Endorsing Bodies for the Start Up and Innovator Visa

The start up and innovator visa introduced in March 2019 requires endorsement from the approved bodies.

The Home Office have published a list of Endorsing bodies, however, you will be required to stay in contact with your endorsing body with checkpoints at 6 and 12 months.  The endorsing body will need to be satisfied that you are continuing to work on your business venture and have demonstrated reasonable progress in relation to either your original or a new business idea.  Your endorsement may be withdrawn and your leave curtailed if this is not the case.

Your letter of Endorsement must confirm all of the following:

  1. the name of the endorsing body;
  2. the date of issue, which must be no earlier than 3 months before the date of application;
  3. the endorsement reference number;
  4. the applicant’s name, date of birth, nationality and passport number;
  5. confirmation that the applicant has not previously established a business in the UK (unless the applicant’s last grant of leave was under the Start-up or Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) category);
  6. a short description of the applicant’s business venture and the main products or services it will provide to its customers;
  7.  the applicant's business venture meets all three endorsement requirements: Innovation, Viability and Scalability;
  8.  the endorsing body is satisfied that the applicant will spend the majority of their working time on developing the business ventures; and
  9. the name and contact details (telephone number, email and workplace address) of an individual at the endorsing body who will verify the contents of the letter to the Home Office if requested.

List of Endorsing Bodies for Innovator and Startup Visas

The list of endorsing bodies for Innovator and Startup visa applications is currently as follows:

  • THE BAKERY: 4 programmes: the Start Programme which is for pre-idea and pre-team individual entrepreneurs), the Accelerate Programme is for early stage tech companies looking to accelerate growth by working with a corporate, the Partner Programme is for start-ups looking to get revenue from their first big customer, and the Invest Programme is 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 to solve real problems using technology, however the company do not focus on a 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. The aim of the start up should be to solve a social problem in the developed world. 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. Some of the key areas of interest are Assistive Technology, Disease Prevention, Longer working lives, Neglected health conditions, Financial services and Integrated healthcare. Once on the programme Zinc 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. They run a series of programmes across multiple industries including Pharma, digital technology, engineering, intelligent mobility, cyber security, and AI & Blockchain.
  • IGNITE: 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: best known as a tech cluster as it is the largest technology incubator in the UK, based in Edinburgh.
  • CAPITAL ENTERPRISE: a body of connectors, influencers, investors and policy-makers who collaborate to scale Start-ups in London. 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 with a one-week intensive pre-accelerator programme for individuals with ideas at HutZero, London.   
  • TECHX: run by the Oil & Gas Technology Centre and 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. TechX also runs a venture with Deep Science Ventures.
  • SEED HAUS: a pre-seed tech accelerator that invests in early-stage founders to build startups across multiple industries (e.g. Cybersecurity, Robotics, Health tech, Logistics and AdTech).
  • MED CITY: interested in supporting skilled business people working in life sciences.
  • SCOTTISH EDGE: aimed at identifying and supporting Scotland’s entrepreneurial talent. 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: 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.
  • TECHNATION:  a well known and long standing 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, RBS AND ULSTER BANK ENTREPRENEUR ACCELERATOR: each of the banks 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. 
  • SET SQUARED BRISTOL:  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. 
  • 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.
  • 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: 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 complete list of all the authorised higher education institution endorsing bodies for Start up visas.

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