Catalyst Does The Apprentice

Friday 4:00 pm January 24th at the Sussex Innovation Centre.

*Cue dramatic music and overbearingly theatrical voice-over*

In a time of economic opportunity. Bold players can win big.

Prepared to go all-in on a new start-up, one of UK’s premier business institutions.

Fighting it out for the title of ‘Project Bootcamp’ champion – The Catalyst Team.

To win they face the fight of their lives.

*End dramatic music and overbearingly theatrical voice-over*

Last month a mysterious event popped up in the Catalyst Team’s calendars; entitled ‘Project Bootcamp’.

Come Friday 24th January at 4:00 pm, the Catalyst Team are ushered into the boardroom.

On one side sits Alan Sugar, Karen Brady, and Claude Littner (aka Peter Lane, Helena Jevons, and Simon Chuter).

On the other, a set of 8 vacant chairs – the Catalyst Team tentatively filter into the room and take their seats.

The indomitable voice of Alan Sugar booms out:

“Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the boardroom. Congratulations on being chosen as the top 8 candidates to compete for ‘Project Bootcamp’ Champion.

For this task, you have 24 hours from the beginning of this briefing to sign up as many businesses as possible for a place on Sussex Innovation’s ‘Houthouse Weekender’ taking place on Saturday and Sunday 8th March 2020; SINC’s first-ever start-up weekend.

Your job is to land as many qualified prospects as possible. The bootcamp is a two 6-hour day intensive workshop which enables you to take an idea, commercialise it and find first customers using Sussex Innovation’s ‘live-lab’ research resource.”

The two-day fully-funded intensive workshop (worth £1499) would give businesses the tools to make more money, grow customers bases, and create a real impact.

The Catalyst team were divided into four teams of two, each given an industry to focus their efforts on:

  • Kel and Jamie on Emerging Tech

  • Sian and Eva on Health and Well-being, Arts and Culture

  • Ellie and Kirin on Education

  • Arthur and Leya on Environment and Climate Change

The prize for the winning team: a day at the spa - not something to be sniffed at.

The ensuing 24 hours involved a cascade of apprentice-style competitive chaos – each team vying to pip each other to the post.

Teams made the most of the resources available to them, utilising market research platforms such as Beauhurst, whilst tapping into the lucrative Sussex Innovation business network.

Social media was trawled, google was interrogated, and phones didn’t stop ringing.

The team were focusing on those purpose-led entrepreneurs who are ambitious, have scalable ideas, and fit with Sussex Innovation’s mission statement:

‘Sussex Innovation is a business incubator and accelerator which energises the region’s academic and business leaders – harnessing their pioneering spirit and nurturing their radical ideas to help grow disruptive, innovative and sustainable enterprises that have purpose.’

Once the day got going, competitive spirits began to die down slightly; each team sharing resources and directing others to relevant business contacts.


Cut to the boardroom at the end of the day. The results.

A steely-eyed Alan Sugar holds a piece of paper in his hand:

  • 1st – Sian and Eva with 16

  • 2nd – Arthur and Leya with 8

  • 3rd – Ellie and Kirin with 7

  • 4th – Kel and Jamie with 5

A total of 36 sign-ups. An impressive effort.

Even Alan Sugar begrudgingly recognised the team’s efforts – refraining from calling upon that notable catchphrase.

It proved to be an entertaining and exciting day for The Catalyst Team, helping to kick start Sussex Innovation’s first ever bootcamp.

Using their varied skills in sales, market research, and charm, the Catalyst Team was able to attract several exciting early-stage businesses.

With sign-ups still coming in, the bootcamp is set to be a great success.

If you think you have an early-stage business idea that could lead to social, environmental and economic change then take get involved here.

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