Who We Are

The Ventures Lab is a newly launched initiative from Challenges Group. Our purpose is to maximise enterprises’ potential, so they can deliver extraordinary impact.

Our Approach

The Ventures Lab feeds into this purpose by offering a range of interventions that support new enterprises around saving time, accessing finance, knowledge sharing, market awareness, business model innovation, and commercialisation. Enterprises can then focus on what they do best - tackling society’s biggest challenges and delivering extraordinary impact.  ‍

We are excited to collaborate with aspiring or early-stage social entrepreneurs as they develop their ideas.    

We understand the needs and potential of the international social enterprise market in Scotland. We believe Scotland is an ideal place to take a global lead, to start and grow international social enterprises. Ultimately this will help deliver our shared vision for Scotland as an inclusive fair, just and green transition to a wellbeing economy, and embody those values in how we engage globally.  

How does Ventures Lab work?

There are four stages to The Ventures Lab

Stage 1: Apply

If you think you might benefit from our support get in touch. We are an open and friendly team, and will consider every note of interest. Please fill out this form or email Ross McKenzie, Director of Venture Support, and we will get back to you ASAP

Stage 2:  Design the blueprint for your business

Depending on your development stage, we offer two specialised support paths.

1. Social Innovation Runway  
- For emerging ideas and ventures needing further commercial and prototype development.
2. Impact Venture Builder   
- For more developed ideas and ventures seeking in-depth exploration and refinement

Work closely with our team at no expense to understand your customer needs, develop your business model and value proposition, prepare your go to market strategy, design (and even trial) your core service or product offering, and ultimately produce your compelling business plan. We can also support you through legal incorporation and brand and website development.

Stage 3: Secure Investment

Challenges Group works closely with various capital providers and funders in Scotland (and beyond) and can help secure the right investment for you.
Our in-house investment facility can also offer up to £100,000 to support your launch phase (5 available per year)

Stage 4: Launch, Thrive and Make Impact

Post-investment, Challenges Group typically works with ventures for at least 5 yrs to help you validate, hone and scale your offering – we understand a truly integrated approach is vital to achieving success early on.

What makes our investment facility different?

We are an active investor, taking a very active interest in the success of each venture. Our loan conditions are highly favourable for our ventures, so we are suitably selective about who we take forward:

  • Patient capital of up to £100,000

  • 0% interest

  • No guarantee required

  • 1 year grace period before repayment begins

  • Full-service package tied-in: we provide the essential back-office services for the first five years. So, venture founders/leaders can focus on what they do best.

Does The Ventures Lab have any critera?

The Ventures Lab does not have rigid or fixed criteria. We want to hear from and support all types of purpose-led individuals or businesses. Ideally, you have an idea, product or service that has the potential to make a difference in multiple locations, either here in Scotland or globally. In our current cohort, we are working with ventures that began from the following backgrounds.

The Ventures Lab has a very light set of criteria. However, your organisation should be or should plan to be registered in Scotland.

How many ventures do we work with?

We aim to undertake up to 10 ‘deep dives’ in 2024, and up to 30 ‘deep dives’ every twelve months by 2028. We will directly invest in a minimum of five ventures per year for the next five years. For ventures that require additional investment but don’t qualify for The Ventures Lab loan facility, we also work closely with our partners at Firstport and Social Investments Scotland to make referrals and connections.

How sustainable is The Ventures Lab?

The Ventures Lab works on a revolving fund basis – the loan repayments from existing ventures pay for new ventures to access funding. We have backing from The Scottish Government in order to create and build our investment facility over the first five years. By 2028, The Ventures Lab will be a fully sustainable facility.

Do we only work with social enterprises?

Not exclusively, no. The majority of businesses that enter The Ventures Lab elect to become social enterprises (registered as Community Interest Companies), as that’s what is usually right for them. However, this is not a pre-requisite. We believe in building ventures with a purpose that transcends purely profit – we want our venture founders and leaders to be highly motivated to have a positive social and/ or environmental impact, regardless of their legal structure.

What’s included in the service package?

Work, conference and event space, bookkeeping & accounting, Human Resources, IT, legal advice, social media and marketing, and business development support.

Can new or established businesses contract The Ventures Lab service package?

Yes, absolutely – get in touch and we can discuss your requirements and provide a quote.

Our Ventures

Our first cohort of ventures have now launched their businesses.

See More