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Can My Uni Fund My Startup? Maybe!

By Rachel Youens on Monday, November 2nd, 2009

Whether you are still in uni or a recent graduate, your school might be one of the first places to turn to for funding your startups. Many universities around Australia have clubs or programs that run competitions offering thousands to current and former students with businesses or even business ideas. Let’s take a look at some of the funding opportunities hiding within the hallowed academic halls:


Up to $30,000 is available to students who win the top prize in the annual Swinburne Venture Cup competition. Running from September to December, this competition takes ventures of all sorts from social to technology and ideally taps into the classwork of students entering. You do not have to be a student to enter this competition, but you must be on a team made up of at least 2/3 current Swinburne University of Technology students.

Swinburne has also created a seed fund known as the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Fund. This is not an award, it operates as an investment fund, and as such there is an expectation of either a return on investment or evidence that the fund can maintain ongoing re-investment. Investments are initially limited to $10,000

University of Melbourne

The Melbourne University’s Entrepreneurs Challenge takes place in March through May and gives undergrads and graduate students the chance at prizes up to $10,000. The competition takes students through a number of rounds, pairing them with a mentor to help clarify and put together a successful business plan. You do not have to be a student to enter the competition, although the rules state that 30% of your team must be made up of current or former UM students. Contest winners have gone on to be awarded COMET grants.

The entrepreneurial organization Student Entrepreneurs Agents of Change also offers a number of competitions throughout the year ranging from IdeaPitch to the Napkin Competition. These competitions award small cash prizes for a variety of pitching and business plan competitions, sometimes in conjunction with other Australian universities.

Trans Tasman Commercialisation Fund

The TTCF is a collaboration between leading universities across South Eastern Australia and New Zealand, and a capital provider – Westscheme, Western Australia’s largest non-government Superannuation Fund. All these parties have the common goal of generating enhanced returns through investment in the commercial applications of research excellence. TTCF aims to invest seed stage capital into early commercial research projects and spinout companies generated by member universities and across all sectors. The collaborating universities  include Monash University (Victoria), The University of Adelaide, Flinders University, The University of South Australia (South Australia) and The University of Auckland (New Zealand). The TTCF has invested $250,000 in Ofidium, whose technology is patented by Monash University and  Snap Network Video Surveillance Pty Ltd, whose technology was developed at University of Adelaide’s Australian Centre for Visual Technologies.


This Melbourne university offers one of the largest prizes you will find among Australian schools. Students entering the annual Business Plan Competition can win between $5,000 and $30,000. Beyond the simple cash prize, the award often is accompanied by legal advice from a Melbourne law firm. You must be an RMIT student to enter, but you can be at any of the school’s international arms. Even if you only clear round two, after submitting a questionnaire, you are still paired with a mentor who helps you hash out your business plan in order to move on to round three.

University of Sydney

The Sydney Genesis Business Plan Competition offers up to $3,000 in awards for University of Sydney students. The student-led competition run in part by the Young Entrepreneurship Society requires students to submit a one-page elevator pitch for round one, formulate a full business plan in round two and then and pitch before a group of judges in round three. Non-students can be involved, but must be part of a team consisting of at least one university student. This competition typically starts off in September and wraps up on October.

University of Queensland

The University of Queensland Business School Enterprize competition has a whopping prize of $100,000 and is open to everyone, with the exception that at least one member of the team be a current UQ student. Launched in 2001,  this competition has drawn ideas ranging from colorectal cancer treatments to hybrid and electric vehicles. Often finalists receive en entrepreneurs pack of services from incubators and service providers.

The John Heine Entrepreneurial Challenge

This venture competition covers multiple universities across Australia where teams of up to five present a business plan in order to win the opportunity to compete in Global MOOT CORP Competition in Austin, Texas, as well as to receive cash prizes and consulting services. Australian companies have gone on to the final rounds of the international MOOT CORP competition seven times and won overall three times. In 2009, the competition will be hosted by Swinburne University of Technology’s Australian Graduate School of Entrepreneurship at Hawthorne on the 10th and 11th of December.

Know of another uni with an entrepreneurial award? Let us know in the comments section and we’ll add it here.

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