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List of business competitions & awards in the UK

We’ve put together a list of the best small business competitions around the UK, competitions are great for exposure, cash prizes & PR for small businesses
David Friel

/ Last updated on 20th October 2017

There is a range of UK and internationally-based business awards and competitions that provide funding, support, press and much more to startups, entrepreneurs and new business ventures. They can be a great source for testing your concept and providing the resources/ networks to grow your startup.

Related: List of small business grants

These start-up competitions range from the Shell Livewire award that offers monthly prizes of £1,000 to four businesses, and some prizes in excess of £10,000, to the Lloyds Enterprise and business awards that aim to support small and medium businesses with prizes up to £50,000. These competitions and others are a good way to secure initial resources, finance or support for an expansion.

List of business competitions

Growing Business Awards

The Growing Business Awards 2017 edition is brought to you by Real Business in conjunction with Amazon, the award recognises established start-ups and medium sized businesses for exceptional growth and innovation.

Prize: Awards include Entrepreneur of the Year, Growing Business of the Year (Large, Small and Medium), Innovator of the Year, and a range of others. Prize amounts are unclear on the website.

Useful: You can find information on previous winners and shortlisted businesses here.

Apply? To find out more and about applications and register your interest you contact them via e-mail.

EDF Pulse Award

As the world’s leading electricity producer, EDF innovates within its various areas of business to reduce CO2 emissions and encourage more restrained and efficient use of energy. The goal of the awards is to showcase and provide tangible support to European start-ups that are joining forces, creating and inventing tomorrow’s future.

Prize: In 2017 there will be 5 winners (4 Jury Awards and 1 Audience Award) and all will get a media campaign and up to €100,000.

Useful: The prize is based on four categories: Smart Home, Smart Business, Smart Health, and Smart City.

Apply? To check out the eligibility criteria and submit your entry visit their website.

Santander Universities Entrepreneurship Awards

The Santander Universities Entrepreneurship Awards are aimed at student and graduate business ventures in their early stages from their UK partner universities.

Prize: Winners can receive cash prizes as well as mentoring and support to grow their startup or small business. The 2017 edition has £82,000 in cash prizes.

Useful: For people that are in the early stages of their business. You can check out previous winners here.

Apply? To apply contact your university’s enterprise department or your local Branch Manager based on campus.

CleanTech Innovate 2017

Cleantech Innovate celebrates the latest in low-carbon technologies and innovations in the UK. 36 selected companies will present in London and are evaluated on four criteria: impact, innovation, long-term vision, and commercial viability.

Prize: The prize is unclear (assumed a good deal of award recognition.)

Useful: Applications close on 19 January 2017.

Apply? If you missed the deadline, you can register as a delegate through the following web address. You can also enquire about being a presenter for 2018.

The Mayor’s Entrepreneur Competition

The Mayor’s Entrepreneur Competition are looking for ground-breaking ideas to help reduce London’s carbon emissions. The competition is open to students and recent graduates of London universities (both commercial and non-commercial ideas/projects are welcome.)

Prize: You can win up to £20,000 and undefined support from City Hall to turn your idea into reality.

Useful: Applications have to be submitted in one go online, so make sure you to check out the questions and prepare your application offline beforehand. If you have questions, you can always e-mail them.

Apply? To apply fill out the form here.

IE Venture Day London

IE business School invites all budding entrepreneurs to submit their idea to pitch venture day.

Prize: The prize amounts are unclear.

Useful: It can prove to be an amazing opportunity for start-ups. It can allow them to network with investors, mentors and successful entrepreneurs.

Apply? You can keep an eye out for upcoming Venture Days here.

Shell LiveWIRE Awards

 The Smarter Future Programme supports young entrepreneurs with smart and innovative ideas that meet the energy and resource needs of a fast-growing population.

Prize: The programme awards a start-up grant of £5,000 each month to one 16-30 year-old entrepreneur with an idea that addresses sustainable living challenges through smart innovation. Winners also have access to exclusive Shell events and workshops and the opportunity to be considered for the annual £25,000 Shell LiveWIRE Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award.

Apply? To apply for the Smarter Future Programme, visit their website.

Prince’s Responsible Business Awards

The annual Responsible Business Awards are presented by Business in the Community and seek to celebrate the amazing social value and societal impact, being delivered by organisations right across the UK, and internationally.

