The Start-up Lab


Think BIG winners 2014

The University and Students' Union manage a number of competitions that recognise and reward student and graduate enterprise.

Launch-it! Business Ideas Competition

Since its launch in 2002, Launch-it! (formerly Think BIG) has received over 550 applications and presented more than 60 big cash prizes to student and graduate businesses.

It’s a great way to kick-start your business, receive additional business advice and support, gain experience of pitching to potential investors and gain publicity and recognition.

Visit the competition website to find out more.

The Enterprise Awards

The Enterprise Awards celebrate the University’s academic engagement with business, public and voluntary organisations to create social, cultural and economic impact through knowledge exchange – as well as the achievements of our graduate entrepreneurs.

Loughborough Students' Union opportunities and competitions

The Students' Union manages a range of opportunities and competitions for both individuals and teams, spanning Hall Challenges, hackathons and its very own version of The Apprentice. Find out more by visiting the LSU Enterprise website.

As well as the University competitions on offer to you, there are plenty of regional, national and international initiatives that champion enterprise and could really help kickstart your fledgling business.

App Challenges

There are plenty of competitions out there, inviting you to create an app. The App Challenge website is a good place to start…

Baldwins KickStart

Baldwins KickStart celebrates the entrepreneurial spirit of 18-25 year olds across the Midlands. With big cash prizes and expert mentoring the winners are given the chance to turn their business ideas into reality.

COINS Construction Industry Grand Challenge

A competition for construction innovators who have great ideas addressing the industry’s energy consumption and need for sustainable leadership. As well as the chance to showcase your ideas and access mentoring and R&D support, there are some valuable prizes on offer. Find out more by visiting the COINS website.

Cotswold Fayre – Young Food and Drink Entrepreneur of the Year

Fine food distributor, Cotswold Fayre, invites applications to its annual competition – Young Food and Drink Entrepreneur of the Year. The winner receives funding and a year of business mentoring. Find out more by visiting the competition website.

Dragons' Den

Perhaps one of the most well-known competitions for UK entrepreneurs is the BBC’s Dragons’ Den. If you would like the opportunity to pitch your business idea to the panel, visit the BBC website and apply online.

Engineering YES (not just for engineers!)

Engineering YES (Young Entrepreneurs Scheme) pits postgraduate research students and post-doctoral researchers from across the country against one another, giving them the skills and knowledge to commercialise their inventions.

Finalists take part in an intensive residential workshop, culminating in a Dragon's Den style pitch for their chance to win the top prize of £2,000.

You don't have to be an engineer to take part - just keen to develop your entrepreneurial know-how.

GEN Startup Open

Open to new businesses in any sector that have yet to raise investment funding, the GEN Startup Open offers you the chance to attend the Global Entrepreneurship Congress to showcase your startup and learn from successful entrepreneurs as well as membership of the GEN Starters Club Membership. An annual competition - check the website for the next submission deadline.

Heatrae Sadia Design Awards 2018

This Award celebrates innovative design that encourages efficient energy use and overcomes various design challenges - and the winner will receive a £10,000 prize. Open to UK university students on a relevant degree programme, the competition invites you to design an innovative solution in the Water Heating  product category for a commercial or domestic market. The closing date is 31 May 2018. Find out more >>


The James Dyson Award 2017

Each year, world-renowned designer and engineer James Dyson and his team hunt for solutions to real-world problems. Their brief is simple – design something that solves a problem.

The competition is open to any university-level student (current or within four years of graduating) whose specialism is product design, industrial design or engineering – and it offers some big cash prizes.

Further information is available on the James Dyson Award website.

John Lewis – JLAB

"Help shape the retail experience of the future."

The annual JLAB competition gives you the opportunity to compete for investment, mentorship and a chance to supply your product to John Lewis.

MIT Global Startup Workshop competitions

The winner of the MIT GSW annual Business Plan Competition receives $10,000 seed money to take their company to the next level.

Selected finalists also 

  • Compete against 10 teams from around the world
  • Receive direct feedback from judges and mentors
  • Have a guaranteed slot in the second round of MassChallenge, the prestigious Boston-based, high-impact startup accelerator

The winner of sister competition, MIT GSW Elevator Pitch Competition, is awarded $2,000.

Find out more about the next MIT GSW and competitions by visiting the MIT GSW website.


MyKindaCrowd turns your ideas into rewards – prizes, work-experience, cash and even jobs – whilst boosting your CV. Whatever you're interested in there's a challenge for you.

NACUE Varsity Pitch Competition 2017

NACUE invite student and graduate businesses to enter their annual Varsity Pitch Competition for the chance to win £10,000, a national title and plenty of valuable networking opportunities. Visit the NACUE website to find out more.

