Personal Immigration

List of Endorsing Bodies for Innovator and Startup Visas

Today, the Start Up and Innovator visa routes open.  In our previous posts, we broke down the general and specific requirements for Start-up and Innovator visas.  We pointed out that whichever of the routes you follow, your business will need to be endorsed by a Home Office approved endorsing body.  The Home Office has now published a list of endorsing bodies for both Start up and Innovator visas.  In this post we have fleshed out the list of business endorsing bodies for both Start-ups and Innovators.

According to the Home Office Guidance the endorsing bodies can “decide whether to accept open applications or to only issue endorsements to business founders you are already working with through your existing activities.” If the bodies choose to accept open applications, it is recommended (but not required) that they set out clearly any parameters they wish to apply on the types of business they will endorse, to avoid receiving unsuitable applications.

List of Endorsing Bodies for Innovator and Startup Visas

The list of endorsing bodies for Innovator and Startup visa applications is currently (as of 29 March 2019) as follows:

  • The Bakery – has 4 programmes: the Start Programme (for pre-idea and pre-team individual entrepreneurs), the Accelerate Programme (for early stage tech companies looking to accelerate growth by working with a corporate), the Partner Programme (for start-ups looking to get revenue from their first big customer), and the Invest Programme (for start-ups looking for strategically aligned corporate investors).
  • Seed Camp – is a European seed fund that identifies and invests in word-class founders attacking large global markets. They have backed more than 650 founders and do not focus on any single sector.
  • Invest Northern Ireland – is Northern Ireland’s regional business development agency focused on growing the local economy. They are a part of the Department for Economy and support businesses by delivering the Government’s economic development strategies.  
  • Zinc – has a 9-month full-time company-builder programme. Each programme has a single mission, to solve a social problem in the developed world which affects at least 100 million people. Mission 3 is currently open and will start on 30 September 2019 for 50 founders who want to build a brand new business with the mission of adding 5 more years of high-quality to everyone’s later life. It is said on their website that they anticipate they will be able to endorse applicants for an appropriate UK visa. It is expected that potential founders will include clinicians, engineers, financial services experts, creative designers, researchers, serial entrepreneurs, product managers, NGO innovators, life scientists, care managers, and others. They are looking for founders who will have ambition and drive, commitment to social impact, commercial mindset, fresh insight, creativity, comfort with uncertainty, obsession with meeting user needs, power to mobilise supporters and an ability to get things done. Zinc will provide a £12,000 stipend over 9 months, 12 months workspace in the Central London base, and will be a founding shareholder in return for an 8% stake.
  • Deep Science Ventures – identifies neglected high value markets, such as Pharma, Energy, Food & Agriculture and drivers of success and opportunities in these markets and builds science-based companies to address them.
  • Wayra – connects technological innovators with Telefónica to generate joint business opportunities. Over the last 7 years, Wayra UK has supported 180 companies and invested cash and business development support. They run a series of programmes across multiple industries including Pharma, digital technology, engineering, intelligent mobility, cyber security, and AI & Blockchain.
  • Ignite – is one of Europe’s leading accelerator programmes supporting founders from the idea stage through to raising Series A funding, refining concepts, building traction and building a scalable business. Their current pre-accelerator and accelerator programmes are in the North East and in Northern Ireland.
  • Bethnal Green Ventures – invests in technology that has the potential to transform the world’s pressing environmental and social challenges. Their themes focus on health, sustainability, education, civic engagement, tech to support young people and WorkerTech.
  • Codebase – self-describes as a “tech cluster”. It is the largest technology incubator in the UK, based in Edinburgh.
  • Capital Enterprise – is a body of connectors, influencers, investors and policy-makers who collaborate to scale Start-ups in London. They have supported 2,150 SMEs since 2014 and provided 158 Startups with investment from their own funds. They have multiple programmes including CASTS for tech start-ups, CAP – AI for startups using Machine Learning or other computational methods, LCIF for high growth tech, science and digital startups in London, AI Seed for early stage deep tech startups using AI and machine learning, Green Light Programme for London based tech founders, CAP Talent for summer tech internships, OneTech for tech startups founded by women and minority ethnicity backgrounds and IDEALondon a post-accelerator centre in London’s Tech City.
  • Cylon – focuses exclusively on growing cyber security businesses, and runs a one-week intensive pre-accelerator programme for individuals with ideas at HutZero – London. Cyber security is defined broadly: to date they have accelerated 76 companies in fields including Blockchain, Skills, IOT, Compliance, Insurance, Data Protection, Privacy, Risk, Identity, Cloud Security, Human Risk and more.  
  • TechX – run by the Oil & Gas Technology Centre provides expertise and support as a technology accelerator and incubator for start-ups and SMEs looking to enter the oil and gas industry. They run a Pioneer Programme providing up to £100,000 funding available to start-ups with new technology ideas (with no equity or payback to TechX, and developers retaining all IP. The second cohort has already been chosen and will start in May 2019. TechX also runs a venture with Deep Science Ventures (mentioned above).
