Tech Nation selects UK’s next Unicorns

Tech Nation has launched a revamped Future Fifty programme for the UK’s next generation of unicorn founders. 

Designed to support late-stage companies with access and growth opportunities, the four-month programme kicked off with an event at 10 Downing Street.

This years’ Future Fifty cohort features 25 companies representing 17 verticals, including, for the first time, quantum computing and biotech. Collectively, the Future Fifty cohort have raised over £1.3 billion and employ a talent base exceeding 3,000.

First launched in 2014, Future Fifty has supported some of the UK’s most prominent unicorns, including Monzo, Darktrace, Revolut, Starling, Skyscanner, and Deliveroo. One in three UK unicorns have graduated from the Future Fifty programme since its inception. 

Future Fifty is the only UK-wide accelerator programme tailored to late-stage ventures, and this year’s revamped programme – designed to be more experiential than academic – aims to provide the resources and opportunities required to scale a business to unicorn status. HSBC Innovation Banking, Orrick, Matchtech, and Evelyn Partners have partnered with Tech Nation to support this year’s cohort.

The new Future Fifty also aligns itself with the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology’s mission to make the UK a 'scale-up powerhouse', with Secretary Donelan setting a target for the UK to be home to 50% of all unicorn companies across Europe by 2030. 

This year's programme focuses on access, growth, and wellbeing – not only for the cohort founders but also their respective C-Suites, with sessions tailored to their CPOs, CMOs, CLOs, and CFOs on topics integral to fast-paced international growth. Many of these sessions are being delivered by unicorn Future Fifty alumni, with founder firesides planned with Philip Belamant of Zilch and Joel Perlman of OakNorth. 

A newly assembled mentor network comprising a range of prominent UK business leaders, expert coaches, and decision makers will be available to the cohort throughout the programme, empowering founders to foster long-term relationships with these key stakeholders and sparking peer-to-investor relationships. 

The programme will also help founders prioritise their mental health and wellbeing with a dedicated team of therapists courtesy of OMA Mind.

Some of this year’s participants will also take part in a mission to Singapore, which will connect the founders with influential investors, CEOs, and government officials in the APAC region during Founders Forum Group’s third annual FF Asia event. 

The ventures selected have been recommended by Tech Nation’s selection committee and ecosystem supporters for their ability to dominate a market, solve a complex problem in an ingenious way, or be a force for societal good. 

Among those selected are:

  • Nuclera: a Cambridge-based life-sciences venture pioneering rapid protein prototyping through its eProtein Discovery benchtop system. The firm’s technology aims to accelerate breakthroughs in drug discovery by enabling pharmaceutical companies to rapidly produce high-quality, soluble, and active proteins.
  • Zen Educate: a London-based online marketplace that algorithmically matches schools with the best available teachers. The company hopes to overhaul a system that typically involves third-party agencies and expensive fees.
  • Riverlane: also Cambridge-based and on a mission to make quantum computing useful far sooner than previously imaginable. The venture hopes to start an era of human progress as significant as the industrial and digital revolutions by solving the quantum error correction problem across all quantum computing technologies.
  • Space Forge: a Cardiff-based aerospace manufacturing company developing fully reusable satellites that are designed to create next generation super materials in space that could be used in electronic devices on Earth.
  • Metaphysic: a London-based generative AI company helping creators generate real-time Hollywood-grade content and integrate it into input production camera feeds with minimal latency. 

Announcing the programme, Founders Forum Group CEO Carolyn Dawson OBE, said: “The UK is home to some of the world’s most promising tech businesses, many of which are poised to tackle some of society’s biggest challenges. Tech Nation recognises this and is delighted to welcome these 25 exceptional ventures on board our programme to help foster their continued growth and global expansion.”

Johnny Mayo, Future Fifty Lead, Tech Nation, said: “The programme has been redesigned to double down on the elements that make Future Fifty the UK’s most unique and prestigious accelerator. The real value is not just building peer mentor networks around founders, but also their senior leadership teams as they cross the chasm. Our aim is to foster bonds that extend far beyond the four-month programme.”

Michelle Donelan MP, Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology, said: “The UK is the third country in the world to build a $1 trillion tech sector and home to more Unicorns than anywhere else in Europe. This is thanks to this Government's approach of empowering British tech, giving our startups and scaleups the right conditions and support they need to flourish.

“Accelerators like the Future Fifty programme are key to helping us achieve our ambition for the UK to house half of Europe's unicorns by 2030. By backing our scaleups we’re helping businesses to thrive, creating high-skilled, high-paid jobs, and driving economic growth across the country.”

Erin Platts, CEO, HSBC Innovation Banking, said: “Tech Nation has long played a pivotal role in nurturing the UK’s next generation of scaleup talent – many of whom have gone on to become symbols of homegrown innovation. HSBC Innovation Banking is proud to be a founding partner of this exciting programme and to support innovation across all life stages from seed, Series A+, IPO and beyond. I’m excited to see what this new cohort can achieve, adding to the UK’s already impressive innovation economy.”

Philip Belamant, CEO, Zilch, said: “As a proudly British-born business, category-leading company, and alumni, Zilch is excited to support Tech Nation’s Future Fifty. Together, we must ensure our generation of high-growth businesses can confidently scaleup in the UK and attract the right investors. Dedicated ecosystem initiatives like Tech Nation's Future Fifty and the Unicorn Council for UK Fintech are essential to driving the growth of the UK’s future economy, encouraging businesses like Zilch to accelerate, scale, and become world-leading." 

The full list of 2024 cohort participants includes:

Allica Bank, Amiqus, Birdie,, Cleo, CloudNC, Juro, Koru Kids, Monument, Patchwork Health, Peppy Health, Perlego, PolyAI, SatVu, Trailmix, Travel Local, Trusted Housesitters,, Unmind, and XYZ Reality.