Runway is where student startups take flight. Catalysing the creation of sustainable, highflying, high impact ventures through infrastructure, investment and entrepreneurial knowhow. Our mentors are seasoned entrepreneurs who have already made a difference. We can help you to make a difference. We are open to students and graduates from across the University of Bristol.
Events and Key Dates
The Runway Awards Applications Are Open!
The Runway awards is a pitching competition held annually over the summer, which is open to ambitious early-stage businesses run by current students (including PGR students) and graduates who have left the university within 2 years of the application deadline.
This year £75,000 will be awarded in total, shared between successful applicants. The key judging criteria are as follows:
Scaling Potential. We are very keen to encourage entrepreneurs to focus their efforts on projects that will make a difference in the world and are capable of scaling. We also want to raise the ambition of our entrepreneurs beyond the “Student Bubble” to think about products that will benefit communities well beyond those that students and recent graduates are familiar with.
Proof of Traction. We also recognise that the benefits of innovation only accrue when their intended beneficiaries use the new product or process that the innovator has created. To demonstrate this, we are looking for proof that there is appetite to adopt the product or service and that the design has been informed by evidence from the intended user community.
Compelling Communication. There is mounting evidence that great products fail to meet their potential because users and customers simply don’t understand their benefits. Having high growth products that customers love is not enough on its own unless founders can clearly articulate the power of their ideas.
The judges are not just looking at the maturity of the business. Clearly, start-ups that have been operating longer will be better placed to demonstrate the criteria above. But we also want to encourage ambitious entrepreneurs at earlier stages to develop great ideas. For this reason, between 1/2 and 2/3 of the fund will be awarded to enterprises that can prove traction and scaling with real customers adopting their product, while the remainder of the funding can be awarded to enterprises at an earlier stage that can demonstrate at least the intention of customers to adopt based on feedback from prototyping / other primary research and / or the willingness of partners to invest resources in the idea because they see its potential.
Apply: Entrants awarded will need to submit a 10-minute video pitch by 12.00 26th April 2023.
Finalists will be asked to pitch and answer questions in person at the Runway Showcase on Tuesday the 9th May 2023
Video submissions can be uploaded or file shared - please e-mail links to email@example.com with "Runway Award Application" in the headline. *If using file sharing please make sure your permissions are set to public or we will not be able to see your video.
Support for creating and presenting a pitch deck is available with a competition briefing event on March 23rd in the CFIE. An internal team will shortlist the pitches and final judging will be by a panel of alumni venture capitalists.
Deadline: 12:00 - 26th April 2023
Jim and Peggy Wilkinson Innovation Fund NEW ROUND OPEN! APRIL 17th DEADLINE
The innovation fund will operate like other grant funding applications in that applicants can bid for funding to cover specific projects that will advance their capability to tackle problems that are worth solving. £75,000 will be awarded in 3 funding rounds per year. It will be competitive to the extent that it is likely that more projects will apply than there is funding available. The key criteria for the award of funding is Return on Investment. While funding takes the form of non-repayable grants, the judges will be looking for which projects will deliver the highest impact from the funding available. Impact can be social as well as financial.
To evidence this we will be looking for a one page executive summary that demonstrates:
Potential. Highlight the benefit to society of the capability that the project will deliver and why this capability is better than existing alternatives. In short, explain why the project is worth doing
Plan. Include details of the project that demonstrates that it will be well executed and is likely to achieve its intended outcomes. It does not matter if the outcome highlights fatal flaws that could not have been predicted without the project. Tell us a little about you and why you are likely to succeed with your venture and don’t forget to say how much funding you are looking for.
Value. Show why this particular project is worth investing in above all others. Remember that it is competitive and if you can show a multiplier (for example that £5,000 investment unlocks over £20,000 of value), it will make the case more compelling.
Communication. Although not explicitly judged, the ability to communicate the benefits of the project in a concise and compelling way will influence your chances of being awarded funding. There is no word limit, but applications significantly over 3 pages long are unlikely to be successful.
To give earlier-stage businesses more of a chance, the awards will be split between Start and Scale awards. Up to £10,000 is available for Start applicants with a maximum award of £3500. The remainder will be shared among Scale applicants. Remember to state on the application which award you are applying for.
Please e-mail files or download links to firstname.lastname@example.org with "Jim and Peggy Wilkinson April Application" in the headline
Deadline: competition currently open - Next deadline closes 23:59 Monday April 17th
Winners Announced 26th April. Verbal feedback will be provided to everyone whose applications are shortlisted followed by a sandwich lunch.
For any questions and submissions please e-mail email@example.com
Commit full throttle
The aim of the Runway Programme is to accelerate graduate ventures beyond planning and validation towards practical delivery of value. We know stakeholders will never fully commit to a venture unless they believe it will really take off. We help graduate start-ups take flight.
The key start-up programme provides professionalism, mentoring and a tailored plan for each business that is based within the multi-award-winning Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Runway allows each University of Bristol graduate to depart with the knowledge and structures in place to deliver upon their entrepreneurial ambition. Pushing for success through a chain of infrastructure, improvement, and investment are an experienced team with success across many entrepreneurial ventures.
Runway boasts private meeting rooms, breakout space and professional presentation venues; access to student consultancy and interns; designers and prototyping facilities; mentoring and advice and importantly an inhouse investment fund.