Prize: Awards are given to those businesses that are having a truly positive impact on people’s lives and the communities that surround them. Prize amounts for winners are unspecified.

Useful: It’s open to companies of any size, sector and location. Every award entrant receives bespoke expert feedback on their entry which is used by many to strengthen their business approach going forward. Find further information here.

Apply? To enter the competition, register on their website.

Future 100 Awards

The Future 100 awards recognise young entrepreneurs of ages 20 to 35, who show top entrepreneurial and innovation abilities to develop a socially and environmentally responsible business project.

Prize: Prizes are given to top business projects which maintain a balance between the achievement of economic, environmental and social goals. The amount is not specified.

Useful: Other details about the Future 100 awards are available here.

Apply? Details on the application process are provided here.

Verb U Dell Social Innovation Challenge

Verb U competition is a part of the Dell Social Innovation Challenge, which supports university students and graduates across the world to start their business. This competition gives an opportunity to university students who want to gain global exposure and collaborate with fellow social entrepreneurs.

Prize: Dell Social Innovation Challenge (DSIC) has so far engaged students and social entrepreneurs from different regions and has awarded more than $800,000 in prizes.

Useful: The rules of the competition are presented here.

Apply? You can check their website for more details and to register & get started.

NACUE Varsity Pitch Competition

Annual NACUE Varsity Pitch Competition recognises the most innovative startups from UK students and graduates. You can enter into two categories by submitting a 60-second video pitch.

Prize: A panel of industry experts will select the final winner who will be prized £10,000 in cash.

Useful: You can access the terms and conditions here.

Apply? Application details can be found here. Keep an eye out for the 2017 registration dates.

CleanTech Challenge

The CleanTech Challenge is an international business plan competition for innovative clean technology product ideas.

Prize: A team would be asked to compete over three rounds for a £10,000 grant awarded by University College London (UCL) and London Business School (LBS).

Useful: It brings together business and student to create viable start-ups. Entrants are mentored by industry experts from the CleanTech, entrepreneurial and related sectors. You can check out their FAQs section for more information.

Apply? You can find the relevant details in the following link.

China UK Entrepreneurship Challenge

The China-UK Challenge aims to encourage new business ventures between China and the United Kingdom. It is intended to simulate the real-world process of entrepreneurs soliciting start-up funds from early-stage investors and venture capital firms.

Prize: There are £14,000 cash prizes and investment opportunities of £500,000 for the best business plans.

Useful: The competition is open to university teams in the UK and China which have a current and genuine University connection.

Apply? You can take part in this competition by emailing relevant details provided in the following link.

Nectar Business Small Business Awards

Since 2005 nectar business has given rewards to British business including team dinners, holidays and trips to the cinema.

Prize: The winner of each category will receive 50,000 Nectar points, £2,000, nationwide publicity and an invitation to an exclusive roundtable event and awards ceremony.

Useful: Find out what the Nectar points can get you.

Apply? You need to set up an online account on their website, the relevant details are found on their website.

Digital Entrepreneur Awards

The Digital Entrepreneur Awards are the UK’s only national awards dedicated to online entrepreneurship. The awards celebrate the best of a rapidly growing industry and have been recognising Britain finest online talent for 12 consecutive years.

Prize: The awards are given to small, medium and large businesses based on different tech categories.

Useful: Here is a list of last year’s finalists and winners.

Apply? You can apply by making an enquiry through the following contact form.

FedEX Small Business Grant UK

FedEx is helping small businesses with the FedEx Small Business Grant UK. Giving the chance to win £20,000, FedEx is looking to help these companies achieve their international ambitions.

Prize: Two grants will be awarded: a Grand Prize of £20,000; and a Runner-Up Prize of £10,000.

Useful: Participants register online, where they will be asked about their business plans to go global. You can see a sample entry here.

Apply? You can enter the competition through the following web address.

Shell Springboard Awards

The Shell Springboard programme supports the brightest UK businesses innovating for a lower carbon future. Any UK-registered SME can apply to Shell Springboard but they must be focused on reducing carbon emissions, be commercially viable and innovative.

Prize: The national winner will be awarded £150,000, and a further five regional winners will each get £40,000 of equity-free funding, as well as feedback from industry-leading academics, investors and policymakers to help scale-up their enterprises. 

