Access Capital: 12 Grants and Competitions to Fund Your Green Startup


Access Capital: 12 Grants and Competitions to Fund Your Green Startup

Starting an eco-friendly business can be a costly endeavor, but grants and competitions offer aspiring green entrepreneurs a way to secure funding to turn their sustainable visions into reality. According to, the best platform to get guidance on business formation, this guide will explore major grants, contests, challenges, and more that provide capital to launch and grow green startups.

With global warming threatening our planet, the demand for environmentally-conscious products and services continues rising. However, securing startup funding as a green business can prove difficult. Thankfully, a growing number of public and private organizations now offer grants and runs competitions tailored specifically to eco-entrepreneurs.

These green grants and competitions provide funding in various forms:

  • Cash prizes
  • Equity investments
  • Access to resources like incubator programs, co-working spaces, mentorships, and professional services
  • Increased visibility and promotion for your sustainable startup

From local to international, this guide will break down 12 of the top grants and contests to fund your green business idea.

Grants to Develop Your Skills and Test Your Idea

Young Entrepreneurs Scheme (YES)

The YES program is a 3-day intensive training workshop to equip postgraduate students and researchers with core business skills. Participants form teams and develop plans for hypothetical startups, with guidance from industry leaders in all disciplines.

YES provides opportunities to:

  • Get startup training tailored to your background
  • Validate and test your business concept
  • Build connections with experts across sectors

Explore and Build Programs

These 6-week programs help turn ideas into viable businesses. The Explore track allows you to develop and experiment with your concept. Build focuses on taking practical steps to launch your enterprise.

Through these competitions, you can:

  • Refine your business model
  • Build skills with mentoring
  • Win £2,000-3,000 in seed funding

Contests to Win Big Investment

Hult Prize

Dubbed the “Nobel Prize for students,” the Hult Prize brings together global youth to solve sustainability challenges. Participants compete in regional rounds for a chance to win $1 million in funding to launch their venture.

Mayor’s Entrepreneur Competition

Open to London students and recent graduates, this contest awards £20,000 to ideas that improve life in the city. Winners also receive support from city leaders and visibility.


This pitch event connects London post-secondary students and alumni with potential investors. Teams compete to win a portion of £5,000 in prizes and gain access to mentors and incubators.

Challenges Focused on Specific Sectors

Care Innovation Hub

At this healthcare hackathon, student teams address care sector issues and pitch 5 expert judges over a weekend. Five finalists split a total prize of £10,000 in funding and support.

Emerging Technologies Competition

The Royal Society of Chemistry runs this contest to accelerate innovations in health, food, energy, and other industrial fields. Winners are awarded up to £10,000.

Green Alley Award

Startups across Europe compete for this prize by showcasing digital solutions for waste management and the circular economy. The top startup wins €25,000 and coaching resources.

The Healthtech Challenge

This competition awards mentoring, training, and £10,000 in capital to the healthtech idea with the most potential for real-world impact. Open to student and researcher teams.

Clean Tech Challenge

Organized by London Business School, this global competition helps green energy startups develop business plans and pitches. Teams compete for up to $350,000 in investment.

Contests for Market-Ready Companies

The Start-Up Series

UK startups under 2 years old can pitch for up to £250,000 in equity funding through this monthly competition. Winners also gain promotion across media outlets.

NACUE Varsity Pitch

Student and recent graduate-led startups refine their plans and compete to win £15,000 cash through this national contest. Competitors raise profiles and make key connections.

IMAGINE IF! Accelerator

This program nurtures startups in healthcare, engineering, cleantech, etc. They provide selected ventures with cash prizes, lab space, mentors and more.

Grants From Government and Research Agencies

Government bodies like the EPA and organizations such as the Energy Technologies Institute also offer grants for green technology research. Small businesses can often partner with universities to access federal funding opportunities as well.

Competitions enable green entrepreneurs to transform ideas into funded enterprises. Assess which contests match your startup’s stage and sector to find the best opportunities. With a compelling application and pitch, your sustainable venture could win the capital infusion it needs to achieve lift-off.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What types of green startups are eligible for these grants and competitions?

Most are open to eco-friendly startups across all sectors, including renewable energy, green tech, sustainable consumer products, environmental services, waste and water management, green construction, and more.

Can I apply to competitions outside my local area or country?

Yes, many contests like the Hult Prize, Green Alley Award, and Clean Tech Challenge are open to international applicants. Check individual eligibility requirements.

Do I need an existing business or can I apply with just an idea?

Some are open to ideas in the early stages, while others require you to have an operational startup or have gone through an incubator already. Read contest rules closely.

What does the application process typically involve?

You’ll usually need to submit either a written proposal, pitch deck, video pitch, or combination. Many then select finalists to present in person or virtually to judges.

How much funding is available from these grants and competitions?

Prize amounts range widely, from a few thousand dollars in seed funding to $1 million grand prizes. Though amounts vary, these contests can provide critical early capital.

Can I apply as an individual or do I need a team?

Most allow both individual and team applications. For larger competitions, having a diverse team can help during pitch sessions and Q&As.

Which competitions should I focus on for a small local startup?

Look for city, state, or university contests in your region first. National and global challenges involve more competitors. Local contests often nurture community.

Is follow-up support provided in addition to prize money?

Many competitions connect winners to incubators, mentors, and investors for further support. However, the ongoing support beyond funding varies significantly by contest.

What tips do you have for making my application stand out?

Highlight how your idea uniquely tackles an environmental issue. Share your passion. Convey your expertise and ability to execute. Have a detailed plan for how you will use prize funds.

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