Please upgrade your browser

For the best experience, you should upgrade your browser. Visit our accessibility page to view a list of supported browsers along with links to download the latest version.

Frequently Asked Questions

Applications to InnovationRCA

Patent Support Programme FAQs

What is a patent?
A Patent is a legal right which is granted to inventions giving the inventor(s) the right to stop others from making, selling, using or distributing works that embody the invention without their permission.

What is an invention?
An invention is a product or process that generally provides a new way of doing something or offers a new technical solution to a problem. Examples include manufacturing processes, how products work and the technical effects they deliver.

What sort of inventions qualify for patent support?
To be patentable, an invention must be new and not been made public anywhere in the world.  It must also involve an inventive step to the degree that a person skilled in the same area of technology would not consider it to be obvious variant upon what is known.  Finally, it must be capable of being made or used.

Why is it important keep an invention secret before a patent application has been filed?
In general, making the details of an invention public before a patent application is filed will invalidate the application because the invention will no longer comply with the requirement for an invention to be ‘new’ and not already known in the public domain.  If you do have to share information with others, get them to sign an NDA (Confidentiality Agreement) before you speak with them to avoid invalidating a patent application.

Does my invention have to have evolved during an RCA project?
No, we accept both RCA and personal projects.

Can I apply with more than one invention? 
Yes, you can submit multiple applications for patent support.

Do I have to be based in London upon graduation to qualify for patent support?
Yes, you will need to be able to attend business mentoring sessions at InnovationRCA in person.

Do I have to be part of a team to apply?
See Question 7 below.

Do I need to be an RCA graduate?
See Question 2 below.

Do you offer Visa support for international students?
See Question 3 below.

Who can apply?

We welcome applications from all Royal College of Art programmes:

  • InnovationRCA Patent Projects: Open to graduating students & alumni (in exceptional circumstances we do work with current students)
  • InnovationRCA Launchpad summer school: Open to all students & alumni

What stage does my project need to be at?
We appreciate that your projects may be at an early stage and you may not have a prototype. We need your ideas to be developed enough to allow us to understand what it might do and envisage it’s applications. We also look for the commercial potential in your work and evidence of your research into the market i.e., who will buy it, why, what are its unique selling points etc

Does my project have to be patentable?
To win Patent Support, you will need to have some potentially patentable IP.

Profit share agreement
You will be required to enter into a profit share agreement with the RCA should we file a patent application for your project.  For the duration of the life of the patent (should it be granted), you will share this IP with the College. If we are able to commercialise the work, net profits arising will be split 35% to the RCA and 65% to the Fellow(s). Monies received by the College will be used to fund support for more students.

Start-up Programme FAQs

1. How do I get into the incubator?
We have an annual call for applications which will launch in June 2019. Please see the selection process for more information. Occasionally we will consider applications outside the annual call. Contact us for more information.

2. Who can apply?
Students and recent graduates of the Royal College of Art. If you are not a Royal College of Art graduate you can apply as long as one member of your venture/team graduated from the College.

3. Can I apply if I am not from the UK?
Yes. The RCA is able to sponsor a number of successful RCA applicants who have graduated within that year, through the Start-up Visa scheme.

4. What types of projects are selected?
We invite applications from students on any course and look for projects that incorporate design innovation, that are disruptive, and that we think have potential to scale.

5. What stage does my project need to be at?
We will accept very early stage start-ups or later stage ones-we like to see a bit more than just an idea. This means you may have graduated this year or you may have graduated a few years ago. We will assess your company based on its merits and based on the value we can add

6. How long does the selection process take?
The annual selection process for the incubator takes place in July.

7. Do I have to have a team in place in order to apply?
No, but you must be willing to (and show initiative) to form a team. You can apply as a team or alone. We address team formation during the selection process. However, the selection programme is very intense and running a start-up is tough so we think it's better for you to have a full team in place.

8. Do I have to have a team in place in order to start in the incubator?
This is strongly encouraged but is not essential. As part of the selection process, we run a matchmaking event during which we provide you with opportunities to meet people and complement your team. Having a full multi-disciplinary team is an important factor that influences our selection process and team formation is an essential aspect of growing a successful venture, and we will encourage you to develop your team as one of your first actions, while continuing to look at the strength of your team during selection and incubation.

9. Do I need to have formed a company already?
No, you can apply before you have formed a company. If your application is successful, you will have to form a company.

10. How much funding can I get?
That depends on what we think your project has the potential to be worth in the future, and on how much you will need to achieve the business objectives that will increase your ability to get follow-on investment or launch your product. The amount you receive will be decided by the final panel made up of investors and representatives from both the College and external experts.

11. How long can I stay in the incubator?
Incubation typically lasts 12 months initially. We aim for you to be able to obtain follow-on investment and exit the Incubator in that time.

12. What happens at the end of the incubation period?
At the end of the official incubation period, you may be able to stay on in the incubator as a preferred tenant and benefit from subsidised rates for services.

13. What help can I get in the incubator?

  • Coaching and mentoring
  • Masterclasses tailored to plug gaps in your knowledge and equip you with stronger business skills. These are timetabled to be relevant to the stage of your business.
  • Toolkit of templates and forms to save you time
  • A growing databse of qualified manufacturers
  • Introductions to our industry networks
  • Access to investors and our investor evening
  • Publicity and PR opportunities
  • Opportunities to showcase your company (at the College and other public locations) and events
  • Access to College workshops and the library
  • Office facilities and meeting rooms
  • Day-day fundamentals like postal address, internet, printing

14. What's required of me?
In order to be considered for selection, you must be available for all the selection events, including Launchpad should you be shortlisted. If selected and invited into incubation, we expect our start-ups to have at least one member dedicated full time to building the business, and other members to be available a minimum of two working days a week. We have a calendar of activities, including regular reviews, which you will be required to attend. If you are issued with a Graduate Entrepreneur Visa, there are additional requirements.

15. What do you mean by follow on investment?
At the time that you apply to us, your business idea is typically at a very early stage in its development. Our support will help you develop more convincing proof that your product/service will work so that you will be in a strong position to persuade private investors to back you and fund your business's production and expansion. This additional funding is what we mean by follow-on-investment.

16. What is the RCA's track record of incubation?
We have had a strong success rate with incubated companies going on to raise follow-on-investment at valuations of £600,000 – £20 million, to boot-strap, begin trading or achieve a trade sale. Contact us for more information.

17. Who is involved in selecting projects to join the incubator?
Our selection panel includes experts who have built, worked with, invested in, and coached start-up companies. Our panel includes investors and start-up experts from the Royal College of Art.

18. Who is behind InnovationRCA?
InnovationRCA is the Royal College of Art's centre for incubation and business support, helping students and graduates transform compelling ideas into successful businesses.