Useful: Since its launch in 2005, Shell Springboard awarded approximately £3 million to over 86 SMEs at the cutting-edge of the low-carbon economy.

Apply? To apply for Shell Springboard Awards, visit Shell Springboard website.

Shake to Create

Shake to Create is a competition for SMEs to win 35 free hours of creative work. You need to create a brief video pitch on what your company needs to keep up the growth and why they should choose your business. To apply businesses must be over 1 year old, UK based and not an existing client of Shake It Up Creative Ltd.

Prize: The winner gets 35 free hours of creative work for their growing business. It includes design, marketing, PR and website development services (does not include SEO services.)

Useful:  Submissions must be in by May 5th, 2017.

Apply? To apply for Shake to Create visit their website.

L’Oreal Brandstorm

If you’re a student you can form a team of 3 and take up the challenge of innovating for one of L’Oreal’s brands. Teams go through pitching, a national selection, a regional selection, and two are announced winners at the world finals.

Prize: There’s a tech award (10, 000€), brand award (10, 000€), CSR trophy (5, 000€), and a flight to Paris. There are also mentoring, coaching, and networking opportunities.

Useful: You need to be a student attending an undergraduate or a graduate course.

Apply? You can apply on their website.

MIT IDEAS Global Challenge

IDEAS provides funding to social entrepreneurship projects led by MIT students. Teams have to create projects that provide solutions to social issues at a local or global scale, and are mentored throughout the year. In the process, they can also receive development grants as well as further support.

Prize: Winning teams receive up to $15,000 to launch their projects.

Useful: The team has to be led by an MIT student but team members can be from anywhere around the world.

Apply? Learn how to enter the competition here.

Lloyds Bank National Business Awards

Lloyds have award categories for companies of all sizes, from start-ups to SMEs to large firms. The Awards guarantee a high level of exposure and networking opportunities as over 1,000 business people, politicians, investors and press attend the ceremony.

Prize: The awards are quite well established and provide high-level recognition.

Useful: You can check out the 17 business categories here.

Apply? You can register for the Awards through this link.

British Small Business Awards

Through 18 different awards, the British Small Business Awards aim to recognise leaders in the small business community. Annual categories vary from Insurance provider of the year, to Retail business of the year, to Disruptor of the year and more.

Prize: There is no cash prize, the awards celebrate the leaders of the small business sector (assumed they receive a high level of media exposure.)

Useful: Companies need to be nominated for consideration, this can be done by the company itself or by a third party.

Apply? You can go through the nomination process here.

FSB & Worldpay UK Business Awards

FSB & Worldpay celebrate SMEs across the UK (businesses with less than 250 employees) by awarding in 11 different categories. Businesses can apply for free for an unlimited number of categories. Winning an award will make your business stand out and give you the opportunity to network with finalists, high profile judges, sponsors and more.

Prize: Each category winner receives £2,000. The judges also choose an overall national winner who is awarded another £10,000.

Useful: Check out the categories here.

Apply? You can enter the competition here.

bfa HSBC Franchisor of the Year

The HSBC Franchisor awards recognise the best within the franchising industry. Receiving this honour in Birmingham will also help gain exposure, boost your brand image and solidify your achievements as a franchisor. There are 5 categories, including Successful expansion overseas and Staying ahead of the competition, and you can apply for more than one.

Prize: The prize is the recognition in front of over 350 distinguished guests from the franchising industry.

Useful: If you’re entering for more than one category you will need to submit a written entry for each one (company documentation has to be submitted only once.)

Apply? You can find more details and apply here.

bfa HSBC Franchisee of the Year

The HSBC Franchisee awards will go to the franchisees who show the dedication, passion and commitment to their brand and trajectory. The 5 annual categories are: Female franchisee of the year, Young franchisee of the year, Customer Focus franchisee of the year, Microbusiness franchisee of the year and Franchisee innovation.

Prize: The awards will recognise you as one of the UK’s most exceptional franchisees of the year and as a leading example in the industry.

Useful: You can enter a franchisee for a maximum of three categories. If you’re entering for more than one, you will need to submit a written entry for each one (company documentation has to be submitted only once.)

Apply? You can download your entry form here.

Related: A guide to business angels

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