Do you have a novel, early-stage business idea?

Sponsored by The Royal Bank of Scotland, the Kickstart Challenge is for aspiring entrepreneurs with innovative business ideas they’d like to test, validate and prepare to launch.

Register your Interest

What’s in it for you?

KickStart Challenge can be your first step towards commercialisation, designed to test the robustness of your idea, equip you for the realities of entrepreneurship and prepare you for our more advanced challenge categories.


First prize

Winning our top prize will get you £10k in equity-free cash to help progress your business idea plus fast-track entry to the semi-finals of our most relevant advanced challenge category.


Runner-up prize

The runner-up will receive £5k in equity-free cash towards developing their idea and preparing to launch their business.

3 days

Bespoke business training

All successful applicants enjoy two days of business training and pitch coaching tailored for academic entrepreneurs from leading trainers.

Who can apply?

The Kickstart Challenge is open to those taking the first steps of their commercialisation journey, designed to help you establish the viability of your idea and prepare for the challenges of entrepreneurship. We welcome applications from across industry sectors and enterprise types, for both product and service-based ideas.

Read our full terms and conditions

Staff and students at all Scottish Higher Education Institutions are eligible to apply.

Recent graduates (up to 24 months after graduation from the initial application date) from Scottish Higher Education Institutions are also eligible to apply.

Team and joint applications are accepted, provided one member of the team is a student, recent graduate or member of staff from a Scottish Higher Education Institution.

Applicants must plan to have their business headquartered in Scotland.

The lead applicant must be available for our awards ceremony.  We highly recommend you attend our training events too as past experience has shown these dramatically increase the quality of business plans/cases and the chances of reaching the next stage of the challenge.

You must either own or have the right to use and commercially exploit all Intellectual Property Rights related to your business idea. 

This challenge is aimed at early-stage projects that have the potential to become high-growth businesses. Applicants need to demonstrate feasibility and early market research.

Judging criteria

Kickstart Challenge applications are judged on the novelty and innovation of the idea combined with clarity of planning. We’re looking for individuals and teams who understand what it takes to get market ready and launch a business. Successful applicants will be able to demonstrate product/service feasibility, a strong USP and market demand.



Demonstration of market need

Understanding of your market and customers

Clarity of product/service development plan

Viability of proposed business model

What’s involved?

Our challenges are split into four stages over a period of six months. Applications open in January and these are evaluated by a panel of university representatives. 

Successful applicants are then invited to attend training sessions that prepare them to put forward a business case and 1-minute video pitch to be assessed by a panel of university representatives. 

Shortlisted business cases are then evaluated by a panel of business experts with the winners announced at our annual Converge Awards ceremony in September.

How it Works
  • Application Deadline
    30 March
  • Business Training
    31 May – 4 June (+ 11 June tbc)
  • Business Case Submission
    3 August
  • Awards Final
    30 September

Judging panel

We select our expert judging panel from a wide range of industries for their unique experience and insight gained from launching, growing and nurturing businesses in Scotland.

Jamie Macfarlane

Founder & CEO Creator Fund

Jamie is the Founder and CEO of Creator Fund. Creator Fund is a VC fund investing in student and academic startups across 25 universities around the UK. It has been backed by Eric Schmidt's Schmidt Futures, Founders Factory, and 40 investors. Jamie built the fund after completing his MBA at Stanford Business School and working as an investor at Dorm Room Fund, where he saw how student-focused venture capital has created many of the USA's best technology startups. Jamie also worked at the media-focused fund, Raine Ventures in San Francisco.

He was previously Director of Transformation at WPP and helped build their first office in Myanmar after sanctions lifted. He also worked as a political strategist advising Presidents and Prime Ministers across the world on election campaigns, including the Cambodian democracy movement's groundbreaking 2013 election. The Guardian Newspaper named Jamie one of 20 Rising Stars in the UK. Jamie was also the 2019 General Election candidate in Westminster North. He holds a Double First Class Degree from Oxford University.


Dr Kate Cameron

Founder & CEO Cytochroma Ltd

Kate is the founder and CEO of Cytochroma, a Scottish based contract research organisation that manufactures advanced stem cell models, and utilises automation, and AI to transform preclinical testing.
Previously she led multiple research projects, presented at numerous international conferences, and lectured at the University of Edinburgh and at the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Kate is a driven entrepreneur and has achieved significant recognition in numerous business awards, grants, and competitions. She is a former BBSRC sponsored Royal Society of Edinburgh Enterprise Fellow and Converge Challenge finalist.


Jenn Galloway

Entrepreneur Development Manager The Royal Bank of Scotland

Jenn has held a number of roles within the Royal Bank of Scotland including working with Corporate & Commercial Customers and leading on People Engagement strategies. Most recently she has been leading on Enterprise activity across Scotland, working alongside Enterprise experts to support local businesses, deliver thought leadership events and link SME’s to relevant partners and stakeholders. She's passionate about collaboration, customer focus and supporting businesses to achieve their goals, and committed to removing barriers and providing more opportunities to help businesses grow.


Graham Reid

Graham is a qualified accountant and former Finance Director with extensive executive experience in private equity ownership, debt financing, rapid growth management and transformational IT projects.

He is an angel investor, a non-executive director for two angel-backed startups and is a board member of angel investor syndicate, Apollo Informal Investment.  Graham was Group Finance Director of CALA Homes for 18 years and was Scottish Finance Director of The Year in 2018.



Learn more about taking the entrepreneurial leap, boost your business skills and find resources to help you polish and perfect your challenge application.

KickStart Application Form Template 2021

Downloadable file

A preview of the application form you will need to complete online.

Download now


Downloadable file

Answers to commonly-asked questions to help you on your way

Download now

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