There are currently 27 business endorsing bodies (as per the list provided on the Home Office website).
In some cases, the endorsement process for start-up and innovator visa applications are similar, and an open application form has to be completed.
There is variation among the Endorsing Bodies with some advertising themselves as ‘sector-agnostic’ and open to a range of business ideas, SeedCamp, Natwest and Fortunis Capital for example, while others are much more specialised and sector-focused.
Examples include CyLon (focus on cyber-security only), TechX (focus on oil and gas industry) and Deep Science Venture (pharma, energy, food and agriculture).
Others including Zinc welcome business ideas relating to a particular theme with their current focus on “adding 5 more years of high-quality to later life’.
Other Endorsing Bodies have a regional focus and require investment and/or relocation to a specific area, for example, Ignite (focus on North-East England) and Med City (London and the South- East).
Whether or not a business plan and professional background are the right fit for an Endorsing Body is another obstacle to overcome in making a successful application.
Furthermore, as mentioned in the Home Office Guidance, there is no requirement that Endorsing Bodies have to operate an ‘open system’.
In effect, that means that Endorsing Bodies have the option to offer endorsements to people with whom they already have a relationship or knowledge of, potentially adding another difficulty to prospective applicants.
However, as in most applications of this nature, there are hidden requirements for documents. There is the requirement to provide particular business details, and in most cases, a business summary or business plan is requested,
Behind any business summary or business plan, a detailed and integrated financial modelling exercise is also required.
The Endorsing Body Assessment
The endorsing body will have its own measures to assess what makes a good business idea, and the freedom to apply these criteria.
The Home Office provides general guidance to potential applicants about the Startup and Innovator categories but will not advise them how to choose a particular endorsing body.
At present, there are 27 listed Business Endorsing Bodies, not including Higher Education Institutions.
While the number of Endorsing Bodies is not fixed, and as far as it is known it is not subject to any upper limit, this is a relatively small number of bodies for applicants to select from.
Some Endorsing Bodies require participation in an existing incubator/accelerator programme to qualify for an endorsement. Applicants hoping to receive an endorsement as a first step to obtaining a visa will have to compete not only with other non-EEA nationals but with UK and EEA applicants too.
For example, the Royal Society Edinburgh and Bethnal Green Ventures, are just two of the bodies requiring acceptance on to a programme before even considering endorsing visa applicants.
Some Endorsing Bodies have fixed application windows, recruiting once or twice a year, for entry on to these programmes. This highlights just two of the initial issues facing an applicant: low capacity and high level of competition.
In the Start-up and Innovator categories, we are available to provide the support for business planning, and the presentation and application of the proposed business model to an endorsing body. We are NOT an Endorsing Body or an OISC registered immigration legal services firm.
Applications to Endorsing Bodies
Examples for endorsing body applications include:
An application to NatWest (also applicable for RBS and Ulster Bank) is the most available.
Capital Enterprise and FSC request a pitch deck (business summary) to be attached to the application.
Elmsworth Corporate Planning refers to a business summary or business plan as a requirement on the application form.
The contact form on the Fortunis Capital website is very basic and would have to be addressed differently, the follow-up request from them would generally be to provide more business details, and this can be in the form of a pitch deck (business summary) or a full business plan, both require integrated financial modelling exercises. The initial application form requires a business summary with a maximum of 2,500 words (500 words for one question, 2,000 for the other), a document in single space usually is 5 pages, double spaced is ten pages, using a font size of 12 points, for a total of 2,500 words.
After the endorsement body application process has been agreed, the applicant will typically work directly with the endorsement body.
The applicant will work with the endorsing body towards the issuance of the endorsement letter, and as mentioned above, it is optional for us to be involved in the process ongoing. The requirement to participate in particular incubator/pre-accelerator/accelerator programmes may result in the requirement for an equity stake in the proposed business.
While this might be well suited to some start-up ventures, it may be a cause of concern for those considering the Innovator route who may not require additional investment funds and who will have sufficient professional skills and experience to steer their businesses to succeed in the UK market.
Thorough research is required and caution advised in identifying the most appropriate Endorsing Body to approach. Having a strong business plan which is viable and able to expand within the UK market will not be enough under the Innovator route.
Endorsing Bodies are tailor-made to spot innovation, promote disruption of traditional markets and identify niches for potential growth. Their introduction into the endorsement process seems to fit with the Home Office’s new focus on Innovation.
Prospective applicants need to be able to confidently state that their business plan brings something new to the UK market and is not simply competing with similar local traders. It is possible that a more cost-efficient model, one with a superior but similar product or enhanced customer service may not be innovative enough.
Endorsing Bodies, as explained above, are primarily organisations focused on identifying, supporting and developing the ideas of entrepreneurs within the UK.
The task of endorsing non-EEA nationals’ business plans is a new and additional role. There are still a lot of unanswered questions as to how each Endorsing Body will adapt and how its processes will work in practice. Some have announced that they are ready to accept applications, some give prospective opening dates while others remain silent.
There is a sense of uncertainty, caution and hesitance among many in giving definitive answers to prospective questions as they iron out their own processes and figure out their place in the new business immigration landscape.
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