There is a range of business competitions and awards open to small and medium-sized businesses in the UK that can provide funding, support, press and much more. For earlier stage businesses, these competitions can be an excellent way to support and test new business ideas or concept and providing the resources/business networks to build an MVP or scale your startup. For more developed businesses, awards can offer industry exposure, prestige and in some cases growth capital (up to £50,000).
Below you’ll find a comprehensive list of business awards and competitions for small and medium-sized businesses (with details on each entry including prize types/amounts, entry criteria useful information pre-application and where to apply).
Growing Business Awards
The Growing Business Awards is an annual business awards ceremony brought to you by Real Deals Media in conjunction with a range of corporate sponsors; the award aims to recognise established start-ups and medium-sized businesses which achieve exceptional levels in terms of growth and innovation.
The Growing Business Awards categories include Entrepreneur of the Year, Growing Business of the Year (Large, Small and Medium), Innovator of the Year, Online Business of the Year, Rural Business of the Year, Marketing Campaign of the Year and a range of others. You can find information on previous winners and shortlisted businesses here.
Prize/award: There appear to be no prize amounts, just awards providing recognition and exposure.
Apply: To find out more and about applications and register your interest/ apply you contact them via this page.
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.
For people that are in the early stages of their business. You can check out previous winners here. To be eligible to apply, you cannot have been running for more than one year, have not received over £100,000 in finance/funding or have more than five employees.
Prize/award: Winners can receive cash prizes as well as mentoring and support to grow their startup or small business (Prize money up to £90,000).
Apply: To apply, contact your university’s enterprise department or your local Branch Manager based on campus (Santander have a central list with links to the relevant university pages here).
Cleantech Innovate celebrates the latest in low-carbon technologies and innovations in the UK. A shortlist of companies who apply to the competition each year get to present in London and are then evaluated on four criteria: impact, innovation, long-term vision, and commercial viability (to determine a winner/s).
You can find and review the stories of previous CleanTech Innovate award winners here.
Prize/award: The prize is unclear / if any, assuming the main benefit is the recognition/exposure an award would generate for a young company within the CleanTech sector.
Apply: Applications open annually for a limited amount of time, to find out about applying for the latest award, please use the link above.
Shell LiveWIRE Awards (Smarter Future Programme)
One of the longest running small business awards in the country, the Shell LiveWIRE Awards aims to support young entrepreneurs with smart and innovative ideas that meet the energy and resource needs of a fast-growing population (both in the UK and globally). Under this banner, Shell runs the Smarter Future Programme which this entry provides detail on.
Prize/award: Smarter Future Awards come in the form of start-up grants and can up to £5,000, the awards in generally run every month. Each month one 16-30-year-old entrepreneur with an idea that meets the criteria will win. Winners 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 Shell LiveWIRE Awards, visit their website.
The CleanTech Challenge is an international business plan competition run by University College London (UCL) and London Business School (LBS), focusing on providing funding, exposure and advice for innovative clean technology product ideas and teams.
The competition was founded in the idea of bringing together traditional business and young students to create viable start-ups in the CleanTech Space. Entrants are mentored by industry experts from the CleanTech, entrepreneurial and related sectors. You can check out their FAQs section for more information.
Prize/award: Teams compete over three rounds for a £10,000 prize.
Apply: You can find the relevant details in the following link.
Digital Entrepreneur Awards
The Digital Entrepreneur Awards are dedicated to online entrepreneurship coming from the UK. The awards celebrate the best of a rapidly growing technology industry and have been recognising Britain most exceptional online talent for over a decade. You can find a list of previous finalists and winners here.
Prize/award: The awards are given to small, medium and large businesses, with several different categories open for entry.
Apply: You can apply by enquiring through the following contact form to find out application details.
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.
Since its launch in 2005, Shell Springboard awarded over £3.5 million to over 86 SMEs at the cutting-edge of the low-carbon economy.
Prize/award: In 2019, over £350,000 in equity-free funding will be awarded, as well as feedback from industry-leading academics, investors and policymakers to help scale-up their enterprises.
Apply: You can apply to the Shell Springboard Awards here.
Lloyds Bank National Business Awards
Run by Lloyds the National Business Awards are for 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.
Each year, the categories change, go to the homepage menu for an up to date list.
Prize/award: The awards are quite well established and provide high-level recognition.
Apply: You can apply for the National Business Awards here.
