Pre-accelerator programme

This programme helps recent graduates, students and members of staff to build skills and develop a business or idea. Find out what's involved and how to apply.


On this page:

What is the programme?

Our pre-accelerator programme focuses on developing ideas and early-stage start-ups.

If you're motivated, inspired and committed to solving problems, we want to hear from you.

Participants will progress their ideas from concept to MVP (minimum viable product) stage.

The programme aims to help participants learn about building

  • a product
  • a service
  • a business
  • a funding strategy
  • an organisation
  • a brand
  • a pitch deck

Facilitators and expert mentors will guide teams and individuals through the building blocks of the start-up journey.

You'll be able to evaluate ideas, validate assumptions, develop skills and connect with the start-up community in Sheffield and beyond.


The programme runs for 12 weeks.

It includes

  • a series of workshops and masterclasses
  • entrepreneur guest speakers
  • one-to-one and group coaching and mentoring sessions
  • an introduction to relevant networks, including signposting to local Accelerators


You can take part in the programme as a team or an individual if

  • you graduated from the University of Sheffield in the last three years, or you're a current student or member of staff


  • you have a business idea that solves a problem that's local, regional, national, international, or in a particular field or sector, and you're unsure how best to develop it


  • you have an early-stage business and you'd benefit from spending time developing the idea better or exploring how to position it commercially

Registration process

The deadline for applications was 10.00am on Monday 1 February 2021.

When you apply, you'll be asked to pitch your idea in one of the following formats:

  • A three-minute video uploaded to YouTube or Vimeo.
  • A narrated PowerPoint presentation uploaded to YouTube or Vimeo.
  • A written report outlining the idea and its impact.

Important dates

For the 2020–21 programme:

  • Applications opened: 15 December 2020
  • Applications closed: 1 February 2021
  • Information – Q&A session: 19 January 2021
  • Successful applicants informed: 12 February 2021
  • Programme started: Week commencing 22 February 2021

Frequently asked questions

Find answers to your questions

About the programme

How long is the programme?

The programme runs for 12 weeks. It started on 3 March in 2021.

Where is the programme taking place?

Due to the pandemic restrictions, the programme was held online in 2021.

What's included in the programme?

The content is split into six building blocks:

  • Build a product.
  • Build a business.
  • Build a funding strategy.
  • Build an organisation.
  • Build a brand.
  • Demo day and pitch presentations.

We'll focus on each building block for two weeks, including core learning sessions, fireside chats with guest speakers and check-in sessions. Each session lasts around three hours.

Who runs the programme?

The Entrepreneurship team has partnered with 3B impact to design and develop the programme.

Expert facilitators for each topic will be brought in, and we'll invite external speakers to support the sessions.

About the participant and the idea

Do I need an idea or an established business?

You need to have an idea that solves a local, regional, national or international problem, or one in a particular field or sector.

Who can participate in the programme?

University of Sheffield graduates from the last three years, or current students and staff.

If you're an academic with an innovative idea, visit our pages on commercialisation for more relevant support. This programme is for staff with ideas where there is no University-owned intellectual property (IP).

If you're a staff member, you'll need to seek your line manager's approval. Participation in this programme is voluntary and it takes place in your own time.

Do I need to have a team?

You can take part in the programme as an individual or a team. We encourage people to work in teams where possible, but that's not a requirement.

Is this a competitive programme?

Yes, this is a competitive programme and participants will be selected to participate.

What is the selection criteria?

We will consider several factors. These include, but are not limited to

  • the quality of the idea
  • your commitment to progressing the idea and participating in the programme
  • the stage of the idea or start-up

A panel will consider the candidates. In 2021, you will have been notified of their decision by 12 February 2021.

What is the time commitment?

We strongly encourage everyone to attend all sessions. These are a minimum of two hours per week.

You'll also work on your ideas or businesses between sessions, but the time commitment for this varies for each individual and team.

We plan to record the sessions and share them with everyone, provided there are no technical difficulties. If you can't join a particular session, we'll give you the session material.

What do I need to join?

All sessions are taking place online, so you only need access to the internet and a computer.

Do I need to submit anything at the end of the programme?

You'll develop a pitch deck that needs to be delivered on the Demo Day, at the end of the programme. This was 26 May in 2021.

You might also want to develop a business plan while participating in the programme.

What to do if I have more questions?

Attend the information and Q&A session. Details will be provided here when these are organised.

Email with any urgent queries.

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