Search begins for Imperial’s next leading entrepreneurs


A student looks down at a large screen

Selly Shafira, co-founder of Banoo, the WE Innovate 2022 winner

Imperial’s two biggest entrepreneurship competitions are once again on the lookout for the best innovators.

The College’s flagship entrepreneurship competitions are WE Innovate and the Venture Catalyst Challenge. These competitions are open to students, alumni and early career researchers. 

Championing women-led teams

WE Innovate champions women-led teams with an entrepreneurial idea to explore. The 6-month programme supports the development of up to 25 teams through masterclasses, business coaching, 1-to-1 expert support and peer mentoring.  

The programme is divided into three phases, during which the 25 teams become a final five who will compete for a share of the £30,000 prize fund.  

Developing an innovative idea

The Venture Catalyst Challenge (VCC) is the College’s flagship entrepreneurial competition for students, alumni and early career researchers to develop an innovative idea for commercialisation and win big. The programme involves workshops, coaching, expert meetings, alumni panels and pitch training over three months, with the aim of bringing ideas to commercial reality.  

Competing teams have the opportunity to win a share of a £90,000 prize pot, with the winning team at the Grand Final taking home £20,000.  

Many teams who have competed in the two competitions have gone on to see great success. Read on to find out more. 

Community health monitoring

UNTAP are developing intelligent community health monitoring using sewage. The team, co-founded by Faculty of Engineering PhD graduates Dr Claire Trant and Dr Jay Bullen, came third place in WE Innovate 2022, winning £3,000 for their business. Since then, they have spoken at London Demo Day, an annual collaboration event between Imperial, King’s College London and UCL to showcase the capital’s best startups.  

A woman in a green dress gives a presentation
Dr Claire Trant, cofounder of Untap

More recently, the team won three prizes at Stage Two – the largest pan-European competition for the best startups spinning out of leading universities. The team were awarded €250,000 investment for Best Tech Innovation and a Female Founder Award of €15,000.  

Teaching fixing skills

Another team who took part in WE Innovate 2022 are Team Repair who are developing a programme to send electronic gadgets with deliberate faults to 8–12-year-olds to fix, designed to teach them key scientific knowledge and fixing skills.

As well as being runners up in WE Innovate, the team also won the Engineers in Business Award – winning up to £3,000 grant funding and mentorship from the Engineers in Business Fellowship, a charity that promotes the importance and value of business education for engineers to improve people’s lives and the performance of the UK and global economies.  

Recently, all the teams who won this award were invited to take part in the Champion of Champions Final at the Royal Academy of Engineering. Here the team won first prize of £3,000 in the startup business category.  

Previous teams from the VCC have also gone on to see great success.  

At-home breast monitoring

Dotplot, who won £30,000 at the final of VCC 2022, recently won the national round of the James Dyson Award. Founded by graduates of the Innovation Design Engineering, Debra Babalola and Shefali Bohra, Dotplot is an at-home breast monitoring tool which gives guidance while users check their breasts for abnormalities, connected to an app.  

Two women smile holding trophies
The team at the VCC final

The James Dyson Award is an international design award that celebrates, encourages and inspires the next generation of design engineers. The team won the UK Dyson Award and have progressed to the international stage of the competition, with the winner announced in November.  

Two previous VCC teams, Saltyco and Multus also had the opportunity recently to speak to the Leader of the Labour Party, Keir Starmer, about their startups. Julian Ellis-Brown, CEO of Saltyco, discussed his team’s work to make planet-positive textiles and Cai Linton, CEO of Multus who are creating the key ingredient to make cultivated meat affordable and profitable. 

Applications for both programmes close on Sunday 4 December at 11.59pm and more details can be found on the application form


Joanna Wilson

Joanna Wilson
Communications Division

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