Enterprise Lab and The Greenhouse highly ranked in FT list of top startup hubs


founders in the enterprise lab

Imperial Enterprise Lab hosts the 2024 cohort of the Venture Catalyst Challenge

Positive feedback from alumni entrepreneurs places Imperial’s startup ecosystem among Europe’s best.

Not one but two startup hubs from Imperial's ecosystem have placed high in a pan-European ranking compiled for The Financial Times. Imperial Enterprise Lab and The Greenhouse are both in the top 70 of the list, which is largely determined by feedback from alumni entrepreneurs.

This vote of confidence from startup founders who have passed through the Imperial ecosystem validates our focus on delivering the strongest founder experience. Dr Simon Hepworth Director of Enterprise at Imperial

“This vote of confidence from startup founders who have passed through the Imperial ecosystem validates our focus on delivering the strongest founder experience,” says Dr Simon Hepworth, Director of Enterprise at Imperial.

“Having two leading European startup hubs listed in a single institution is testament to the strength and depth of Imperial’s innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem and, most importantly, the high regard it is held in by our diverse community of alumni and founders,” adds Ben Mumby-Croft, Director of Entrepreneurship at Imperial.

“This is really good news,” says Dr Jim Shaikh, head of The Greenhouse. “It’s great that the Greenhouse has been recognised in the rankings, especially as we are one of the very few accelerators that do not take a slice of equity from the startups.”

The ranking was compiled from a pool of more than 2000 startup hubs across Europe, such as incubators and accelerators. These candidates were invited to canvas alumni on their overall performance, and in six distinct areas of activity: mentoring and training; infrastructure; legal assistance; funding; networking; and business development advice.

This feedback was supplemented with views from external experts, such as investors, entrepreneurs and academics, and an assessment of the most successful startups emerging from each hub, to produce a single score.

The final ranking includes the best 125 hubs, with UnternehmerTUM at the Technical University of Munich in first place. The Imperial Enterprise Lab is at 49th place, while The Greenhouse appears in 64th place.

An open door for future entrepreneurs

The Imperial Enterprise Lab is a dedicated support service for students, staff and alumni who want to develop their entrepreneurial mindset, skills, and networks. Central to its offer is the Venture Catalyst Challenge, a three-month programme of one-to-one coaching, meetings with experts, workshops and pitch training for teams hoping to turn an idea into commercial reality.

10th anniversary gathering of the Venture Catalyst Challenge
The Venture Catalyst Challenge celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2023. Photo: Jo Mieszkowski

The Enterprise Lab also runs WE Innovate, a six-month programme aimed at female-led teams of founders, and offers services such as idea surgeries, venture mentoring, and support to help teams become investment-ready.

“We’re really proud that the Enterprise Lab has achieved this ranking based primarily on the feedback of the founders who have benefitted from our support,” says Mr Mumby-Croft. “The Enterprise Lab prides itself on offering unconflicted, idea-agnostic support, completely free of charge to any student, staff or alumni of Imperial who walks through our door.”

The ground-breaking ventures supported by Imperial’s innovation ecosystem can be seen at the grand final of the 2024 Venture Catalyst Challenge, which take place on Thursday 11 April. Register here.

Specialist help for climate startups

The Greenhouse is a climate innovation start-up accelerator run by Imperial’s Undaunted initiative, which aims to make London and the UK a great place to start and scale solutions to the climate challenge. It offers startups a 12-month programme that combines training in entrepreneurial skills and knowhow with coaching and mentoring support.

The Greenhouse was one of the first climate-focused accelerators, and we’ve had 10 years to perfect what we offer. Dr Jim Shaikh The Greenhouse

“The Greenhouse was one of the first climate-focused accelerators, and we’ve had 10 years to perfect what we offer,” says Dr Shaikh. “So, we know exactly what we are doing and where we can add value.” This is borne out by the accelerator’s record. In general, only 10% of startups make it past the founding stage, whereas 93% of the teams graduating from The Greenhouse are still operational.

Mentoring at The Greenhouse is particularly well-rated in the FT ranking, with alumni feedback putting it in 14th place in Europe. “We run an in-depth coaching and business mentoring programme, which is one-to-one and individualised,” Dr Shaikh says. “Our teams have access to as many as three mentors, all the way through their journey.”

Greenhouse Demo Day winners
The teams from BlueNose, the Wonki Collective and DyeRecycle, the three winners at The Greenhouse Demo Day in 2023.

This aspect of the programme is currently expanding, with further mentors being added in response to feedback from participants. “We’ve just started a programme where we match teams with Imperial researchers who can provide technical mentoring,” Dr Shaikh explains. “We’ve also seen that people sometimes struggle with the transition from being a founder to being a leader, so we’ve added personal coaching to the programme.”

The Greenhouse is currently accepting applications to join its seventh cohort, with a deadline of 25 April. Meanwhile, the startups graduating from Cohort 5 will pitch to investors during a demo day at the Royal Institution on 18 April.

Since 2021, The Greenhouse programme has been supported by HSBC UK, through the bank’s global Climate Solutions Partnership.


Ian Mundell

Ian Mundell


Student-entrepreneurship, Enterprise, Entrepreneurship, Comms-strategy-Entrepreneurial-ecosystem
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