We believe a revolution in entrepreneurship is
underway. A student, armed with a laptop and a great
idea can create a company that reaches people around
the globe, with just $5000 or less.

The INCUBATE Program has developed from an idea pitched by two entrepreneurial students back in 2012, to be an award-winning early-stage startup accelerator program, launching 130+ startups at The University of Sydney.

Do you have a question about applying for INCUBATE or other on-campus entrepreneurial activities or events? If you can’t find the answer below in our FAQ then please contact us

The INCUBATE Program is about growing your contacts, knowledge and skills to build a successful technology-based startup idea. The variety of ideas that have come through the program is huge; from clever keyboards, health and well being aids, genetic profiling, social and community apps, to drones, education, HR and financial transactions. We welcome applications from technical and non-technical founders.


What is a Startup?

A startup is a fledgling business creating a product or service based on technological innovation. A startup is not a small version of a larger company. Startups are often doing something completely new and thus are searching for a repeatable and scalable business model, with the potential for global impact.


What is a Founder?

A Founder is the person, or the entrepreneur, who came up with the startup. There can be more than one Founder, known as Co-Founders. Ideally they bring different skill sets to the team. We often see two Co-Founders where one might have a technical background, such as a software engineer, and one might have a non-technical background such as marketing or sales. However, we encourage anyone who is applying to understand what skills they’re lacking in the team and have a plan to recruit someone into the team to fill that skill-gap.

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Frequently Asked Questions

About the INCUBATE Accelerator Program:

What is the INCUBATE accelerator program?

INCUBATE is a Startup Accelerator Program run to support students, alumni, researchers and staff of The University of Sydney to get their startups off the ground.

The program takes early-stage startups and provides founders with support, mentorship, office space, and seed funding to help them build their product or service.

During the 14-week program, founders build and shape the direction of their business based on what they learn from our network of industry mentors and in the ongoing series of workshops and masterclasses from guest speakers.

The Accelerator Program operates as part of Deputy Vice Chancellor: Education, Enterprise & Engagement to aid entrepreneurial opportunities for students.

Our network of mentors, community and staff are here to offer support and aid in accountability to help the INCUBATE community scale their startup to the next level.

How many startups are accepted into the program?

Up to 10 startups are accepted into the Accelerator Program per application cycle.

There are two intakes per year:

  • February-May (applications close in February)
  • August-November (applications close in July)

These dates are subject to change, visit the Accelerator Program page for more information.

How does the INCUBATE Accelerator Program work?

INCUBATE’s accelerator program allows students, staff, and alumni of The University of Sydney to work on their startup ideas and build a business.

Throughout the 14-week program, startup founders will receive:

  • Support from industry mentors
  • Access to exclusive workshops and masterclasses with guest speakers
  • Free access to state-of-the-art office space at The University of Sydney Camperdown campus
  • Community events and networking opportunities with VCs and others connected to your industry
  • $5000 equity-free grant

Over the course of the 14 weeks, your startup will learn the skills required to build your business, work on prototypes that you can test within your market, and find customers. We expect that by the end of the program, all startups in the program will have customers and a realistic plan for the company’s future.

In the final week of the program, all startups  take part in a big industry event called Demo Day. At the event, your company will ‘pitch’ or present your startup on stage to an audience of 250+ investors, business advisors, media, peers, students, and others.

At INCUBATE, you don’t just go through ticking boxes – founders go at their own pace, building a startup and developing it into a money-making growth organisation. Visit the Accelerator Program page for more information.

What will I learn?

During the 14-week accelerator program, you will receive ongoing support and encouragement from your mentors and INCUBATE staff.

Through the program, you will:

  • Set business milestones and/or goals to achieve
  • Meet with a board of mentors three times so you understand why a business advisory board is essential for your startup’s growth as well as an external reporting/update mechanism
  • Learn a range of relevant skills to apply to your business through workshops led by expert guest speakers. Skills may include: networking, tax and accounting, social media and digital marketing, financial modelling, and more.