  • Seed Haus – is a pre-seed tech accelerator that invests in early-stage founders to build startups across multiple industries (e.g. Cybersecurity, Robotics, Healthtech, IoT/Wearables, Logistics, MarTech and AdTech).
  • Med City – will support skilled business people working in life sciences.
  • Scottish Edge – is a competition aimed at identifying and supporting Scotland’s entrepreneurial talent. According to their statistics, there have been 2,990 applications and 350 business supported so far. Round 15 of Scottish Edge opens in July 2019 and is in the form of an online application and 3-minute video presentation. These are assessed by an independent panel against the following criteria: innovation, entrepreneurial spirit, business growth potential, customer focused, utilisation of funding and risk awareness.
  • Royal Society Edinburgh – is an educational charity that contributes to social, cultural and economic wellbeing of Scotland through the advancement of learning and useful knowledge. It covers a wide range of disciplines including science & technology, arts, humanities, social science, business and public service.
  • Tech Nation – has long been an endorsing body for the Tier 1 Exceptional Talent and Promise routes, and will now also be an endorsing body for both Innovators and Startups. On their website Tech Nation explain it is currently developing its own operating procedures for these routes and will not begin accepting or processing applications for digital technology entrepreneurs until September 2019.
  • NatWest Entrepreneur Accelerator, Royal Bank of Scotland Entrepreneur Accelerator and Ulster Bank Entrepreneur Accelerator each have three very similar programmes available: Pre-Accelerator (fully-funded 8-week programme for early start-ups), Accelerator (fully-funded six-month programme for high growth businesses), and Fintech Accelerator (fully-funded 6-month programme commencing each April and October for businesses rooted in financial technology). The application process includes completing an application form on the website, choosing a preferred location and programme. The types of things considered are, whether you are the owner or decision maker in your business, whether you will be working full-time on the business, if there are customers for the products/services, if you employ staff, if you aim to build your team, if you are looking to grow or scale the business, if the business is already growing and if you are committed to accelerating that growth.
  • Set Squared BristolSETsquared Bristol was launched by the University of Bristol in 2002 and currently supports over 80 innovative ventures. Its incubation programme is only open to technology startups, where the idea is knowledge-based (seeking to exploit intellectual property or novel information) and has very high commercial growth potential.  It is also said that their services are geared towards supporting companies that meet these criteria, but they understand that every business is unique and they have some flexibility in the aforementioned criteria. They will look favourably on applications featuring genuinely original ideas, capable of attracting investment. They are keen that people involved in the venture are open to outside support and advice and are looking to accelerate the company to market. More information can be found on their blog here. There are different monthly fees for business membership depending on whether it is virtual or residential.
  • Set Squared Exeter – runs a Business Acceleration programme and business incubator programmes at two locations in Exeter: University of Exeter Innovation Centre and The University of Exeter Innovation Centre. It supports established or high-tech, high-growth businesses and persons with innovative ideas in areas including cyber security, digital start-ups, crowdfunding, security and risk management, precision engineering, renewable energy and more; provides student enterprise; and enables academics to maximise the impact of their research. The centres have dedicated business and technology support staff available, who provide business acceleration services to clients at all stages of development.
  • Set Squared Southampton – is located at the University of Southampton’s Science park in Chilworth. It also provides support to the local high-tech community, including in data security, software, electronics and telecoms.  They offer a Business incubation model with virtual, pre-incubation and incubation stage companies. As with the other SETsquared centres there are a pool of experienced mentors and a variety of events including workshops and seminars for members.
  • Set Squared Surrey – also supports high-tech, high-growth start-ups in the 74,000 sq ft Surrey Technology Centre. The programme does not take equity in businesses but rather helps members grow in its flexible office space. They have accelerated 165+ early stage high-growth technology businesses since 2002. There is a monthly fee for membership depending on whether it is virtual or residential. The criteria and application process appears similar to that of SETsquared Bristol.

Higher Education Institution Endorsing Bodies

The Home Office has also published a list of all of the authorised higher education institution endorsing bodies for Start up visas (as of 29 March 2019).

Contact our Immigration Barristers

For expert advice and assistance regarding the list of endorsing bodies for Start-up and Innovator visas, an application for endorsement for a Start-up or Innovator visa application, or for professional assistance with preparing a Start-up or Innovator visa application, contact our business immigration barristers in London on 0203 617 9173 or via our enquiry form below.


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