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:

    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. 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 three tracks that you think align with your project. If you think your idea only fits with one 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 Friday 23rd December. 

    What are the Terms and Conditions?

    You can find the programme Terms and Conditions here.

    Meet the Alumni

    DotPlot
    DotPlot

    Enabling early breast cancer detection through an at-home device and app for easy and accessible breast health monitoring.

    Deploy Tech
    Deploy Tech

    Deploy has developed the world’s first of a kind air-deployed, ready-to-use concrete water tank.

    SaltyCo
    SaltyCo

    SaltyCo combines material science and regenerative agriculture to create planet-positive textiles.

    Onsee
    Onsee

    Onsee enables you to move from Point A to B when and where you want without fear of safety on the road. They are designed to maximise safety for cyclists and increase awareness of drivers without compromising on style or time.

    Testimonials

    “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

    How to apply

    Applications are now OPEN! You can also get support with your idea or venture through booking an Idea Surgery and attending our events.

    Sponsors

    Headline sponsor
    HUAWEI

     

    Huawei is a leading global provider of information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure and smart devices. Operating in more than 170 countries and regions, serving more than three billion people around the world, Huawei is committed to bringing digital to every person, home and organization for a fully connected, intelligent world.

     

    www.huawei.com

    What's on

    From community events to expert masterclasses… There’s always something going on at the E-Lab

    Connect

    Join our community, meet co-founders and grow your entrepreneurial network!

    Our monthly social bringing together students and postdocs from every corner of Imperial College London.

    Our multi-purpose space is open to all Imperial students postdoc researchers and alumni 5-days a week.

    Use your creativity and critical thinking to solve a challenge set by us. Spaces are limited so sign up ASAP!

    Explore

    Speak to someone about your idea and learn the skills you need to test it in the real world

    Validate

    Fast-track your idea on one of our cohort-based entrepreneurship programmes

    Imperial’s flagship entrepreneurship programme for students and postdocs with an annual prize fund of £90K.

    The UK’s leading university programme championing women-led startup teams with an annual £30K prize fund.

    A unique programme designed to speed the commercial development of early-stage medical technologies

    All available programmes

    Grow

    Get expert support and advice to turn your idea into a successful commercial venture

    About

    We’re passionate about inspiring the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs

    Contact

    Got a question, need some advice or just need directions to the best basement on campus? Get in touch!

    Find us

    Imperial College London
    Level 0, Sherfield Building
    (Access next to Great Hall)
    South Kensington Campus
    Exhibition Road
    London SW7 2AZ