Wing for ideas logo

The Wings for Ideas Challenge partners Imperial College’s Business School postgraduate students with Early Career Researcher experts. Join us for an opportunity to share knowledge and work together to bring entrepreneurial ideas to life.


Programme overview

What is the Wings for Ideas Challenge?

In February 2021, for the first time in College history, the Imperial Postdocs and Fellows Enterprise Network (IPFEN) and Imperial Launch (Business School) brought Postdocs / Fellows and Business School students together through the ‘Product development Hackathon’.

Following its success, popular demand from both sides and upon rebranding, the Wings for Ideas Challenge was born. This yearly flagship event will continue to partner business ideas with cutting-edge knowledge and skills from early career researchers.

The Wings for Ideas Challenge runs from October to February and is a unique setting that will join entrepreneurial mindsets and technical skills together and allow you to make that breakthrough for your business idea. Throughout the Challenge, you will participate in workshops on how to pitch business ideas and will take part in the final showcase where you will compete to win prizes.

We are keen for you to expand your network, grow your business skills and develop your entrepreneurial thinking that will open new and exciting doors in your career.

You can read the Terms and Conditions for the Challenge in this Link – Wings for Ideas Challenge Terms and Conditions – please let us know if you need this in a different format.

The Student and expert for the Wings for Ideas Challenge 2022 is now closed.

Wings for ideas

The Challenge is comprised of 3 phases

  • Applications:
    • Student idea applications (November) – this is where postgraduate students submit their applications with brief descriptions of their business ideas, the solutions they are trying to implement and the technical challenge they are facing.
    • Early career researcher applications (December) – the business ideas are disclosed to the postdoc/fellow experts, and they get to apply to the ones where their expertise fit.
  • Pairing & Working together (January/February) – The Challenge teams will work together for 4/5 weeks, solve the technical challenge proposed, create/improve a business plan and a pitching slide deck.
  • The final showcase (End of February) - this will be held at the end of February. Challenge Teams will present their pitches in front of a jury.

What the 2021 cohort said...

  • Koen Van Dam, PhD (Department of Chemical Engineering)

It is a fantastic idea to bring researchers and Business School students together. The MBA students learn about the technical aspects and the researchers get an idea of the business mindset. The Business School student in our team clearly had a lot of experience and tools for managing the project and this was very helpful. There is potential to further develop the idea and we have signed up for another hackathon already.

I very much encourage other researchers to participate in future hackathons. I enjoyed the challenge of forming a team with people from different backgrounds and being part of the pitching process.

  • Alex Freeman (Student team) - Magnogym

“Fantastic event, exactly what start-ups need! It was very well suited for the stage the business is at. Would like to see the concept continue, grow and develop.”

  • Thilina Lalitharatne, PhD (Dyson School of Design Engineering)

Researchers have the technical knowledge and skills, but they will often need someone with a business and marketing background if they are planning to translate the research into a product. It’s better to have an expert for this and the concept of the hackathon is great to find and connect with the right people.”

  • Joy Zhang (Student team) – Sustainability research tool

"Really enjoyed the event! We were matched with great postdocs, ended up pivoting to something outside of their field. Still useful to have their critical thinking”

  • Luca Botti, PhD (Department of Chemical Engineering)

Developing an idea and going through the process of starting a business from zero was very interesting. People learn a lot from each other in that process. It was a great learning experience to see how Business School students think. In my opinion, they often underestimate the technical difficulties. On the other hand, researchers often focus too much on the problem than on the solution.

  • Rishabh Jain (MBA student team) – Smart Lense

“This is by far the best event I’ve taken part in so far, a fantastic concept! I never would have been able to find people as good as this postdoc team”

  • Hai Gong, PhD (Department of Physics)

I wanted to learn more about the UK business environment but also to gain experience and network with Business School students. The concept of the hackathon is a brilliant idea. There is a mutual benefit: Business School students often have a lot of ideas for starting a business, but they lack the technical knowledge. Researchers also often have ideas for transitioning technologies into products, but they lack the business experience. “

Learning outcomes and Definitions

Learning outcomes

  • Use a business model canvas to think about your startup and plan for the next steps
  • Create a compelling pitch deck
  • Develop business skills
  • Network and build connections with peers and technical experts
  • Pitch with confidence


Students – initial proposers of the idea. The team leader must be a current Imperial Business School postgraduate student.

Early Career Research experts – Postdocs and Fellows at Imperial that have technical expertise on a particular subject and are willing to provide support to projects.

Challenge Teams - once Students and Experts are paired, they form a Challenge Team – the Challenge team will work together during the Challenge event (February 2022) and present at the Final Challenge Event.


Entry requirements

Entry requirements for students

  1. Your student idea proposer must be an MBA or MSci student at Imperial College London. Any MBA programme or MSc programme student will be accepted if the student(s) can commit the time to the programme.
  2. You can join individually or as a team.

Entry requirements for early career research (staff) experts

  1. Your contract should extend until the end of the Challenge (March 2022).
  2. You should inform your line manager you are participating in the Challenge (you can use your 10 development days for this).

Key Dates and How to Apply

Key dates

  • Wings for Ideas Challenge opens October 2021
  • Students' registrations - November 2021 (closed)
  • Postdoc and Fellows registration of interests - Closed
  • Matching and information to teams - week commencing 17 January 2022
  • Final Challenge Event – 4 March 2022, 14.00-16.00


Frequently asked questions

Q1. What time commitment should a participant expect?

We expect that the time commitment for both students and early career research experts to be a minimum of 10 hours over the programme.

Q2. I am a postdoc. Can I apply with a team?

This Challenge is to join student teams with technical experts (postdocs).

If you are a postdoc and have an idea, we encourage you to check Enterprise’s Website. You can apply to any of Imperial accelerators for staff (Techcelerate and MedTech SuperConnector). Please also consider talking to the Startup Team or your IPC Faculty Team.

Q3. I’m a student with an idea: what happens to my IP?

By taking part in the Event, you agree that any ideas/intellectual property belongs to the student team. Any new IP developed over the course of the event remains with the student team provided no other College Staff is involved.

At the end of the event, team members can choose to continue to work on these ideas generated within their teams together. If you choose to keep on working with the student team and joint-arising IP is likely, we encourage the whole team to have a meeting with the appropriate IPC team contact.

Neither the organisers, nor the Sponsors of the Event have any claim to the intellectual property generated by the participants at the Event.  

It is essential to ensure that all confidential information, especially Intellectual Property, relating to the project is only disclosed to parties or individuals, outside the immediate project team, under an appropriate confidentiality agreement. Otherwise, the ability to protect commercially valuable Intellectual Property may be lost. Always seek the advice of the Imperial Research Office when putting in place a confidentiality agreement or should you wish to display or publish anything in relation to the project. 

Q4: I’m a postdoc/fellow, what about my IP?

To avoid potential issues with Postdocs and Fellows intellectual property rights, staff participating in these events:

  • should not include any of their background intellectual property (I.e.: developed models, software, code, database, knowhow, results, documents, presentations) in the work they do with the student team.
  • are discouraged to use any of their own lab facilities/materials to support these teams.
  • should not work with student teams where the direct research interests of their research group are involved. This is likely to result in multiple complicated IP situations arising (see table below). Thus, it is better for the staff member to work outside of their immediate area of research and avoid IP issues.
  • should remember that protecting their own Intellectual Property will remain their own responsibility in partnership with the relevant Faculty IPC Team.
  • should contact the appropriate IPC team member if there are any doubts around background IP.