The five best UK start-up competitions (with cash!)

Fancy winning a few grand to help you grow your business? MT has sniffed out the five best business competitions currently accepting entries.

by Rebecca Burn-Callander
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

A full trophy cabinet is all well and good but what a young business really needs is investment. There are loads of start-up competitions and awards out there, but only a few that actually represent value for time and effort.

So, before you start slaving away on an application form, only to find out that ‘winning’ comprises little more than an email and an invoice for a £5,000 gala dinner, take a look at these babies.


Competition: The Orange Different Business Competition


Prize: An undisclosed amount of seed investment, plus £200,000 worth of legal advice, technology (mobile devices, natch), marketing, and business planning advice.

Criteria: As the competition name suggests, the business bods at Orange are looking for start-ups that are a bit different. This could either mean a new business model or simply a novel way of running the business. Think Edward de Bono meets James Dyson. Any entrepreneur in the UK over the age of 18 can apply, but the winning firm must be scalable, with a clear strategy and target customer base.

Entry deadline: 31st March, 2012 



Competition: National University Entrepreneur Competition


Prize: A little vague, this one. The winning entry will receive ‘investment opportunities’ as well as a package of start-up support.

Criteria: This one’s just for students and recent graduates alas, so skip to the next comp if your schooling days are long over. Each university in the UK can submit up to two business plans from a student or group of students. The business plan has to propose a ‘brand new idea’ with extra credit given to entrepreneurs whose ideas are inspired by the London 2012 Olympics. Litter picking? Trophy polishing? Leotard washing? MT jests, of course…

Entry deadline: 31st March, 2012


Competition: Enterprising U Business Plan Competition

Prize: £25,000 in cash plus £15,000 worth of business support

Criteria: Another one for the academics among you. This nationwide student business plan competition, hosted by Find Invest Grow (FIG), seems to have no criteria except that you have to be a recent student or graduate.

Entry deadline: 1st June 2012


Competition: Wayra UK

Prize: Between €50,000 - €70,000 in return for a 10% stake, plus business support

Criteria: This is less a ‘competition’ per se and more of a newfangled ‘accelerator’. Nonetheless, the application system is distinctly awardsy: you have to submit your business plan, and the judges whittle down the entries to 20 winners.

As this competition is being funded by mobile operator Telefonica, it’s not surprising that extra credit will be given to start-ups or budding entrepreneurs with ideas that can bring relevant innovation and IP into the group (or cater for Telefonica’s social conscience).

Hence, bidders are encouraged to focus on the following themes: cloud services; financial services; machine-to-machine; digital security; e-health; mobile applications; e-business; digital/video; social innovation; social networks and internet applications; technology; and e-learning.

You can find out more about the Wayra initiative here.

Entry deadline: Unknown. Open for bids now


Competition: Business Start-ups Competition

Prize: This is a slight cheat: the prize is £500 or £1,000 worth of market research from Marketest rather than hard cash. But we picked it because the application looked quick and easy.

Criteria: You have to be over 18 with a business idea (doesn’t have to be a business yet). That’s it! And the application process is the least onerous (for £1,000 of market research, you wouldn’t expect to jump through many hoops, would you?) with just two pages to fill in.

Entry deadline: 30th April 2012 


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