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

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 £7.5k in equity-free cash towards developing their idea and preparing to launch their business.


Bespoke business training

All successful applicants enjoy a money-can’t-buy package of training and pitch coaching from experts with real-world experience of starting and growing global businesses.



Fast tracking

The winner of this year's KickStart Challenge will be fast tracked to their chosen advanced category without having to apply.

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 36 months after graduation from the initial application date) from Scottish Higher Education Institutions are 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 in October.

We also highly recommend you attend our training events as past experience shows these dramatically increase the quality of business plans/cases and your chances of reaching the final stages 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.

If you do have an existing company, it must be dormant, non-trading or trading for no longer than 24 months with a secured income not higher than £150,000 (including but not limited to grants, investment, loans, revenue, prizes).

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 are evaluated by a panel of university representatives.

If you're successful, we'll give you access to our online, on-demand training modules from 9 May. You'll then be invited to attend a one day, in-person regional training session w/c 27 May followed by intensive business training, masterclasses and pitching from 10-11 June in Edinburgh*.

By committing to attending our training programme in full, you'll have the tools you need to put forward a business case and 1-minute video pitch - all of which will be assessed by a panel of university representatives.

If you make it onto our shortlist, you'll be asked to pitch your idea live to a panel of business experts on 18 September in Edinburgh*. Winners will be announced at our annual Awards ceremony on 3 October.

*Travel expenses for in-person training and events are available. We can also arrange overnight accommodation

How it Works
  • Application deadline
    3 April 2024
  • In-person regional training
    w/c 27 May (1 day)
  • In-person training
    10-11 June
  • Business case submission
    31 July
  • Finalist pitching
    18 September
  • Awards
    3 October

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. Here's last year's panel to give you a flavour of who will be assessing your business idea.


Monika Langa

Executive Director Fletcher Jones

Monica Langa has been a non-executive director a number of private-equity-backed companies and of an Angel Investment Syndicate. She is a former Fund Manager/Investment Director who also worked at the Institute of Directors.

She has over 20 year’s Non-executive Board experience in the charity/voluntary and the venture capital sectors. She is an executive director of Fletcher Jones - an executive search practice, where she specialises in non-executive Board appointments and independent board evaluations, for the listed investment company and financial mutual sectors so she spends the majority of her time both advocating for and experiencing best practice in corporate governance, in some of the most highly regulated boards in the UK.

Monica holds the Institute of Director’s Certificate in Company Direction, and a MSc in Investment Analysis as well as bring a qualified banker (Chartered Institute of Bankers in Scotland), a qualified HR professional (CIPD) and psychometric test assessor. Monica co-edited the book A Director's Guide to Governance in the Boardroom, in 2022.


Anne Muir

Director of Portfolio Management Eos

Anne Muir has over 20 years’ experience in the early-stage commercialisation sector working in positions in Scottish Universities as well as independently via her own consultancy company supporting technology start-ups. Before joining Eos  - a seed stage impact investor - as Director of Portfolio Management in 2023, she was Deputy Director at the University of Dundee, heading up the commercial functions of the technology transfer office including IP management, Venture Creation, Licensing, Industrial Partnerships and Contracts. During her time at Dundee, the University was ranked in the top 5 in the UK for spin out success based on equity volume. 


Christopher Leburn

Programme and Development Manager Critical Technologies Accelerator, University of Glasgow

The Critical Technologies Accelerator programme provides access to a team of engineers with embedded expertise in the world-renowned James Watt Nanofabrication Centre. The CTA works with industry partners to deliver innovative products into new markets. Following success in the 2012 Converge Challenge, Christopher co-founded Chromacity. He led Chromacity as CEO and later as Commercial Director, growing the business beyond its 10th birthday. 


Elizabeth Pirrie

CEO AccelerateHER

As CEO of AccelerateHER and COO of Investing Women Scotland, Elizabeth moves the dial to create more opportunities for female founders. AccelerateHER includes a program of events, the AccelerateHER awards, and the support and encouragement of female founders to scale their business, accelerating growth for female founders to scale companies, access investment & be visible to inspire others. Elizabeth is working to change the face of angel investment with Scotland’s first all-female angel investment group.


Angus MacFadyen

Investment director Smart Things Accelerator Centre

Angus is a Business leader with twenty years’ experience in building, leading and transforming businesses in the B2B technology space with a particular specialism in products that combine hardware and software. He is currently Investment Director of Smart Things Accelerator Centre (STAC) and is a tech SME Board adviser.



Find answers to your questions plus a sample copy of the application form you'll need to complete.

Sample Application Form


Here's a preview of the questions you'll need to answer

Click to view

FAQs 2024


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

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Guide for Applicants 2024

Pre-Application Pack

Thinking about applying? This handy little pack explains what's involved and what to expect.

Click to view

Recoil Kneepads

Case study

Find out how Vicky's impact absorbing kneepads are helping trades people carry out their job in comfort. "I've managed to create something that genuinely helps someone else."

View case study

Current Health

Case study

Christopher McGhee, CEO of Current Health, won the 2014 KickStart prize for his AI-enabled wearable which monitors patients remotely both in hospital and at home.  Seven years later, the company was acquired by US retail giant, Best Buy, for $400million.

View case study

Dr. Lissa Herron

Enterprise Manager - East

Any Questions?
Just get in touch!