The New Entrepreneurs Foundation

The New Entrepreneurs Foundation offers a unique, intensive 12-month programme which provides aspiring entrepreneurs with the hands-on experience, skills and networks to build scalable businesses. 

The programme comprises

  • a paid work placement with an entrepreneurial company – previous hosts include start-ups, Seatwave and FitFlop and established brands Travelex, Intuit and TalkTalk
  • monthly workshops
  • networking opportunities
  • executive coaching
  • business mentoring

If you are a final year student or recent graduate with the passion and ambition to become a successful entrepreneur – find out how to become a NEFer now!

Royal Academy of Engineering Enterprise Hub - Launchpad competition

This competition offers a unique opportunity to start and grow a leading technology company. As well as a substantial cash prize, the winner has the chance to pitch to leading UK Angel groups, and is invited to join the Academy’s Enterprise Hub which provides mentoring and exclusive events. Find out more >>

Santander 60 Second Pitch Awards

The 60 Second Pitch gives you the chance to win up to £1,500 business funding as well as support and advice from Santander.

The Santander Universities Entrepreneurship Awards

The annual Santander Universities Entrepreneurship Awards are open to undergraduates, postgraduates and graduates. The best entries from the University are submitted to the national stage of the competition.

If you'd like to find out more and submit an application, contact Emma Bishop or Marina Pickles – or call in at The Enterprise Hub in the LSU.

Previous Loughborough winners include Ross Kemp, Laurence Kemball-Cook and Simon Lyons.

Shell LiveWIRE programme

The Shell LiveWIRE programme provides free online business advice and funding to young entrepreneurs in the UK. The competitive Smarter Future Programme is open to people with creative ideas that address sustainable living challenges. Winners receive a start-up grant of £5,000 as well as mentoring.


SomePitching – a crowdsourced online competition for testing new business ideas – is open to anyone with a fresh business idea looking for feedback from potential customers and experienced professionals. The competition also needs people to make up the public jury to evaluate and offer feedback to contestants. Participants receive validation, market analysis, advice from potential customers and professionals – and win great prizes.

Space and space-enabled applications

The Loughborough University Space Incubator can help you find out about local support, competitions and other opportunities in space and space-enabled applications. Contact Pauline Graham.

Startup TV competition

Is your business area clothes, health and beauty, gifts, toys, home, electronics, or gardening? If so, Hub TV are looking for startups like yours for a new show. The 12 selected companies receive mentoring and seed-funding as well as the chance to win £20,000 to grow their business. Find out more >>

TARGETjobs Innovative Undergraduate of the Year Award

This annual award recognises entrepreneurial spirit and digital savvy. Prizes include a two-week summer internship with Barclays, one-year membership of Barclays Eagle Labs, membership of RISE and a Fitbit Blaze. The closing date for submissions is 29 January 2018. More information is available on the competition website.

Universities Business Challenge

Develop your employability and enterprise skills by taking part in the annual Universities Business Challenge. To find out more and join a Loughborough team, contact Marina Pickles who will be able to advise on when the next round of the Challenge begins.

UKTI's Sirius Programme

If you are a current student or recent graduate with entrepreneurial ambition, now is the time to take the first steps towards getting your business up and running in the UK by applying for the UKTI’s new Sirius Programme.

The Programme offers a support package to enable you to move to the UK and set up your business, including

  • £12,000 of investment in your business
  • a place in a top business accelerator programme
  • mentoring support
  • assistance with your UK visa

You can enter whether you have already started your business or if you just have a great idea. 

UnLtd Awards for social entrepreneurs

UnLtd is a leading provider of support to UK social entrepreneurs, and offers a range of competitive programmes that support innovative projects with funding, ongoing advice and practical support.

Success stories

Ali Foroughi

Ali launched Jungle magazine in 2013 to showcase the work of both established and aspiring creative artists around the globe.

Sophie-Louise Hyde

Launched in 2013, The Student Wordsmith is the go-to place for students and graduates keen to read material by various writers – both established and previously undiscovered – that reflects their own experiences.

Simon Lyons

Simon’s design company, Version 22, develops innovative products that address household problems – like storage and opening awkward packaging.

Ali Foroughi

Ali launched Jungle magazine in 2013 to showcase the work of both established and aspiring creative artists around the globe.

Sophie-Louise Hyde

Launched in 2013, The Student Wordsmith is the go-to place for students and graduates keen to read material by various writers – both established and previously undiscovered – that reflects their own experiences.

Simon Lyons

Simon’s design company, Version 22, develops innovative products that address household problems – like storage and opening awkward packaging.