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 Innovator visa endorsing bodies and a list of Start-up visa endorsing bodies. In this post we have fleshed out the list of endorsing bodies for Innovator visa and Start-up visa applications.

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 Visas and Start-up Visas

The list of endorsing bodies for Innovator visa and Start-up visa applications is currently (updated as of 29 April 2021) as follows:

  • The Bakery – state that they endorse bona-fide entrepreneurs who qualify for their corporate innovation programmes. They have 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).
  • Bethnal Green Ventures – is an early stage investor 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. They will only endorse start-up entrepreneurs accepted onto their support programmes. They allow individual applications but are more likely to invest in a team, with a focus on collaboration in launching and scaling a business. BGV recruits twice a year and provides £20K investment for 6% equity stake with ongoing support offered following completion of the intensive 3-month programme. BGV state they are open to applications if investment is already secured but will want to see what has been achieved with those funds at an early stage.
  • Blue Orchid Enterprise Solutions Ltd – provides market-leading support programmes for business start-ups and growing SMEs, along with bespoke consultancy services across the UK. They will only endorse high growth start-ups who are working within their client base across England’s North West and West Midlands. All sectors. Will accept innovator applications all year round. Start-up applicants must be resident in the UK at the time of their application and are required to participate in Blue Orchid’s business Start-up training programme, including both mandatory workshops and 1-2-1 mentoring, which will incur a cost.
  • Britbots – award-winning investment vehicle that will back brilliant UK-based robotics, artificial intelligence and automation businesses. Based in East Anglia but endorses businesses throughout the UK. Accepts application all year round. Participants must join the Britbots’ business mentoring programme.
  • Capital Enterprise (IDEA London) – 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, OneTech to boost access to investment and entrepreneurial support for tech startups founded by women and minority ethnicity backgrounds, CAP Talent a summer internship programme placing Masters and Undergraduate students into London’s tech startups, IDEALondon a post-accelerator centre in London’s Tech City and AI Seed for upto 20 early stage deep tech startups using AI and machine learning. They will only be endorsing founders within their community, but say to check back as this may change with time.
  • Cardiff Metropolitan University – endorse their own graduates who have previously been endorsed through the start-up route or who have been working closely with their Centre for Entrepreneurship.
  • Communities and Business Partners (CBP) – Community & Business Partners is an organisation based in Blackburn providing services to both the local community and businesses across the NorthWest. They offer a 3-year Business Support Programme and state that all companies on this programme will meet the criteria for endorsement. Applications for endorsement are also accepted via an online form initially. Selected endorsements are considered for high-growth business opportunities across the UK. All sectors.
  • Consilium Consulting – committed to supporting entrepreneurs to achieve their business vision. They offer a comprehensive, compulsory Mentoring Programme, Business Workshop, Networking and Funding opportunities to dynamic, innovative entrepreneurs across all sectors. Based in Cardiff, they are interested in those seeking opportunities in Wales and accept applications all year round.
  • CyLon – finds, grows and invests in the world’s best emerging cyber businesses, through its world-leading 3-month accelerator and 1 week pre-accelerator programmes in London and Singapore. Since 2015 CyLon has accelerated close to 100 cyber companies, and is ranked as the 5th most active investor in cyber security globally. CyLon’s definition of “cyber security” is very broad. To date CyLon has supported startups in fields including Blockchain, Skills, IOT, Compliance, Insurance, Data Protection, Privacy, Risk, Identity, Cloud Security, Human Risk, Autonomous Vehicles and much more. CyLon is interested in hearing from emerging cyber security companies or entrepreneurs planning on setting up an innovative cyber start-up.
  • 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. They say to apply if you are a scientist or engineer determined to start a deep science company and have listed their current opportunities here.
  • DRS Business Solutions – provides practical, commercial advice and consultancy to entrepreneurs on business strategy, planning, plans, forecasting and finances, delivered on a flexible, one-to-one basis. All sectors. Endorses business UK-wide, all year round. DRSBS will only consider applications for endorsement from those individuals with whom they are working within their client base.
  • Edinburgh Innovations – the University of Edinburgh’s commercialisation service. Working with students, researchers and external organisations, they proactively identify, pursue and support opportunities in collaborative research, contract research, consultancy, studentships, secondments, executive education, startup and spinout creation, licensing, mentoring and incubation. All sectors. Endorse businesses UK-wide but prefer Scotland. Restricted to those who have a close demonstrable relationship with the University of Edinburgh.
  • Emerge Education – Emerge Education invests in pre-seed and seed rounds and supports the growth of early stage startups focused on higher education, lifelong learning and the future of work. Once they have invested, founders join their networks and are connected to universities and corporates.
