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Innovator Visa

As we previously discussed in our recent blog post, the new Tier 1 categories; Innovator Visa and Start Up Visa are the newest routes for foreign entrepreneurs to come to the UK and to start a business. The key aspect of obtaining an Innovator or Start Up visa is an endorsement which is mandatory, and this can be specified by a Home Office approved endorsing body (there is currently 24 authorised on the gov.uk website).

Here at Optimus Law we have made enquiries to endorsing bodies, to try and determine the current requirements and  What we have learnt is that not all the endorsing bodies are currently accepting applications. Some of the endorsing bodies have yet to implement the appropriate administrative structure required to be able to approve the business plans put forward by the foreign entrepreneurs. However, there are some endorsing bodies who are open  accepting applications.

Endorsing Bodies That Are Currently Accepting Business Plans

In this article we will explore the key differences between each endorsing body and also the key points each organisation focuses on.

The official start date for the Tier 1 Innovator and Start Up Visa was launched at the end of March, but we found that only the following endorsing bodies are now open to applications for those that meet the criteria:

TechNation

TechNation work solely with tech entrepreneurs and have been approving business plans for foreign entrepreneurs for some time now as previously the organisation worked with the Home Office for the Exceptional Talent visa which is widely considered as the visa that formed the framework for the Start Up Visa. Tech Nation primarily works within the UK’s digital sector and applicants have to showcase an extensive portfolio of digital expertise and how they can lead the UK’s technology sector. More information is available from their website by clicking here.

NatWest, RBS, Ulster Entrepreneur Accelerator

Entrepreneur Accelerator Programmes are a range of programs that gives entrepreneurs platform to grow and nurture their business from any stage.

These entities all operate and are owned by the Royal Bank of Scotland Group (RBS Group) and therefore the Entrepreneur Accelerators are all ultimately owned by RBS. Therefore, the programs will be very similar too.

In order to obtain an endorsement from one of the RBS Group endorsing bodies, the applicant will have to first succeed in obtaining support and funding through one of the Accelerator programs. Once that is approved, the applicant will be provided with the endorsing letter. These schemes are one of the few that are not looking at any one particular sector of business and remain open to applications from various business sectors.

Med City

Med City specialise in assisting businesses in the life sciences sector these include pharmaceuticals/therapeutics, medical devices, diagnostics, digital health and certain types of Artificial Intelligence. Med City requires applicants to submit a business plan, a sales presentation followed by an interview which can be done via Skype or telephone. Med City will not provide any funding to applicants.

Deep Science Ventures

Deep Science Ventures help to build companies in high value markets that specialise in science such as Pharma, Food and Agriculture and help identify huge potentials in those areas of science. Their website states they encourage scientists to think in terms of fundamental shifts in performance, applying an engineering mindset to science. Once an optimal solution has been identified, they help build the right founding team, expert advisory network and provide proof-of-concept funding. Applicants should visit the opportunities page on their website and choose the specific sector that they would like to start a business in. Deep Science Ventures give applicants an indication in 2 weeks and a final decision after a 4-week trial. DSV do not charge for their services and the Home Office have confirmed that nobody should charge for an endorsement.

Zinc

Zinc work to build new tech companies that solve tough social issues in the developed world via their ‘mission’ programmes. Their Mission 3 programme requires the applicant to become a founder of the programme in order for them to receive an endorsement for the Innovator Visa. They are looking at for entrepreneurs who are looking to build a business which will improve the quality of those in later life.

Seed Camp

This is a European seed fund who only invest in early stage businesses looking to penetrate large global markets and solve real life problems using technology. Seed Camp will assist with the infrastructure and provide the applicant with support funds. The Innovator Visa endorsement is only issued once applicants have also received investment from Seed Camp. This endorsing body does not cater to one particular industry but only to businesses that are looking to aggressively enter large addressable markets. Check out their FAQs for more information.

What criteria are the endorsing bodies using to assess an applicant’s business proposal?

Each endorsing body will use its own assessment practices to determine whether they see a business idea as feasible. However they have provided with guidance by the Home Office which will apply to all endorsing bodies.

The key criteria for the initial endorsement are: Innovation, Viability, Scalability. Let’s take each one of them in detail.

Innovation

Does the applicant have a genuine, original business plan that meets new or existing market needs and/or creates a competitive advantage?

The applicant will need to show they are offering something new and fresh in their market than the local traders or competitors already established in the UK. Also, the applicant will need to show in the business plan that there is a need for this business in the market that is not already being fulfilled. For the endorsing body to recognise a business plan as innovative it is essential that the idea is fresh to the UK and global business market.

Viability

Does the applicant have the necessary skills, knowledge, experience and market awareness to successfully run the business?

The viability criterion assesses the applicant themselves in conjunction with the business idea and they must show that they can use their skills to reach the business goals defined in their business plan successfully. The applicant will need to demonstrate market research, skills and qualifications and also targets set out for the business that are realistic and sustainable.  The applicant should also demonstrate a long-term vision for the business that can be measured.

Scalability

Is there evidence of structured planning and of potential for job creation and growth into national and international markets?

The scalability criterion requires the endorsing body to look at the business proposal for structured planning and to identify how the business will create jobs as per the requirement for settlement after 3 years. Other questions that may be asked are is the business likely to:

  • Will the business gain sufficient traction?
  • Is there potential for growth?
  • If the business has the potential to scale to become part of the national market?
How Optimus Law can assist you?

We can provide you with further help and advice on the Innovator and Start Up Visa category, we will begin by assessing your business idea and also your experience and background to determine whether this is the best route for you.  If you wish to start a business in the UK, we can help find a visa category that may be better suited such as the Overseas Sole Representative Visa.

If you believe your business idea does meet the initial requirements for an Innovator Visa, we can further assist you by:

  • Assist you with the core endorsement requirement: an innovative, viable and scalable business plan, by identifying an appropriate, qualified business plan writer and liaising to ensure it satisfies the requirements of the Immigration Rules.
  • Introducing your idea to an appropriate endorsing body on your behalf
  • Prepare a strong application to submit to the endorsing body.
  • Provide detailed advice and guidance for the Home Office Credibility Assessment Interview
  • Preparation and Application to the Home Office for the Innovator Visa.

For expert advice in relation to the Innovator Visa or the Start Up Visa contact our nationwide immigration lawyers on 0330 3800 599 or via our enquiry form below.

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