The British Business Awards
Through 18 different awards, The British 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.
Companies need to be nominated for consideration; this can be done by the company itself or by a third party.
Prize/award: There is no cash prize; the awards celebrate the leaders of different small business sectors (upside is receiving a high level of media exposure.)
Apply: You can’t apply for the awards you must be nominated by another business/person, you can through the nomination process here.
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 EDF Pulse awards is to showcase and provide tangible support to European start-ups that are joining forces, creating and inventing tomorrow’s future in regards to Energy.
The prize is based on four categories: Smart Home, Smart Business, Smart Health, and Smart City. You must be a startup registered in a European country to be eligible.
Prize/award: Beyond recognition, each winner receive a media/marketing campaign worth up to up to €100,000.
Apply: To check out the full eligibility criteria and to find out more about applying, click the link in above.
FSB Celebrating Small Business Awards
The Celebrating Small Business Awards are for SMEs across the UK (businesses with less than 250 employees) by awarding in 11 different categories. Companies can apply for free for an unlimited number of categories.
Winning an award will make your business stand out and allow you to network with finalists, high profile judges, sponsors and more. Check out the award categories here.
Prize/award: Previous awards have meant that each category winner receives £2,000. The judges also chose an overall national winner who was awarded another £10,000. It’s not clear if this still the case or the award just provides exposure/recognition.
Apply: Use the link above to find out more about applications.
NACUE Varsity Pitch Competition
The annual NACUE Varsity Pitch Competition recognises the most innovative startups from UK students and graduates. You can enter into a range of categories.
Prize/award: A panel of industry experts will select the final winner who can win a prize of up to £15,000 in cash.
Apply: You can apply via F6S (click the apply button on the homepage linked above, the F6S link changes, each year so we haven’t linked it here).
The 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.
Awards are given to those businesses that are having a genuinely positive impact on people’s lives and the communities that surround them. The awards are open to companies of any size, sector and location. Every award entrant receives expert feedback on their entry, which at the very least may help to strengthen their business approach going forward.
Prize/award: Prize amounts for winners are unspecified. There is a range of award categories, including The Age-Friendly Teams Award, The Connected Places Award, The Gender Equality Award and more.
Apply: To enter the award, use the link above to access the specific award category application details.
The Mayor’s Entrepreneur Competition
The Mayor’s Entrepreneur Competition is 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). 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.
Prize/award: You can win up to £20,000 (there are three prize funds) and undefined support from City Hall to turn your idea into reality.
Apply: Use the above link to find out about the latest application details.
Hatch Business Competition
Hatch is a business competition to support entrepreneurs who are interested in growing their business by getting the opportunity to trade in an established retail zone/environment (without the taking on the extortionate cost).
Prize/award: Up to 3 months rent, rates and utilities covered in a major retail location (typically on offer are shops within shopping centres). You’ll also get a year’s free membership to British Independent Retailers Association (BIRA) and expert support/advice from the retail centre team (of the location you choose).
Apply: You can apply to the Hatch competition here.
Inactive business competitions & awards
This award/competition appear to be no longer active, they’ve been kept on the list as sometimes they remain dormant for a number of years before becoming active again. So its worth checking them via search if your exhausted all other competition and awards possibilities for your business.
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/award: 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.
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 enables university students who want to gain global exposure and collaborate with fellow social entrepreneurs.
Prize/award: 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.
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. The competition is open to university teams in the UK and China, which have a current and genuine University connection.
Prize/award: There are £13,000 cash prizes and investment opportunities of £500,000 for the best business plans.
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/award: 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.
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/award: Two grants will be awarded: a Grand Prize of £20,000; and a Runner-Up Prize of £10,000.
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/award: 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.
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 companies must be over one year old, UK based and not an existing client of Shake It Up Creative Ltd.
Prize/award: 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.)
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 five categories, including Successful expansion overseas and Staying ahead of the competition, and you can apply for more than one.
Prize/award: The prize is the recognition in front of over 350 distinguished guests from the franchising industry.
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 five 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/award: 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.
Related: A guide to business angels
MIT IDEAS Global Challenge
This award/competition is open but only to MIT students (who can be of British origin, due to limited access we’ve moved to the bottom of the list).
IDEAS provides funding to social entrepreneurship projects led by MIT students. Teams have to create projects that offer 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.
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Prize/award: Winning teams receive up to $15,000 to launch their projects.