5 egg-cellent incubator tips for startups

Since 2016 the Imperial Incubator has been a beacon of entrepreneurial innovation, propelling early-stage science ventures with its wealth of expertise, resources, and invaluable networks. This thriving hub has nurtured a vibrant community of science-driven startups, including ventures initiated by Imperial College staff, students, alumni, and external founders.

In celebration of its 18th anniversary, Imperial Enterprise hosted a memorable White City Incubator Showcase. This event featured a captivating panel discussion with entrepreneurs who have flourished within Imperial’s Incubator. After an opening keynote by Dr Simon Hepworth, Director of Enterprise at Imperial, the panel chaired by Graham Hewson, Head of Incubation, featured four fantastic speakers:

  • Niall Dunne – CEO of Polymateria
  • Professor Nigel Brandon OBE – Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Founder of Ceres Power
  • Dr Chiara Bord – Founder & CEO of P.Happi
  • Barbara Domayne-Hayman – Entrepreneur-in-residence at The Francis Crick Institution


If you couldn’t attend, don’t worry! Here are the top 5 takeaways from the event:

  1. 🚀 From Hard Hats to Billions: The Imperial incubator in White City has undergone a dramatic transformation. What began with wires hanging from the reception, no signal and members in hard hats, has blossomed into a powerhouse that has raised over a billion pounds in investments. Now, with the West Tech Corridor , a new Imperial Strategy on the horizon, the incubator stands as a testament to relentless innovation and growth.
  2. 😄 Trust is a Must: Simon Sinek’s quote, “I may trust you with my life, but do I trust you with my money and my wife?” highlighted the depth and complexity of trust within a team. The true measure of success is not just financial milestones but the culture created and the leaders developed along the way.
  3. 🔄 From Chaos to Structure: A key takeaway was the necessity of evolving from a no-rules environment to one with more structure as the company grows. Initially, chaos might work, but as an organisation expands, the need for clear rules and HR becomes apparent. Self-awareness about roles and when to step in or out is crucial. Not everyone is built to be a CEO, and understanding this is essential for the company’s and individual’s growth.
  4. 🙋The Customer is Always Right: It is essential for every organisation not to get bogged down in their technology-centred phase, no matter how good the innovation is, but to become obsessed with their customers. The perfect ivory tower of tech often needs to be dismantled, and customers need to become the new priority and passion. Sometimes, the market and demographic for innovation doesn’t yet exist—you might need to set new regulations or create the market yourself. This shift in focus is crucial for sustainable growth.
  5. 🤝Building the dream team: Every new hire alters the team dynamics, making it essential to choose individuals who share core values but also bring diverse perspectives. The right mix of people drives innovation and sustains cultural integrity. Selecting team members who align with the company’s values while challenging it with their unique viewpoints is crucial for continued success.