  • Emsworth Corporate Planning (ECP) – provides business implementation and mentoring services for dynamic and disruptive companies looking to establish themselves in the UK. Using a systematic approach, they are prepared to review a sector-agnostic range of business opportunities, from global talented entrepreneurs. UK wide. Restricted to applicants who sign-up to the ECP Business Implementation and Mentoring Service, which will incur a cost.
  • Entrepreneur First (EF) – funds people to form and scale companies that transform industries. EF gives individuals the opportunity to meet a co-founder, form a company, and develop technology and business strategy, all while supported by mentors from EF’s team. Founders can receive investments from EF and external investors. All areas associated with technology. Endorses business in Greater London. Accepts applications all year round. Restricted to individuals who obtain and accept a place on the EF programme and sign an offer letter confirming their attendance, as well as businesses that were funded by EF.
  • Envestors Limited – Envestors is an award-winning, FCA regulated finance advisor in the UK. Founded in 2004, they are experts at identifying and mentoring talented and high-growth companies. They cover all sectors and geographic areas. Applications for endorsement are accepted all year round via an online form initially. Only exceptional founders with a strong market fit.
  • Fashion Angel – a fashion industry accelerator that supports start-ups and entrepreneurs who want to create innovative, viable and scalable businesses within the fashion sector. All areas associated with fashion and textiles. Accept applications UK wide, all year round. They only consider visa endorsement applications from individuals that have joined their business support or mentoring programmes.
  • First Corporate Finance – is a corporate firm that offers an open invitation to entrepreneurs worldwide with innovative business ideas to register in their Business Support Program, with future potential endorsement. No particular geographic or sector focus. Only open to members of their First Corporate Finance business support programme.
  • Fortunis Capital Ltd – works with motivated individuals and teams who have innovative and scalable proposals that aim to have a positive impact on wider society. They don’t focus on specific industries, but look for proposals that are not only scalable, but aim to create local employment and have a robust environmental policy. As a private equity firm they will look to invest alongside the applicant’s investment. Accept applications from all sectors and from businesses throughout the UK.
  • Founders Factory – is an award-winning tech startup accelerator and incubator. They endorse entrepreneurs joining one of their programmes. They have assembled industry-leading corporates and a team of 60 operators to help founders build their companies. Named sectors of interest include FinTech, Media, EdTech, AI & Big Data, Health & Wellness, Travel, Retail, and Home and Hygiene. Endorse businesses UK wide, all year round. Only endorse businesses in which they invest.
  • The Global Entrepreneurs Programme (GEP) – leverages the global ambition of internationally mobile, tech-based entrepreneurs and helps them scale and internationalise their innovation rich companies from a UK global HQ. Applications for endorsement will only be considered on acceptance onto the GEP.
  • 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. They have delivered 16 accelerator programmes since 2011 with businesses in the Ignite portfolio raising over £11m in the first half of 2018. Their current pre-accelerator and accelerator programmes are in the North East and in Northern Ireland. They state that they will only endorse applicants who are successful in applying for one of their accelerator programmes.
  • Innovate Britain – Innovate Britain invite applicants to take part in their Mentoring Programme, designed to last 3 years and enable companies to hire teams, register IP and export goods and services. The proprietary platform provides guidance and resources to engage fully with the programme as well as peer-to-peer mentoring from other companies. All sectors from Technology, Fintech and Fashion to core industries such as Manufacturing, Infrastructure, Transport and Education. Will endorse businesses UK wide, all year round. Priority is given to mentoring programme participants and those referred by InvestUK, the Business Services Consultancy and Innovate Britain’s Trusted Partner Network. Direct applications are also accepted.
  • Innovator International – one of the UK’s largest communities of international entrepreneurs. All programmes include interactive business courses, mentoring and support resources, along with access to a marketplace of trusted providers for a wide range of business services at discounted prices. Will endorse businesses throughout the UK, in all sectors, all year round, but must be on an Innovator International programme.
  • International Innovation Hub Ltd – work with highly innovative and skilled individuals to realise their growth aspirations. They have particular expertise in the areas of green and renewable energy, engineering, manufacturing and digital and tech. Focus on the Manchester and Liverpool regions.
  • 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. They state that they will endorse entities for Start-up/Innovator Visas via participation on its accelerator program or requests from client companies only. Applications are accepted all year round but business must be in Northern Ireland.
  • Kollider – is a Sheffield-based incubator with a focus on digital and tech entrepreneurs. It offers an incubation program with active mentorships, skills workshops and opportunities to access funding (from Start-Up Equity to Seed Funding to Investor Readiness). They endorse members with innovative ideas in the creative, digital and tech sectors expected to scale in their markets within 24 months. Will endorse businesses UK wide and applications are open all year round. Kollider will only accept applications from those qualified as Resident Members of the Kollider Incubator. Applicants can apply to become a member ahead of the visa application.
  • Level39 – state that they only endorse those involved in FinTech, cyber security, smart cities, retail tech and other globally ambitious tech business. They are a community of 1,250 leaders who support fast-growth tech companies in three clear ways – giving access to world-class customers, talent and infrastructure (in Canary Wharf’s dynamic workspace). Applications accepted all year round. An applicant does not need to already be part of Level39’s community, but they do expect that an endorsed applicant would join their community once settled in the UK. They do not take equity in their member companies, they just charge a monthly membership fee.
  • MDR LAB is an accelerator run by Mischon de Reya for tech start-ups in the legal space. They state that they only endorse migrants accepted onto their 10-week May-July programme.
  • Med City – supports collaboration, investment entrepreneurship and industry within the life sciences sector including biopharmaceuticals/therapeutics, medical devices, diagnostics, digital health and AI if applicable to products/services for human health. Relocation to London or the Greater South East of England is required. MedCity will not charge applicants to provide endorsements, they will not provide funding and will not take any equity stake. Med City will only engage with the visa applicant directly. Applications accepted all year round.
  • North East Business and Innovation Centre (BIC) – providing professional accommodation and business support services to ambitious and innovative business from all sectors, encouraging start-ups and scaling companies to foster innovation to gain competitive advantage and accelerate growth. Endorses businesses in all sectors operating in the North East of England. Applications accepted all year round. They require that all applicants agree to locate in North East England and have a base (either physical or drop-in) at 1 of their 2 facilities in Sunderland or Darlington.
  • Oxford Brookes University – a Start-up and Innovator route endorsing body that only endorses future proof business ideas for products/services that have a digital or tech solution at their core. The business must be able to make a proactive contribution to the entrepreneurial community in Oxfordshire and Oxford Brookes University. Applications open three times a year, in line with student/ graduate visa route (April, September and January). Open only to their alumni with the exception of non-Brookes applicants who are key members and co-founders of a Brookes team.
  • Pall Mall Investments International – provides corporate support, finance and mentoring for companies across a range of industries and sectors. They are sector agnostic but driven and motivated to work with companies who are disruptive and keen to break the mould of traditional business. Endorse businesses throughout the UK operating in all sectors. Applications accepted all year round. Applications must be paid up members of the Pall Mall Members Club.
  • Panacea – focuses on Life Sciences, Biotech and Healthcare, Materials, Food, Sustainability and Artificial Intelligence. Endorses businesses UK wide but must be able to incorporate in the UK and commute occasionally to Oxford. Applications accepted all year round. Selected start-ups must join Panacea’s “Develop” or “Grow” programmes.
  • Primus Capital – a London-based corporate finance institution with a diverse global affiliate network. Leveraging their finance experience, sector expertise and networks, they provide disruptive TMT companies with capital and strategic expertise so firms can navigate change, enhance scalability and realise growth, in the way best aligned to their goals. Endorse businesses in the technology, media and telecoms sectors, or any other sector provided there is an innovative tech angle. Accepts applications UK wide and all year round. Preference given to existing clients and candidates referred from Primus Capital’s professional business network.
  • Royal Society of Edinburgh – the Royal Society of Edinburgh only provide endorsement to their awardees who have received an RSE Enterprise Fellowship, which enables science and technology researchers (including graduates, PhD students, postgraduates, staff and academic innovators) to develop into successful and world-class entrepreneurs with funding and training support estimate at £90,000 per Enterprise Fellow (including £10,000 business support funding). The Fellowships are available to support business ideas with science/technology at its core but cover a wide range of commercial sectors including aerospace, defence and marine; chemical sciences; construction; creative industries; energy; financial services; food and drink; forest and timber technologies; life sciences; manufacturing; textiles; tourism; and enabling technologies and convergent areas. Applications are awarded twice a year with a call for applications in Spring and Autumn.
  • Sapphire Capital Partners LLP – is a venture capital firm located in London and Belfast. Sapphire seeks to identify and assist bonafide entrepreneurs who will qualify for further investment through Sapphire’s numerous startup venture capital funds. Endorses businesses in all sectors, operating anywhere in the UK. Applications accepted all year round. No restrictions.
  • Schoolgate Accounting Services -assist individuals that have potential for growth and innovation. The Company covers all sectors and provides comprehensive advice relating to financial planning, business strategy, cashflow forecasting and finances. Individuals will have access to their online Business Academy, mentoring assistance, funding opportunities and bespoke support. Accepts applications from businesses throughout the UK all year round. Applicants must be able to demonstrate they have growth and entrepreneurial skills.
  • Scottish Edge – is a bi-annual funding competition aimed at identifying and supporting Scotland’s entrepreneurial talent. 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. They state that they can endorse winners for innovative, high-growth potential Scottish businesses and that approximately 10% of applicants win. Winners receive grant and loan funding from £10,000 to £150,000, business support, training, mentoring alumni and networking events and access to a business support package. The business must be headquartered in Scotland. Applications are accepted twice a year – Late January to early March and late July to early September.
  • Seedcamp – is a European seed fund that identifies and invests in word-class founders attacking large global markets and solving real problems using technology. With their global HQ in London they invest from pre-revenue to post-revenue stage. Seed Camp only offer endorsements to companies they have invested in. Pre-revenue investments are a six stage process and applications are done via their website. Pre-revenue investment route offers an initial £100K investment in exchange for 7.5% target ownership with the option of sourcing up to £150K extra investment collaborating with leading angel investors and HNIs. Investment route offers up to £400K investment with co-investors. They have backed more than 650 founders and do not focus on any single sector.
  • SETSquared Bristol – SETsquared Bristol incubator will only endorse technology start-ups meeting entry criteria to their incubator and looking to establish an office in Bristol.
  • Severn Seed Finance (SSF) – seeks interesting, dynamic and innovative business proposals. It offers applied technology solutions, specialist cross-sector expertise and commercial experience to assist UK and global entrepreneurs develop and deliver high growth businesses. SSF provides unique access to business finance through its dedicated private investor and funds network. Accepts applications from businesses operating in all sectors, except retail. Will endorse businesses throughout the UK, all year round. Applicants must submit and pass the Severn Seed Finance business evaluation assessment and/or have registered on SSF or approved affiliate partners’ business support programmes.
  • SFC Capital – an award-winning investment firm, active in the startup ecosystem since 2013. SFC Capital specialises in first time equity funding (SEIS/EIS) and offers a wide range of supporting services to entrepreneurs directly or via associated businesses and selected partners. Applications accepted from businesses throughout the UK operating in any sector. Open for applications all year round. SFC Capital endorses only businesses where at least one team member is part of their wider network, for instance, received investment or is in process of receiving investment from/via SFC Capital, used or is about to use any of the startup support services, and/or enrolled or is in the process of enrolling into any of the entrepreneurial programmes offered by SFC Academy.
  • Startup Giants plc – is a high growth business accelerator, providing endorsement for founders that have highly scalable business ideas. They collaborate with innovators on their programmes to realise the full potential of their value proposition and market potential, and provide additional expertise in areas of technology, strategy, marketing, and investment. Accepts applications from business operating in the following sectors: Tech, SaaS, FinTech, AdTech, PropTech, Manufacturing, Supply Chain. Open all year round and will endorse businesses UK wide. Restricted to those on one of their programmes.
  • The Start-up Race – are a global accelerator that supports world-class entrepreneurs and start-ups who want to create disruptive and innovative businesses. They endorse businesses throughout the UK and are open for applications all year round but only consider applications for endorsement from individuals supported through one of their Virtual International Accelerator programmes.
  • Techstars London – Techstars is the worldwide network that helps entrepreneurs succeed. They can only endorse Techstars backed Founders and other individuals from the Network.
  • TechX – a unique technology accelerator & incubator for global start-ups looking to transform the energy sector – offers unparalleled funding and support as well as deep market access and access to investors. Receives applications for endorsement from businesses operating in the energy (oil and gas, clean tech, renewables) sector. Will endorse businesses UK wide but applicants must have made it through their rigorous application process, via an open-call competition once every year.
  • University College London
  • University of Bradford – welcomes applications to its Accelerated Global Entrepreneurship programme from eligible graduates of any university. An innovative business or social enterprise plan is required. Applicants must be committed to basing themselves and their enterprise in Bradford.
  • Zinc – Zinc builds new companies that solve the developed world’s toughest challenges. They do this through a Mission-led 9-month full-time Company Builder Programme which brings together top entrepreneurial talent, domain expertise, insights from social science and a leading network of experts to create new mission-led companies. Considers endorsement applications from businesses operating in the business, design and technology sectors. Endorses innovative businesses UK wide and start-up businesses within Greater London. Applications received all year round. Only those who are on the Venture Builder Programme can be endorsed by Zinc.

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 April 2021).