From education to employment

Student startups go head-to-head in flagship entrepreneurship competition

Imperial College Business School
Imperial students will turn their ideas into new technologies, products and businesses in the Venture Catalyst Challenge.

The Venture Catalyst Challenge (VCC) is Imperial College London’s flagship entrepreneurial competition for students and alumni to develop an innovative idea for commercialisation.

Run by Imperial Enterprise Lab, the challenge provides access to seven intensive weeks of masterclasses, coaching, and meetings with experts, all with one aim – to help students and alumni bring their idea to commercial reality while growing their knowledge, skills, and network.

Previous winners have gone on to found successful businesses, including 2019 winners VUI Diagnostics who are developing a technology to provide simple, affordable and accurate retinal imaging to help address avoidable blindness around the world.

This year’s competition, which launched last week, has 25 teams competing to win a share of the £70,000 prize fund.

Students chatting in the Enterprise Lab

The VCC is made up of five tracks:

  • AI & Robotics – sponsored by Huawei
  • Creative & Consumer – sponsored by Huawei
  • Digital & Fintech – sponsored by Citi and Imperial College Business School’s Centre for Financial Technology
  • Energy & Environment – sponsored by Grosvenor
  • Health & Wellbeing – sponsored by Santander Universities

The competition’s final, taking place on 25 March 2021, will see the winners of each track pitch their ideas to industry-leading judges to be named the overall winner.

Among the teams taking part in this year’s competition are OnLadder, an alternative financing option for homebuyers, Algreen who are developing a biodegradable alternative to plastic labels, stablspoon, a self-stabilising spoon for people with hand tremors, Mattalabs who are developing a self-learning 3D printer network and aqUasieVe, a portable water filter.

This year 20% of teams on the cohort have previously been part of WE Innovate, the College’s entrepreneurship programme designed to inspire and accelerate the progress of entrepreneurs identifying as women.

Plastic alternative success

Last year’s Venture Catalyst Challenge winners, The Shellworks, have created a plastic alternative from seafood waste that breaks down in any natural environment, allowing consumers to through away their waste worry-free. The team took home the £30,000 top prize after battling it out against four other startups during the competition’s first ever all-digital final.

Glasses made from seafood waste

The headline sponsor for this year’s competition is Huawei. Huawei’s Vice President, Victor Zhang, said:

“This year’s VCC competition highlights the entrepreneurial spirit of Imperial’s student teams. As a champion of innovation and R&D, we are honoured to play our role in helping raise these inspirational team projects to the commercial level and so they can go on to become the next generation of technology leaders. Best of luck to all the teams for the forthcoming Grand Final event.”

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