Imperial College London

Imperial students to supercharge their entrepreneurial ideas


A woman speaks at a workshop

A VCC workshop in February 2020

Imperial has launched its latest hunt for the most promising student-founded businesses through the Venture Catalyst Challenge.

The Venture Catalyst Challenge (VCC), now in its 9th year, is Imperial’s flagship student entrepreneurial competition. It challenges students to turn their innovative ideas into new technologies, products and businesses with a chance of winning a £90,000 prize. 

Run by Imperial Enterprise Lab, the VCC 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.  

From medical mattress toppers to improving electric vehicle driving, the competition has led to many successful startups that are tackling some of society’s biggest challenges.  

The VCC is made up of five tracks:  

  • Creative & Consumer – sponsored by Huawei 
  • Digital & Finance  
  • Energy & Environment 
  • Health & Wellbeing – sponsored by the MedTech SuperConnector 
  • AI & Robotics – sponsored by Huawei 

The Moonshot Prize, with a value of £10,000, rewards a team who is challenging the norm and pushing innovation to the limit. The Social Impact Prize, also with a value of £10,000, recognises teams whose work is inspired by a desire to have a positive impact on society. 

The competition’s live Grand Final audience will also vote for their favourite team, who will scoop a prize of £500. 

Previous success 

The 2021 competition was won by a team of Imperial students developing an innovative mattress topper to predict and prevent pressure ulcers before they develop. CalidiScope, founded by graduates Anna McGovern and Luthfun Nessa, won the Venture Catalyst Challenge 2021 for their mattress topper integrated with innovative sensors and machine learning to predict pressure ulcers before they develop, monitor patient movement and automate documentation.  

The team took home the £30,000 top prize after battling it out against four other startups during the competition’s digital final. 

Other success stories from the VCC programme include Breathe Battery Technologies and Bonnet

The Breathe Battery Technologies team
The Breathe Battery Technologies team

Breathe, whose software provides advanced battery management for electric vehicles and consumer electronics, recently raised £1.5 million to scale up. The startup was founded in 2019 at the College and took part in the VCC that same year, winning the Energy & Environment track. One of the founders Dr Ian Campbell said “The VCC taught us how to engage faster and with more customers, helping us find new and better ways of addressing their problems. We learned a lot in a short space of time and we’ve maintained that momentum since.” 

Bonnet, a startup founded by Imperial alumni, is focused on improving the experience of electric vehicle drivers. The team, made up of Electrical and Electronic Engineering graduates Patrick Reich and Eliot Makabu, recently raised a £920k pre-seed round from investors including the Imperial College Innovation Fund (ICIF). The team also took part in the 2021 VCC competition. 

The VCC’s headline sponsor for the 2022 competition is Huawei.  


Joanna Wilson

Joanna Wilson
Communications Division

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Comms-strategy-Real-world-benefits, Alumni, Careers, Student-entrepreneurship, Comms-strategy-Entrepreneurial-ecosystem, Entrepreneurship, Enterprise
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