Venture Challenge

Venture Challenge

The Venture Challenge helps starting entrepreneurs in the life sciences to bring their service or product to the market. In a programme of approximately ten weeks, starters receive support in setting up a company and develop their idea into a solid business case. Examples from the past show that the time-to-market can be shortened through the Venture Challenge.

Coaching for enterprising researchers in life sciences

Many scientific findings never reach the market. Researchers often do not have the experience and knowledge needed to set up a commercial organisation and to come to a market-ready product. It is usually too early for private investors and experienced entrepreneurs to step in during the start-up phase, for example because the business case is not yet sufficiently clear to them. The Venture Challenge helps by developing a well-thought out business case together with the researchers. This provides insight into what is needed to bring the invention to the market.

Bring a new invention or application to the market

The Venture Challenge is aimed at teams of at least three and a maximum of five people who are planning to bring a product or service in the field of life sciences & health to the market as a new start-up. The product or service is based on a new technological discovery or a new application of existing technology, arising from scientific research. More specifically, it concerns a new therapy or medicine, diagnostics, medical device or a technology for improving existing - or accelerating the development of new - therapies or medicines.
The team consists of the person who made the scientific discovery and the other founders of the start-up. If required, it can be supplemented with relevant advisors. For example, this can be a business developer from an involved Knowledge Transfer Office.

How does it work

Candidates can apply at NWO. A committee composed by NWO selects the eligible participants. The selected candidates pay a personal contribution and also receive sufficient funding for participating in the Venture Challenge, to be spent in the upcoming edition.
An edition consists of two three-day bootcamps and regular coaching sessions. Participants work under the supervision of experienced coaches, to set up or improve their business case. The supervision can possibly be expanded with experts and entrepreneurs with a background in life sciences & health. The entire process takes ten to twelve weeks. At the end, the participants pitch their plans in front of a jury, including experienced entrepreneurs and investors.


The personal contribution for participation in the Venture Challenge per team is:

  •  2000 euros when 3 team members participate.
  •  2500 euros when 4 team members participate.
  •  3000 euros when 5 team members participate.

What are the benefits?

At the end of the Venture Challenge, the participants have:

  • a clear picture of the opportunities and risks and the commercial feasibility of their start-up.
  • a clear action plan for the coming period plus insight into the required funding.
  • a venture plan in which their business case is clearly described.
  • a sharp presentation that can be used to raise funding (such as via NWO's Take-off).
  • a good introduction to relevant investors and experts in the life sciences.

Two Venture Challenges per year

The Venture Challenge has two rounds per year (spring and fall edition). In 2020, the spring edition will open on 21 January and the fall edition in the beginning of June (approximately). Stay informed of the Venture Challenge via a subscription to the NWO newsletter. Select the preference "Life Sciences".

Fall edition: timeline and conditions

The 2020 fall edition will be open from 9 June; deadline for registration is 14 juli 2020

A condition for participating in the Fall edition 2020 is that the availability of active team members on the following dates:

  • 30 September - 2 October: bootcamp
  • 4 - 6 November: bootcamp
  • 20 November: jury pitches

This summer NWO will announce the selected start-ups for this edition. NWO will provide further information via the NWO newsletter and on this webpage:

Organisation Venture Challenge

The Venture Challenge was carried out up by the top sector Life Sciences & Health (Health-Holland) until 2019. With effect from 2020, NWO will be responsible for the organisation, with the intention of linking up as closely as possible with the previous editions of the Venture Challenge. More information about the history and background of the Venture Challenge can be found on the website Life Sciences@work.

The Venture Challenge is an instrument of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy, the implementation of which has been outsourced to NWO.