Fundamentals of Endorsement for the UK Innovator Founder Visa

Fundamentals of Endorsement for the UK Innovator Founder Visa

To apply for the UK Innovator Founder Visa, you need an endorsement from an authorised body. If you receive a positive endorsement and meet all criteria, you’ll get a 3-year Innovator Founder Visa. This visa can be extended for another 3 years or lead to permanent settlement, with each stage requiring a new endorsement.

Find an overview of the visa in our UK Innovator Founder Visa resource.


Selecting your Endorsing Body

Your business might be better suited with certain endorsing bodies. Research each body’s criteria, focus areas, and past endorsements to ensure a good fit. Engaging with potential endorsers and attending networking events can help understand their selection process and boost endorsement chances.

For example, Tech-based entrepreneurs might find the Global Entrepreneurs Programme (GEP) by the Department for Business and Trade particularly suitable. GEP focuses on helping tech startups expand internationally from the UK, offering targeted endorsements that enhance founders’ visa prospects.


Documents for Endorsement Application

Include the following besides your general details for a successful endorsement application:


Managing Innovation Internally

Demonstrate that the innovation core of your business is developed and managed internally rather than being outsourced. This highlights your team’s direct involvement and commitment to the innovative processes.


Business Plan and Innovation

Your business plan must highlight your business’s innovation. This includes a fresh approach that is either new to the market or to the sector, aligning with Innovate UK’s Priority Themes. The innovation should be evident and central to your business model.


Intellectual Property Ownership

Ensure your business owns the Intellectual Property (IP) related to the innovation. This involves having or planning to have design authority over the innovation, indicating control over development and final output.


Technology Readiness Levels (TRL) Assessment

Your Business Plan should clearly articulate how your product or service aligns with Technology Readiness Levels. This demonstrates the maturity and feasibility of your technology, which is crucial for assessing its market readiness.


Unique Selling Proposition (USP)

Highlight a clear and compelling USP that sets your innovation apart from competitors. This USP should not be easily replicable, ensuring that your business maintains a competitive edge. Identify and articulate the barriers to entry that protect your innovation from being easily copied by others.


Innovation-Driven Growth

Provide evidence within your Business Plan that the future growth and scalability of your business are driven by the innovative elements of your proposal. This should reflect how the core innovation contributes significantly to the business’s expansion and market reach.


R&D Focus and Expenditure

Your Business Plan should contain a credible proposition related to significant ongoing research and development (R&D) activities central to the core innovation. Clearly state the proportion of your business expenses allocated to R&D in both your Business Plan and financial forecasts, underscoring the investment in innovation.


Founder’s Expertise

Your Business Plan and CV must demonstrate your relevant skills and experience in driving innovation within the business. This includes your ability to lead the development and implementation of innovative solutions, reflecting your suitability and capacity as an innovator founder.

Thoroughly addressing these aspects in your application enhances its comprehensiveness, showing not just your business’s innovation potential but also your capability as a founder to lead and sustain growth.


The three endorsement pathways

The UK’s Innovator Visa Route offers three types of endorsements, each for different aspects of innovation and entrepreneurship.


1. New Business Endorsement

Target Group: This endorsement is aimed at individuals or teams planning to start a new business in the UK. It’s ideal for entrepreneurs with fresh, innovative business ideas that meet the market need and have growth potential.

Requirements: Applicants must present a comprehensive business plan that demonstrates innovation, viability, and scalability. The innovation aspect requires the business to introduce a new or significantly improved product, service, or business model. Viability pertains to the applicant’s skills, knowledge, and experience to successfully run the business. Scalability refers to the potential for job creation and growth in national and international markets.

Assessment: The endorsing body will evaluate the business idea’s uniqueness, its potential to compete in the market, and the entrepreneur’s capability to execute the plan effectively.


2. Same Business Endorsement

Target Group: This endorsement is designed for entrepreneurs who are already in the UK on a Start-up or Innovator visa and seek to continue developing their existing businesses.

Requirements: Applicants must demonstrate significant achievements and progress in their business from the time of their initial application or last endorsement. This includes evidence of market research, customer engagement, business development, and any pivots or adjustments made to the original business model to adapt to market demands.

Assessment: The endorsing body will review the business’s development, focusing on tangible results such as revenue growth, customer acquisition, and market penetration. The evaluation will also consider the entrepreneur’s ongoing role and contribution to the business’s success.


3.Endorsement for a New Business Idea within an Existing Business

Target Group: This is for entrepreneurs who wish to introduce a new, innovative product, service, or business model within an existing business. It’s suitable for individuals who have identified new opportunities or directions for growth within their current business operations.

