Skip to main content

Blog Innovate UK

Innovate UK
Innovate UK

What are Entrepreneur Missions?

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Funding, Support

You’re a fledgling company with a brilliant innovation that better fits an overseas market. You don’t have the resources or contacts to get started in that country so what do you do? Innovate UK developed Entrepreneur Missions to help early-stage businesses secure overseas sales and investment earlier than they would on their own. Entrepreneur Missions take 15-20 of the UK’s best new, innovative, high-growth potential companies to overseas markets to help them grow faster. Our missions achieve this by helping the SMEs to:

  • Build a Network with potential customers, partners and investors
  • Improve their Profile through great PR coverage
  • Refine their Pitch to potential investors and to suit the target market
  • Develop an Insight into what it takes to do business in the target market
  • Raise their Ambition and accelerate their plans

Opening doors

This support and experience is hard for young companies to come across and the power of a collective Mission comes in opening doors that would be closed to an SME working alone. Entrepreneur Missions are funded by Innovate UK in partnership with UK Trade and Investment; the attraction of a competitively selected group backed by government and private sponsors helps Missions to engage vital partners in the overseas market.

From Brazil to Bangalore

Entrepreneur Missions have been run in cleantech (Clean and Cool Missions, five to date to San Francisco, Brazil and Colorado); Future Health (stratified and regenerative medicine, diagnostic medicine, assisted living technologies and other medical advances, to San Francisco and Boston); Web (start-ups in the Digital Economy to Bangalore, India); Robotics and Autonomous Systems (to San Diego and San Francisco) and a Space mission (satellite applications start-ups) has just returned from Utah, Los Angeles and San Francisco. We also have a Future Cities Mission in the planning.

4, 64, £600m

Alumni tell us our Missions help them grow their business faster, increase their ambition and provide the links to key partners, customers and investors. Mission companies have gone on to secure significant deals as a result of the connections made and the support they received. For example, the four Clean and Cool Missions run between 2010 and 2014 saw the 64 alumni of these raise between them over £600m post-Mission by the end of 2014. Of this total only ~7% is public funding (but half the number of deals) demonstrating excellent ‘crowding in’ of private investment. Although all of this growth can’t be directly attributed to their attendance on the Mission, alumni tell us fantastic stories of how the Mission helped them grow faster and were still reaping the benefits for many years after.

How can Missions help?

BuffaloGrid CEO Daniel Becerra described his own mission story as one of “organised serendipity”. The attention received from the Mission publicity about their solar powered phone charging units attracted media attention from the likes of the Financial Times, New Scientist and The Economist. A feature article in New Scientist led to an invitation for Daniel to present his project at a gathering of the United Nations. There he happened to present alongside Google, with whom continued conversation resulted in working on the internet capabilities of BuffaloGrid’s units. Even though these units were still in prototype batches, the momentum building behind the company led to in an inclusion in The Nominet Trust 100, which celebrates the people and organisations who are using digital technology to change the world for the better. They also won winning Virgin’s Three New Things competition with personal advice and network help from Sir Richard Branson. BuffaloGrid’s units underwent initial deployments in India in December 2014, with the President of India personally launching the programme.

Elemental Digest Systems Director Joe Priday was attracted to Brazil because of its vast meat production industry, but he did not anticipate that one year after returning he would be looking to open a plant in the heart of the world’s largest beef exporting country. With existing partnerships with two of the biggest abattoirs in the UK and Ireland, the company has secured over £50 million worth of forward contracts and is on the verge of expanding internationally. “All of our business in Brazil is a result of the initial Clean and Cool introductions” said Joe. Having realised the demand for their innovation, Elemental Digest Systems are “staving off the Venture Capitalists and going straight for sovereign wealth”.

Watch our video series from the recent Space mission to Utah in August 2015 and follow Mike on Twitter 

Sharing and comments

Share this page


  1. Comment by Adi Gaskell posted on

    Sounds like a really great idea, thanks for sharing it.

  2. Comment by Michael Groves posted on

    I hate to agree with you Mike...but I do. Topolytics has been on a Clean & Cool Mission to Brazil and was attached to the Clean & Cool GB team at Cleantech San Francisco this year. For me, an international outlook is one attribute of an innovation driven enterprise. Getting from the ambition to a real customer is of course difficult and can be lonely, therefore, missions are a brilliant way to hit the ground at a trot, if not at full speed. The shared experience, the heightened awareness, the access, the networks, the knowledge, the beers....all count. No guarantees of course, but you have to give yourself the best chance and a mission does this.

  3. Comment by Peter Blezard posted on

    Pete Blezard CEO of Azotic Technologies completed a mission to San Francisco early 2015, event was well run and stimulating, great staff with good commercial skill sets:
    I met with several large companies who I am still in talks with, I did not require cash but also met funders of some repute, worth time and effort, also got a slot on BBC Radio 4.

  4. Comment by Sandra Sassow posted on

    SEaB Energy Ltd have benefited from the massive media exposure in San Francisco and Brazil surrounding the missions. Clean and Cool missions - well run engines for growing businesses that have market ready products which need exposure. The team is great! Thank you for all you have done for us. The missions keep on moving us forward.

  5. Comment by Tim Vallings, Comercial Director, Rezatec Limited posted on

    I attended the Clean and Cool Mission to Brasil in 2013. For Rezatec - a satellite derived data analytics firm looking at natural assets - the market place in Brasil with its forests and agricultural sectors, is an important market for us. With the support of the mission, we were able to go and build the necessary network to prepare ourselves to be working in Brasil in the long term. Secondly, it was an incredibly useful way of allowing us to get in front of those we wanted to speak to, whom, under normal circumstances, would not spare us the time. Small companies like ours, regardless of the quality of the product, struggle to always get to the right people to speak to and to have the opportunity to put across the company message. With the support of the mission, this problem was overcome and proved useful to us. Finally, it afforded us the opportunity to establish all the requirements as to HOW we can do business in Brasil, including the logistics, the legal requirements, the timeframes etc. This is also incredibly helpful as different countries operate in different ways and we needed that guidance to make sure we know how to proceed.

  6. Comment by Alex Webb posted on

    Being involved with the past 5 missions, it's been great to get to know so many innovative and driven companies with forward thinking technologies. Organising a mission for such a diverse group of businesses is always tough but a purposefully designed agenda, with a mix of meetings, downtime and pitching takes the companies through a great journey and allows them to take a step back and really assess their business. The mission ensures that the companies are meeting the right people, at the right time and telling the right story.

    The power of the group and the help that all the companies give to each other is amazing to see and such a huge, unexpected, outcome.