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.
To follow the progress of this year’s cohort, please visit the VCC 2023 blog.
Thank you to all who participated in the 2023 Grand Final.
We hope you enjoyed the experience. If you weren’t able to join us on the night, you can still view the Grand Final online.
For full competition coverage, to meet this year’s cohort and discover their innovations, visit our 2023 blog.
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-to-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!
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.
Want support to develop your entrepreneurial idea?
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
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
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 we have 25 of the most innovative teams from Imperial taking 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 Post-Doctorate Researchers).
- Alumni within 3 years of graduation (no earlier than 2020) 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.
Applications to the programme will open from Monday 3rd October 2022 and will close at 11:59pm on Sunday 4 December 2022.
Launch Event: Thursday 2 February, 6pm – 7:30pm
Pre-programme IRL meetings: Monday 30 January, – Friday 3 February
Business Coaching: Monday 6 February, – Friday 10 February
Customer Discovery Workshop: Thursday 9 February, 6:00 – 7:30pm
Financial Modelling Workshop: Thursday 16 February, 6:00 – 7:30pm
Strategy Expert Meeting: Monday 13 February – Friday 17 February
Check-ins with the E-Lab team: Monday 13 February – Friday 17 February
Team Culture Workshop: Thursday 23 February, 6:00 – 7:30pm
Business Coaching: Monday 20 February – Friday 24 February
Legal Expert Meeting: Monday 20 February – Friday 24 February
Alumni Panel: Thursday 2 March, 6:00 – 7:30pm
Sponsor Meeting: Monday 27 February – Friday 3 March
IP Expert Meeting: Monday 27 February – Friday 3 March
Fundraising Expert Meeting: Monday 6 March – Friday 10 March
Office Hours: Monday 6 March – Friday 10 March
Business Coaching: Monday 13 March – Friday 17 March
Financial Panel Workshop: Thursday 16 March
No Sessions Monday 27 March – Friday 7 April
Perfect Your Deck Workshop: Thursday 13 April, 6pm – 7:30pm
Heats Pitch Practice: Monday 17 April – Friday 21 April
Storytelling Workshop: Tuesday 18 April, 6:00 – 8:00pm
Office Hours: Tuesday 18 April – Wednesday 19 April
VCC Track Heats: Tuesday 25 April – Wednesday 26 April
Finalist Slide Deck Review: Thursday 4 May
Finalist Pitch Practice: Thursday 4 May – Friday 5 May
WEEKS 15 & 16
Dress Rehearsal: Tuesday 9 May
VCC Grand Final: Wednesday 10 May
Post programme face-to-face meetings: Thursday 11 May – Tuesday 16 May
Feedback Calls: Monday 15 May – Friday 19 May
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 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 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 Friday 23rd December.
What are the Terms and Conditions?
You can find the programme Terms and Conditions here.
Meet the Alumni
Enabling early breast cancer detection through an at-home device and app for easy and accessible breast health monitoring.
Deploy has developed the world’s first of a kind air-deployed, ready-to-use concrete water tank.
SaltyCo combines material science and regenerative agriculture to create planet-positive textiles.
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.
“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 for the 2023 programme are now closed! You can also get support with your idea or venture through booking an Idea Surgery and attending our events.
AI & Robotics Track sponsor
I-X is an ambitious new research initiative at Imperial College London, established to bring new focus to interdisciplinary AI reseach. The goal is to bring together AI experts from across the College to tackle major research challenges in areas such as health, sustainability, and security, and to create new opportunities for deerper cllaboration with companies and entrepreneurs.
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.
Energy & Environment Track sponsor
Undaunted is community of creative, proactive people, working together to explore how innovation can help us to mitigate and adapt to the climate crisis, in sustainable and equitable ways. From early-stage startups, investors, and industry experts, to academics, policy makers, students, and journalists – the community is diverse because the climate is everyone’s business. Undaunted is a partnership between The Royal Institution and Imperial’s Grantham Institute. In the face of climate change, we are Undaunted.
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.