How much does it cost to apply?

It’s FREE to apply to any of the programs INCUBATE runs.

Our free programs include:

  • Startup Fundamentals Course
  • 12-Week Pre-Accelerator Program
  • 12-Week Flagship Accelerator Program

How much equity does INCUBATE take from my startup?

INCUBATE does not take equity (or a financial share) of your business. All grants paid to INCUBATE Program recipients are entirely equity-free.

How much commitment is required for the Accelerator Program?

The Accelerator Program requires a full-time commitment from all founders, which means we expect to see at least one representative of the startup in the office space or actively working on the startup for four full days a week. Attendance to all program workshops and meetings are also mandatory, Friday is reserved for a full-day of workshops, events and goal setting in the INCUBATE Hub.

We’ve found that those who commit full-time to their startups progress faster and have a higher rate of success.

I have an idea for a business. How can INCUBATE help me?

Get started!

Don’t wait until you get accepted into the INCUBATE Accelerator Program. In the application, we ask what progress you have already made on building your business so it’s never too late to get going

Investigate your market and conduct interviews with potential customers to better understand the problem you think you’re solving

Apply to the INCUBATE Accelerator Program.

If you would like to talk to one of our team members in person about your business idea, we’re available for a chat and general startup advice. Please contact us at: hello@incubate.org.au

I’m a sole founder with no technical skills, but I have a great idea. Should I still apply?

Yes. We welcome startup founders with limited technical skills but we want to see them become experts in their industry area.

We also expect that founders without technical skills will have a plan for building their first product within the program time frame and an idea of how they will overcome any technical requirements the startup may face.

I want to apply! What are the main things I should think about?

Don’t feel you have to have a perfectly designed business plan or have all the answers before you apply. If you have a big idea, then we can help you find ways to build it!

Most startups that apply to the accelerator program are in their very early stages and many won’t have a fully formed product or model in place, let alone actual paying customers yet.

However, the application judges do expect that founders have already done some work on the idea before applying.

Ideally, you will have completed the following steps before applying:

  • Spoken to some people or potential customers about your idea
  • Received some valuable and usable feedback
  • Have a rough plan or an idea of what steps are required to make your startup come to life.

If you’re unsure how to go about finding the right people to talk to, conduct customer interviews to elicit usable feedback, or how to plan out your startup’s future, our series of Proto workshops can help. 

Am I eligible to apply for the Accelerator Program?

At least one member of the founding team must be a current student, researcher, staff, or alumni of The University of Sydney. This eligibility transcends across all of INCUBATE’s Programs.

I’m a researcher or postdoctoral student. Can I apply to the INCUBATE Accelerator Program?


INCUBATE strongly encourages entrepreneurial researchers at The University of Sydney to apply for the accelerator program.

Key attributes we look for in researchers:

  • Strong entrepreneurial drive – applicants are interested in becoming co-founders of their startup
  • Clear vision of the potential product or service they wish to create
  • Willingness to conduct prototyping and business development during the 14-week accelerator program
  • Willingness to learn how to market and pitch their startup to industry and investors

Staff and students working on university-owned IP may also be eligible to apply for up to $50k Proof-of-Concept funding from Commercial Development and Industry Partnerships (CDIP). If you are interested in this route, we can provide more information via email.

INCUBATE works closely with CDIP on any startups that utilise university IP to assist them in coordinating licensing and commercialisation discussions with The University of Sydney.

What happens when the INCUBATE Accelerator Program finishes?

In the final week of the Accelerator Program, someone on your team will represent the startup at Demo Day.

At the event, one of the founders of your company will ‘pitch’ or present your startup on stage to an audience of 250+ investors, business advisors, media, peers, students, and others.

After you leave the Accelerator, the INCUBATE team can assist your startup in finding co-working space and are on-hand for additional support or guidance if needed.

However, once your startup graduates, it’s expected that you’re ready to take on real investment and will have already acquired paying customers.

Have more questions?

Feel free to reach out by emailing us at incubate.info@sydney.edu.au