Requirements: The applicant needs to outline the new business idea clearly, demonstrating how it diverges from the existing business and brings innovation. The proposal should detail the new idea’s market potential, its feasibility, and how it will be integrated into the existing business structure.

Assessment: The endorsing body will assess the novelty and innovation of the new idea, its alignment with the existing business, and the strategic approach for its implementation. The focus will be on the added value the new idea brings to the business and its potential impact on growth and expansion.


Funding Criteria for UK Innovator Visa

Changes to the UK Innovator Visa’s funding requirements have resulted in the removal of the fixed £50,000 threshold. Instead, applicants must secure an amount deemed necessary by the Endorsing Body to launch and sustain their business. This flexible approach tailors the evaluation of each business plan, focusing on realistic financial needs rather than a one-size-fits-all figure. Entrepreneurs must present detailed financial forecasts, which Endorsing Bodies will assess for viability, ensuring proposals are both ambitious and attainable without being financially burdensome.


Secondary Employment Considerations

For individuals applying for the Innovator Founder Visa, there are specific considerations regarding secondary employment. Applicants are allowed to engage in secondary employment under certain conditions. The secondary employment must be at a sufficiently skilled level and must align with the theme of the applicant’s innovative project. This provision offers flexibility for visa holders to supplement their income or gain additional experience related to their primary business venture, as long as it does not detract from their main innovation focus.


Applying as a Team: Navigating Individual Applications for Founders

When founders of the same business are looking to apply for a particular opportunity, program, or visa, it’s essential to understand that the application process requires individual submissions from each founder. Even though you might be part of the same enterprise, each application is assessed on its own merits. This approach ensures a fair and comprehensive evaluation of each applicant’s contributions and potential, regardless of their shared business interests.


Individual Applications with Shared Business Documentation

As co-founders, while you must apply separately, it’s crucial to present a unified front in terms of your business vision and strategy. This means that even though you’re submitting individual applications, you should each include the same set of business documents. These documents typically include your business plan, financial projections, market analysis, and any other relevant materials that outline your business model and growth strategy.

The consistency in the business documents across all co-founder applications helps to reinforce the coherence and viability of your business proposition. It ensures that evaluators can see the collective strength of your team, even as they assess each application on its own.


Highlighting Financial Contributions and Support

In instances where one team member is responsible for providing the required financial backing for the business, it’s imperative to make this clear in your application. Transparency about financial arrangements and contributions is crucial for a comprehensive understanding of your business structure and sustainability.

If you are the member providing the financial support, ensure that this information is clearly stated in your business plan or accompanying documents. Likewise, if another team member is the financial backer, your application should acknowledge this arrangement. This clarity helps evaluators understand the financial dynamics of your team and the roles each member plays in ensuring the business’s success.


Tips for a Successful Team Application Process

Consistency is Key: Ensure that all business documents reflect a consistent vision and strategy across all individual applications. This uniformity strengthens your business case.

Clear Roles and Contributions: Clearly outline each founder’s role, responsibilities, and contributions, especially concerning financial investments, to provide a clear picture of the team’s dynamics.

Open Communication: Maintain open lines of communication among team members throughout the application process to ensure consistency and support each other in addressing any application challenges.

Feedback and Iteration: Share feedback received from evaluators with your team to refine and strengthen future applications or iterations of your business plan.

Supporting Documentation: Include letters of support or recommendation from stakeholders, clients, or industry experts who can vouch for your team’s capability and potential.


Application Fees Summary

The Innovator Founder Visa application incurs an initial assessment fee of £1,000, payable to the endorsing body. This fee is for the application review and may attract VAT if applied from within the UK. Additional costs, like legal advice or business plan preparation, are separate.


In Summary

Manis Law offers expert guidance on obtaining endorsements for the Innovator Founder Visa, backed by over two decades of immigration law experience. To secure this visa, applicants must receive endorsement from an authorized body, which, if successful, grants a 3-year visa extendable for another 3 years or leading to permanent settlement. Thorough research on endorsing bodies, such as the Global Entrepreneurs Programme (GEP) for tech-based entrepreneurs, is crucial for a successful application. Applicants must demonstrate internal innovation management, a strong business plan emphasizing innovation, intellectual property ownership, and other key factors outlined in our resource. Understanding the three endorsement pathways and navigating the application process, including considerations for secondary employment and team applications, is essential. Manis Law provides transparent guidance on application fees and additional costs. Contact us for tailored assistance with your Innovator Founder Visa application.


Contact us for help with your Innovator Founder Visa application.


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