As a member of the Runway programme you will be mentored by experienced Entrepreneurs in Residence and have full access to our training programme. This includes online lectures and resources specific to helping new entrepreneurs get up and running.
Support from expert educators with real business experience.
Developing a new venture from scratch can be a daunting task. When we ask aspiring entrepreneurs, roughly half find this “blank canvas” intimidating while the other half find it empowering. There is no “right answer” but there is a simple process that can discover the path most likely to succeed. Mastering this process does not require super-human traits nor even a deep intellect. But it is counter-intuitive and requires entrepreneurs to “un-learn” practices that formal education has inculcated. For this reason, a lot of conventional wisdom and published advice and guidance from “business growth coaches” is just plain wrong. Little wonder then that 90% of businesses fail to achieve their 5th birthday and around half of new products launched miss the mark with their customers.
Runway massively improves those odds
Professional space for founding teams to work and meet key stakeholders.
We know that bootstrapping founders are really hampered by working out of bedrooms. That is why Runway provides access to our space, which enhances creativity, empowering collaboration to turn vision into reality. Our teaching spaces are purpose-designed for team-working, collaboration, ideation and refining those ideas into promising avenues for further exploration. We also offer booths where up to 4 people can work together to develop ideas. For individual work, there are banks of computers connected to university network enabling access to library facilities and other resources. And if you want to meet a prospective investor, partner or customer, you can book out one of our AV equipped meeting rooms to present your deck either in person or through remote conferencing.
Investment and Support
Financial support is delivered via Runway with further University support available through the Careers Service. There are varying levels of grant funding to support every stage of business.
1. Runway Innovation Stipends
Each year £25,000 worth of funding is made available to the graduates behind start-up businesses from the university community for living expenses. Divided into monthly grants of up to £1000 they help individuals get their ideas off the ground.
2. The Runway Awards
There is a £25,000 Fund from which awards can be made to promising start-up businesses.
3. The Jim and Peggy Wilkinson Innovation Fund
The Jim and Peggy Wilkinson Innovation Fund offers early-stage ventures the opportunity to apply for grants of between £1000 to £30,000 from a £400,000 fund. Applications are reviewed each quarter from companies having worked up strong business propositions with our inhouse Entrepreneurs in Residence.
We know that every mighty oak tree started from an acorn. Although our focus is mentoring high impact ventures that are destined to scale, we need to start by building the right foundations. To that end, we run:
- design sprints – 24-hour idea into action rapid development sessions,
- accelerators - themed problem-solving programmes run over several weeks
- short workshops – 90 - 180-minute sessions covering key topics (see below)
We are also happy to design a bespoke programme for faculty, student societies or to address external partners’ challenges if there is enough interest among participants to make it worthwhile. We have material ready to go covering topics in the following areas:
- The entrepreneurial process
- An introduction to innovation
- Introduction to Lean Start-up
- Customer Centric Value Propositions
- Blitz your Business Model
- Customer Archetypes
- Digital Marketing Primer
- External environment
- Operating environment
- Start-up strategy
- Basic finance / accounts
- Funding options
- Introduction to IP
- Culture and Leadership
- Management teams and delegation
- Managing Risk and scaling up
- The growth stages of a business.
- Pitching Masterclass.
- Are R&D Tax credits right for you?
- The nuts and bolts of business formation
Entrepreneurs in Residence
Runway’s entrepreneurs in residence combine the experience of running their own businesses with the rigour of formal training in how to teach the skills needed to develop high impact new ventures. Rigour is a key factor that sets high impact ventures apart. Anyone can fill in boxes on a business model canvas at a high level, but it takes deep insight into the motivations of a tightly focused customer niche to achieve scalable traction in a competitive market.
What would tempt your customers, users or beneficiaries to stop what they currently do and instead adopt what you are proposing? Our published research shows that the most innovative and sustainable answers to this question arise through a process of co-creation with key stakeholders. Kaedim – the AI powered media asset creation business worked closely with Aardman Animations to develop its product. Peequal – the solution to female festival goers queuing for the loo, used deep ethnographic research methods to transform an inconceivable idea into a product that over 90% of its users love. Knowaste, became deeply embedded in a school to develop its solution to food waste and Vive is giving Headspace a run for its money through its user journey mapping that highlighted people’s frustration with meditation.
Our entrepreneurs in residence can really mentor you through this process as it does not come naturally to most people. Our expertise in advanced research methods challenges your thinking and helps you make sense of the data you are gathering about customers to transform findings into actionable insights.
Here are some companies we are already helping:
- Armago - sports club app for managing and networking members https://www.armago.io/clubs
- WellEasy - healthy, affordable food packaging and delivery https://welleasy.co.uk/
- Museeroo - history inspired jewellery (sold in Selfridges) https://www.museeroo.co.uk/
- Kaedim - 3D digital content using AI https://www.kaedim.com/
- Peequal - lowering queues, the female urinal https://www.peequal.com/
Making entrepreneurship accessible to all
Our mission at Runway is to make entrepreneurship more accessible for the many people that think that you somehow have to be “special” - a Steve Jobs or Elon Musk to succeed as an entrepreneur. Not all start-ups need to achieve meteoric growth and all of them had humble beginnings. Our research shows that using the right thinking processes at the outset can help develop the “opportunity-seeking behaviours that distinguish entrepreneurs from managers. Runway support is split into 3 key steps each building on the previous as follows: