Founders Choice: Imperial's staff startup programme

Founders Choice is Imperial’s staff startup programme. It allows researchers to choose the support level that is right for them and their startup.

You can find a summary of the Founders Choice Programme below but for full details please refer to the Founders Choice Mini Guide - November 2022

Academic inventors at Imperial are part of a mature entrepreneurial ecosystem. Many have experience of forming and building businesses. Others have personal networks that can support the creation and management of startup companies.

Staff with this experience may not require substantial levels of support from Imperial’s Startup team to set up their company. They will be able to handle many aspects of the startup journey themselves.

Founders Choice allows researchers who believe they will be able to find the resources, finance and expertise to make their startup successful to pursue this option. Researchers who think they will need more substantive support can still access this through Imperial’s Startup Team. 

There are two options under Founders' Choice - Jointly-driven and Founder-driven. A comparison of Founders Choice options can be found on our website.

Your options under Founders Choice

Founders of Imperial startup companies may select between two options under Founders Choice, each of which offers different levels of support from Imperial’s Startup Team. Irrespective of which of the two options Founders opt for from the choice below, it is expected that a number of key pre-requisites are met prior to embarking on the formation process. These are:

  • IP due diligence completed and encumbrances addressed with IP released for licencing;
  • Provision of a business plan and subsequent endorsement by the relevant Faculty IPC team and SUI team, which enables fair commercial terms to be proposed;
  • Signing of the IP Standstill Letter to enable the relevant IPC team to put the marketing of the IP on hold for third party licenses for up to 12 months whilst maintaining IP protection up to an agreed cost ceiling;
  • Signing of the Letter of Understanding (LoU) to confirm which level of support Founders opt for.

Once these pre-requisites have been met, the founders commit to forming the startup within a 3-month timeframe. It should be noted that although these are pre-requisites for the 3-month countdown to begin, the Startup team is able to progress some of the startup formation process in parallel to ensure progress on formation is still made.

Once the 3-month process has been completed and upon formation, the IP will be exclusively licensed in an agreed field from the College into the new company on fair and reasonable commercial terms. This is a similar approach to that used by a number of successful universities (though details may differ) and recognises the developing maturity of the entrepreneurial ecosystem around Imperial and London more generally.

Founder-Driven route

Under the Founder-Driven route, startup founders take responsibility for key aspects of company development. The Startup team provides a basic level of support. University founding equity is 5% – 10% and is un-diluted up to a cumulative investment cap between £3m and £15m.  The range is reflective of the range of sectors at Imperial and allows the special circumstances of the startup to be taken into account.

Jointly-Driven route

Imperial’s Startup Team provides an enhanced support package, in which founders benefit from the team’s resources, networks and experience in founding startups. University founding equity negotiations start at 50% : 50%.

Support documents and guidance

We have tried to supply sufficient information on these web-pages to allow you to understand and consider the Founders Choice pilot programme. However, you may also find these supporting documents (PDF / Word / Excel) useful.