Top University Accelerator Programmes

University accelerator programmes have a long-standing history of finding and nurturing some of the most successful early-stage startups in the UK.

These accelerators provide entrepreneurs with everything they need to succeed, including financial backing, mentorship, strategic advice, and access to huge networks of industry leaders and investors.

At almost every University across the UK, these programmes exist to find these emerging startup stars. Here, we take a look at 8 University accelerator programmes that stand out for their support and approach to business.

But first…


What Is An Accelerator?


An accelerator is a programme designed to grow early-stage startups by giving them the resources they need to succeed.

Normally, these programmes offer a mix of support, either through direct funding or through mentorship and networking.

Accelerators tend to be highly competitive, and tend to select startups that they can help develop within a specific window.

The end goal is usually to prepare these startups for a pitch day or demo day, where they can present their businesses to investors and secure further funding.

These programmes have typically been very successful at helping launch some of the world’s biggest business ventures, due to their holistic approach to development.


How Do You Apply To An Accelerator?


Applying to an accelerator programme usually involves several steps, though each one is different.

Every programme has its own application process, but most of them start with some form of online application. This can either include a pitch deck, video or simple text-based application, depending on the specific programme.

After this first stage, it’s not unusual for companies to interview or ask for an in-person pitch before they select the final company.


What Are Some Accelerator Programmes Offered By UK Universities?


Let’s take a look…


AI Accelerator At The University of Edinburgh


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At the heart of Edinburgh University, their AI Accelerator is designed to nurture AI-driven companies aiming to disrupt industries.

With an emphasis on AI for climate change, health, and good, the 6 month programme helps entrepreneurs who are using AI to solve global issues.


Oxford University Innovation’s Startup Incubator


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Oxford University Innovation’s Startup Incubator helps students and alumni  bring their entrepreneurial visions to life.

Having nurtured over 80 companies and attracting $70M in funding for them, the incubator takes in everyone from startups in the idea stage to more mature ventures.


NatWest Accelerator At The University of Warwick


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This collaboration between NatWest and the University of Warwick gives entrepreneurs 1-to-1 mentoring and networking opportunities.

Operating within the university’s innovation hub, the accelerator offers a mix of coaching, community and access to the bank’s network of contactss.


Accelerate Cambridge At The University of Cambridge


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Accelerate Cambridge is part of the Cambridge Judge Business School and provides a 3 month programme to combine training, networking and mentoring.

It has helped over 400 ventures since 2013, pioneering female founded businesses and raising over £100M for its companies. Not sector specific, the accelerator is open to any company innovating within its space, making it an exciting opportunity for entrepreneurs.


SETsquared Bristol At The University of Bristol


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SETsquared Bristol is dedicated to supporting high-tech startups in their development, and is currently working with over 80 ventures.

As part of the global SETsquared partnership between the Universities of Bath, Bristol, Exeter, Southampton and Surry, the programme equips startups to grow and thrive in a competitive tech world.


Blueprint Startup Challenge at Durham University


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Durham University’s Blueprint Startup Challenge is an annual competition that helps students and graduates receive a boost in funding to supercharge their ventures.

With £50,000 up for grabs, the competition looks for creative, strategic entrepreneurs with ideas that can disrupt industries. Now in its 21st year, the competition has helped a number of alumni and students grow successful businesses.


Launchpad at Falmouth University


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Launchpad at Falmouth University is a programme designed to boost existing businesses through the University’s expertise and connections.

Started in 2013 as a way to boost Cornwall’s economy, Launchpad has developed into wider businesses growth initiative, designed to accelerate companies that can make a real impact.


Startup Summer Accelerator at The University of Edinburgh


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The Startup Summer Accelerator at The University of Edinburgh is designed for students working on sustainable startups.

This 12-week online programme, delivered in the summer, offers £3,000 in funding, weekly masterclasses and 1-to-one coaching making it a great way for students to boost their businesses over the summer.




Universities have become hubs of innovation, playing a key role in boosting early-stage businesses and new entrepreneurs.

As more Universities continue to push these initiatives, they not only contribute to the economy but also stand at the forefront of nurturing entrepreneurship in the UK and beyond.