Venture Catalyst Challenge 2023


The Venture Catalyst Challenge is Imperial College London’s flagship entrepreneurial competition. Now in its 10th year, we are excited to be celebrating a “A Decade of Innovation” in 2023.

Follow the progress of the special 10th Anniversary Edition here.

Countdown to the Grand Final, 10th May 2023:








Thank you to all who participated in the 2023 Grand Final.

The event was a huge success, thanks to you!

We hope you enjoyed the experience. If you weren’t able to join us on the night, you can still view the Grand Final in full online.

Watch the ReplayView our Winners

Celebrating a Decade of Innovation

Welcome to the University Startup Competition of The Decade. Three Months. Five Tracks. £100,000.

The Venture Catalyst Challenge is an “elite” programme which enables students and alumni to develop an innovative idea for commercialisation. It takes the very best early stage ideas and gives them the exposure and acceleration they need to leave Imperial College’s eco-system and move successfully into the wider entrepreneurship world.

Over its ten year history, the VCC has demonstrated an impressive ability to identify and nurture promising founders and ventures. This year we’re delighted to welcome 25 team finalists selected from 235 entries.

Previous participants have gone on to raise over £200 million in funding and create over 750 jobs. Notable success stories include VCC alumni startup Notpla, who won the coveted Earthshot Prize for Building a Waste-Free World.

Part of the programme’s success lies in its rigorous initial scoring and selection process. Competition entries are assessed for their ability to clearly articulate the business need, what impact the start-up will have, the co-founders’ motivations for joining programme, and why their team is best placed to deliver. The highest performing submissions are reviewed by Imperial College’s IP department before being shortlisted by the Selection Committee and assigned on to the most appropriate track.

Meet This Year’s Teams Competing in Each Track to Win a Prize

This year we’re delighted to welcome 89 innovators working on diverse projects including the world’s first size adjustable prosthetic cover, a novel aerodynamic design that makes supersonic aviation and space travel cheaper and cleaner, and sustainable wave energy converters that preserve the natural beauty of the ocean. 

The winning teams from each track will pitch their ideas to industry-leading judges at the Grand Final. The overall winner will receive a total prize of £30,000.

Read the teams’ profiles in more detail, learn about their business ideas and meet our ambitious founders here.

The VCC Experience

 Follow Our Innovators

Come along with us on the VCC journey!
We capture key moments in the programme as it progresses towards the Track Heats and Grand Final.

Team Reflections

The VCC Experience

VCC teams share their thoughts on the competition so far, and why taking part has been an enriching experience.

About Local Meal:
Local Meal is a mobile app which revolutionises restaurant discovery, designed to finally bring visibility to the local hidden gems of a city. Find the most trustworthy and authentic restaurant recommendations at the touch of a button.

Local Meal
Revolutionising Restaurant Discovery


“We can’t wait to launch our beta app which has been highly-anticipated by our waitlist of now over 750 users in a few months time! 

Coming into the VCC, we were mainly looking forward to broadening our knowledge of fundraising activities to help position us for long-term success post-beta. But ever since getting started, we realised that there is so much more to business than that, from legal agreements to company culture. 

We’ve been inspired by previous student startups which aim to provide a more sustainable, positive future and have been able to convert their business into a full-time occupation (like Alejandra de Brunner from Ethos or the sisters at Your Juno). It would be an honour to follow in their footsteps!”Isabella MandichCo-Founder, Local Meal

Wateraware Collective
Bridging the Water Quality Data Gap

Just 14% of British waterways meet good ecological status. 3/4 or more are a risk to human health due to sewage discharge, causing a surge in waterborne illnesses. Water companies must report pollution incidents within 60 minutes, but a lack of reliable data currently exists due to inflexible and expensive solutions.
Founded by Ryan McClure and Luisa Charles, Wateraware seeks to create a living map of water quality data globally using innovative low-cost hardware, intelligent ML-driven software and people power.

Ryan explains:

“Our key goal is to bridge the water quality data gap. By partnering with water companies, indigenous communities, NGOs, schools and water enthusiasts, we are empowering the next generation to be guardians of the Earth.

Our modular sensing unit uses low cost sensors and machine learning algorithms to provide accurate and uninterrupted data on pollutant levels, improving safety for people and the environment. It can attach to different surfaces using soft robotics, so water hobbyists can affix our units to dry bags, kayaks and paddleboards, providing valuable passively collected data.

Our education program, ‘Design Engineering for Climate Action,’ teaches young people to design and build solutions to tackle environmental problems. We are collaborating with indigenous communities worldwide to co-design water robots and environmental monitoring technologies, empowering them to take ownership for monitoring water quality, biodiversity, and flood mitigation. This creates a form of digital currency that protects and restores natural eco-systems worldwide.”

Q&A With Ryan McClure, Co-Founder of Wateraware Collective

Which programme activity are you most looking forward to?

We absolutely love pitching! We synergise very well as co-founders and love to share our vision and story, especially as it comes from a very passionate and meaningful place.

What's your next business milestone?

We’re aiming to do a big pilot project in June this year which will cover the breadth of England, from Newcastle – Windermere – London! We are in the midst of our design and development phase prior to testing.

What innovations are you most excited about for the next decade?

Anything climate focused for sure, but the technology behind a lot of innovation also needs to have solid ethics and policy measures to ensure the most effective and safest impact can be made. So I’m actually more intrigued to ask what economic, legislative or even systems innovation can we bring to the table that will completely revolutionise the governance around promising interventions? Ones where corruption, collusion and vested interests becomes impossible.

About Treeva:
Treeva makes transport systems greener by generating renewable energy from your journey. The team has developed efficient, recyclable, vertical-axis wind turbines which rotate due to the turbulent airflow of passing transport.

Generating renewable energy from passing transport


We’re excited to be working on a climate tech innovation that is fighting climate change and having a positive impact on the world by harnessing renewable sources of energy.

It has been really motivating to be inspired by many Imperial student entrepreneurs both inside and outside the VCC community (such as Banoo, Radiant Foods, Tyre Collective and Notpla – to name a few). The amazing people behind these startups and their vision to change the world is a powerful reminder that students can make an impact!

The support provided by VCC and the Enterprise Lab has been incredibly valuable, especially the masterclasses, alumni panel and business coaching. We have made significant progress towards our goals alongside establishing our company identity.”

Anjali Devadasan
Co-founder of Treeva

VCC Turns Ten with an Anniversary Gathering!

It’s been a busy ten years since the launch of Imperial College’s flagship entrepreneurship competition, the Venture Catalyst Challenge (VCC).  

Over its impressive trajectory, the VCC has proved itself to be highly effective in preparing student startups for the rigours of business life beyond the university campus. Collectively, its 250 former participants have gone on to raise over £200 million in funding and create 750 jobs. 

To mark VCC reaching its tenth birthday, we held an anniversary event to celebrate all our innovators’ achievements and thank members of our entrepreneurial ecosystem who have contributed to their journeys of personal and professional growth.  

In a fitting tribute to a programme that builds powerful networks, current and past participants, prize winners, business coaches and facilitators, colleagues, friends and supporters from across Imperial gathered together to celebrate ten years of impact.

Programme Manager Euan Bell commented: “This celebration event is a wonderful opportunity to reflect on the profound impact that VCC has had over its ten year history. We’ve heard first-hand from founders how much the programme shaped their thinking and solidified their ambitions. We couldn’t be more proud of our VCC teams, and all they have accomplished. We can’t wait to see what the current and future cohorts will achieve!”

Celebrating Ten Years of Impact

10 Years, 250 Participants, £200 Million in Funds and 750 Jobs Created 

Alumni Testimonial

Sharing Memories and Benefits of the VCC Programme

“VCC was one of the best experiences I had at university. Within a period of 7 weeks the competition helped take a seedling of an idea to a stage where we had produced a business plan and a working prototype, put a support network in place, created a brand and secured letters of interest from large corporate clients. It definitely is intense, but you learn so much about how to run a business effectively and you become immersed in such a great community of entrepreneurs.

I came away from the process more confident and excited about my idea and developed a strong entrepreneurial spirit. The E-Lab team are phenomenal and always put their all into supporting you. I would highly recommend the VCC programme to anyone who has a burning idea that they really want to explore in depth and progress quickly.”

– Nikhil Dawda, VCC 2021 cohort member

Next VCC Milestone: Track Heats

25-26th April 2023

ach Track has a Heat where competing teams pitch to a panel of judges. Think of these as our programme semi-finals. Five Track winners will each be awarded £10,000 and proceed to take part in the VCC Grand Final.
Which teams will make it through?


We can now reveal our five VCC 2023 finalists! Congratulations to the teams.
Meet them and read about their innovations below.

VCC Finalists Announced

Introducing Our Five Teams Competing in the Grand Final
Meet our 2023 Finalists

We are thrilled to name the five Finalists of the the 10th anniversary edition of the VCC programme. For the past ten years, VCC has shone a light on the entrepreneurial talent of Imperial College students and championed their startup ideas. It gives us great pleasure to present the five teams selected from this year’s outstanding cohort who will be pitching their innovations to our panel of judges at the Grand Final on 10 May 2023.

Our strong field of finalists illustrates the diversity of innovation thriving across Imperial College. Join us at the Grand Final to find out which team takes home the ultimate prize!

AI & Robotics

Sponsored by I-X

Creative & Consumer

Sponsored by Imperial College

Digital & Finance

Sponsored by Santander Universities

Energy & Environment

Sponsored by Undaunted

Health & Wellbeing

Sponsored by Novartis

Meet The Experts

The 2023 Judging Panel

Insiya Jafferjee


Shellworks (VCC 2020 Grand Final Winner)

Insiya Jafferjee is a VCC Alumni and CEO of Shellworks, a leading biotech startup building a world where sustainable products can be created without compromise.

In reimagining nature’s packaging, Shellworks has harnessed naturally occurring microbes and developed their patent-pending material, Vivomer, which can degrade in any natural environment. Originally from Sri Lanka, Insiya holds a BSc in Product Design from Stanford University and an MA and MSc. from Royal College of Art and Imperial College. She spent her early career working at the intersection of cutting-edge research, design, and engineering at corporations including Bose, Ford Motor Company and Apple. Now based in London, Insiya is using her profound insights to build a company that intends to make plastic waste a thing of the past.

Sara Murray OBE

Entrepreneur & Buddi

Sara Murray is the founder of the financial comparison site, which she sold to Admiral. She has gone on to create Buddi, a personal tracking device for the elderly and vulnerable.

Sara’s maxim is that entrepreneurs must always be prepared to adapt and that “You have to want to grow a business, not make a fast buck.”

Sara is also a member of the Government’s Technology Strategy Board and Entrepreneurs’ Forum, a council member at Imperial College London, and holds non-exec roles with the online retailer and the construction firm Travis Perkins.

Francisco Veloso


Imperial College Business School

Francisco Veloso is the Dean of Imperial College Business School and a member of the main governing boards of the University. Previously, he was the Dean at Católica Lisbon School of Business & Economics, where he held the NOS Chair in Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Francisco also retains an adjunct appointment at Carnegie Mellon University, where he was a tenured Full Professor.

Francisco´s research focuses on high tech innovation and entrepreneurship. He has several dozen publications in leading academic journals and has won several awards for his academic work. He regularly contributes as a consultant and advisor to of start-ups, established firms, universities and government around the world.

He is currently a Non-Executive Board Member at Arica Holding b.v., a member of the Board Remunerations Committee for Caixa Geral de Depósitos and the Chair of the Supervisory Board of Indico Capital Partners. Francisco has been a member of RISE – Research, Innovation and Science Experts High-Level Advisory Body to European Commissioner Carlos Moedas. He was also a member of the Portuguese Government Councils for Innovation & Entrepreneurship, as well as Science and Technology. He is a former President of the Advisory Board of APBA, the Portuguese Business Angels Society.

Francisco has a PhD in Technology, Management and Policy from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, as well as an MSc in Economics and Management of Science & Technology, and an Undergraduate Degree in Physics Engineering, both from the University of Lisbon.

25 teams. 5 finalists. 1 winner. Announcement time has come!

Following a tightly fought contest, we are delighted to share that the winner of the 2023 Venture Catalyst Challenge is WaveX. 
WaveX impressed the judges with their bold ambition and progress achieved to date in making wave energy more reliable and less expensive. The startup has developed wave energy converters that can be embedded under the seabed to produce carbon-free electricity all year round with no visual impact.

Additional prizes were awarded to the teams taking a lateral and innovative approach to a significant problem with their startup (the “Moonshot” prize), and the teams who best demonstrated a positive impact on society from their work (the “Social Impact” prize).

Our field of finalists and the standard of their pitches on the night was awe-inspiring, demonstrating both the diverse range of innovations coming out of Imperial and the immensely talented teams behind them. 

Programme Manager Euan Bell said:
“Congratulations to our winners and thank you to all who participated on the night! The VCC 2023 journey may have come to a close, but for our founders, their startup adventure is only just beginning. We wish them every success and know that they have a very bright future ahead.”

VCC Winner Announcement

Wave energy tech startup wins the 2023 Venture Catalyst Challenge
Overall Winner: Wave X
A Word from WaveX
Thomas Allen, Co-founder:

“Winning the VCC allows us to accelerate our progress to enable a fully Net Zero future using nature’s best practices. The £30,000 prize money will enable us to run larger trials and collect valuable data that will unlock the next stage of funding and development.

The focus on sustainability across all the teams pitching at the Grand Final demonstrates that Imperial innovators are really prioritising climate solutions when thinking about new, impactful business ideas. VCC provides a platform to bring the urgent need to the forefront of people’s minds.”

£10,000 Moonshot Prize: Fibe
£5,000 Moonshot Prize: Nullshock
£10,000 Social Impact Prize: Resolut
£5,000 Social Impact Prize: Jojolo

Watch The Replay

View the 2023 Grand Final

We were delighted to welcome 400 attendees to the Grand Final in the City & Guilds Building on Imperial’s South Kensington campus. Guests gathered to hear our five track winners’ pitches and awaited the judges’ verdict on the coveted overall winner, as well as the Moonshot and Social Impact prize winner announcements. Watch the full replay below.

Join Our Debate!

The Next Decade
Of Innovation


We are all forecasters, making daily decisions based on how we expect the future will unfold. These expectations are forecasts, and they affect the course of our lives.

But looking beyond our personal sphere to speculate about the future on a national or global scale is difficult, and that’s where collaboration comes in! How different will the world be in 2033? Join our conversation on what the next decade will bring. Let’s benefit from each other’s knowledge and diverse perspectives to help prepare for the future.

What's Your Prediction?

Send us your thoughts on the next decade and we’ll publish as many of them as possible on this page and in our E-Lab newsletter.

The World in 2033: Speculate With Us


“We will be online all the time in augmented reality.”

The World in 2033: Speculate With Us

“Domestic flights will travel out of the Earth’s atmosphere.”

The World in 2033: Speculate With Us

“The boundaries between machine and human will be blurred.”

The World in 2033: Speculate With Us

“NASA partners with private companies to land the first human on Mars.”

The World in 2033: Speculate With Us

Injectable brain implants allow scientists to alter neurons to treat disorders and brain damage.”

The World in 2033: Speculate With Us

Telepathic communication becomes possible with the help of computers.

The World in 2033: Speculate With Us

“Wearable devices replace smartphones.

The World in 2033: Speculate With Us

Consumers will understand the data-sharing practices of devices they install through visualisations rather than Terms and Conditions.

With thanks to Imperial Tech Foresight for contributing to our future scenarios.

Look Ahead

The Next Decade
Of Innovation


“The most powerful tool is imagination – the ability and willingness to imagine alternatives to realities as we know it, which is the first step towards making new realities possible.”
– Ursula K. Le Gin, Author

How will our next decade play out scientifically, economically, environmentally and politically?  What challenges, opportunities and industry upheavals will we see? Who will be the winners of tomorrow?

Read thought-provoking predictions from innovators, experts and entrepreneurs in each of our five track areas.

AI & Robotics:

Flying cars are finally on their way. The global urban air utility market, which includes Electric Vertical Take-Off and Landing vehicle (“eVTOL”) aircraft, has the potential to reach nearly $30 billion by 2030.
– Peter Diamandis

Creative & Consumer:

Inside physical stores, you will find full suites of interactive technology, enabling unimaginable levels of personalization that effectively blur the boundary between digital and physical shopping. eCommerce will have become integrated into every facet of consumers’ online lives – from Netflix to video games, virtual worlds, and, of course, social media.

– Syte

Digital & Finance:

The Web as I envisaged it, we still have not seen it yet. The future is still so much bigger than the past.

The web is for everyone and collectively we hold the power to change it. It won’t be easy. But if we dream a little and work a lot, we can get the web we want.

– Tim Berners-Lee

Energy & Environment:

Sustainable development is the pathway to the future we want for all.  It offers a framework to generate economic growth, achieve social justice, exercise environmental stewardship and strengthen governance.

– Ban Ki-moon

Health & Wellbeing:

Connected medical devices have helped close the loop between patients and healthcare providers. MedTech companies have a crucial role in driving value based healthcare, helping reduce medical costs, optimise surgical performance and improve patient outcomes.

– Deloitte

With Special Thanks to Our Sponsors

A huge thank you to our supporters for their valuable contribution to the Venture Catalyst Challenge.

The VCC is the largest prize fund of any UK-based university, only made possible through the financial support of our sponsors. Thanks to their generosity and commitment to backing the next generation of innovators, we are empowering participants with vital skills, exposure and acceleration to thrive beyond Imperial College in the wider commercial world. 

Ben Mumby-Croft

Director of Entrepreneurship

Health & Wellbeing Track Sponsor
Novartis logo coloured

Digital & Finance Track Sponsor

Energy & Environment Track Sponsor

Undaunted Company Logo

AI & Robotics Track Sponsor

Creative & Consumer Track Sponsor

Last Word

Calling the Next Generation Of Innovators

Hear from VCC alumni, in their own words.

Previous participants tell us about the impact the programme has had on their skills development and business trajectory.

Take part. Create the future.

Secure Your Place. Get Your Ticket!

Do you have an early stage business idea that you’d like to accelerate? Register your interest, and we’ll email you when applications for our 2024 cohort open.