This article solely represents a case of personal evaluation and opinion. It shall by no means constitute immigration and/or professional advice. Policymakers are particularly invited to engage with this content and communicate their views accordingly. 

The innovation factor is a core and integral element of the Innovator Founder visa policy. However, is this requirement flawed? In this article, I will highlight the potential drawbacks and flaws of the innovation requirement. 

Unlike the former UK business visa schemes such as the Tier 1 Entrepreneur scheme, the Innovator Founder visa policy has emphasised innovation as a key element. On the surface, this may appear to be an appropriate shift in the interest of attracting high-quality businesses and entrepreneurs to the UK. However, a closer examination reveals certain flaws. 

What is the innovation requirement under the Innovator Founder visa?

Per the Innovator Founder visa policy, innovation is a key benchmark for applicant assessment and determining their suitability. 

Each applicant’s business (idea) must satisfy the following three criteria:

  • Innovation
  • Scalability 
  • Viability 

The wording of the Home Office defines innovation as the following:

“The applicant must have a genuine, original business plan that meets new or existing market needs and/or creates a competitive advantage”

This wording is referencing the Home Office’s policy guidance for its staff, dated 7th December 2023. 

Innovation: a sound requirement in theory 

Now, it is important to note that the innovation requirement is not theoretically incorrect or inappropriate. 

It is my view that any nation should be able to determine its rules for immigration pathways. 

Furthermore, the innovation requirement ensures the quality of applicants and their ventures under the Innovator Founder visa. 

Therefore, I believe that the requirement in itself may be valuable in principle. However, similar to many other policies, there is a distinction between “theoretically valuable” and “practical”.

Innovation: problem in practice?

Now that we have established that the innovation factor is logical on a theoretical basis, let’s look at it in practice. 

The innovation’s foundation is, theoretically, based on the following:

  • The absence of any similar products/services to that of the applicant’s
  • In the case of absence, and based on the Home Office’s wording of “existing needs” we presume a “significant” degree of difference 
  • IP defensibility of the applicant’s concept 

Interpretation of innovation 

The first issue with the innovation requirement is the Home Office’s wording in its definition of it. 

By the usage of “new” or “existing” (with emphasis on “or”), it is feasible to argue that innovation can apply to businesses that target an existing market, hence the emphasis on the creation of competitive advantage. 

However, this raises a further issue. What is interpreted as “competitive advantage” in the case of an “existing” market? The issue with this policy is a generalistic use of the term “competitive advantage” without outlining what it entails in detail. 

And the world of entrepreneurship is full of important details. 

Ultimately, we notice that this is interpreted by each endorsing body through its assessment protocols. 

For instance, I have come to notice that one of these endorsing bodies referred to intellectual property (IP) protection as a determining factor (names not disclosed for anonymity)

However, again, this means that there is a lack of consensus, thorough definition and clear measurement metrics as to how “competitive advantage” over an “existing” market vs. a “new market” is defined.

The importance of policy wording

You may assume that I am reading too far into these terms. However, any legitimate policymaker must understand the considerable implications of how policies are worded. In the case of the Innovator Founder visa, we are talking about 1000s of applicants. 

I am not a policymaker nor a legal professional, despite holding a master’s degree in international law. In case you are interested, you may see my resume for more information. 

However, allow me to tell you this based on my law postgraduate thesis that the wording of international legislation such as the United Nations Security Council, and specifically Article 51 of the UN Charter, governs how international warfares are determined as legal or in violation of international law. The mere usage of the conjunction of “or” in this article has been crucial in the assessment of several international and domestic conflicts.

Thus, with the above as an example, a sound policy evaluation must outline the potential practical flaws of policies, as is the aim of this article. 

The first issue is the Home Office’s lack of clarity in its definition of innovation, especially concerning new versus existing markets which are inherently different from each other.

Many ideas face current market players

The nature of business in our modern world reflects growing technological advancements. The Internet alone, and the online nature of commerce, have radically shifted the nature of enterprise solutions. 

With the aforementioned, there is the consequence of increased competition in virtually any field. 

The latter alone also reflects the lesser barriers to entry to the market, for instance, due to the Internet. This is also reflected in the case of businesses that apply for the Innovator Founder visa. It is a reality that most ideas will have to fall under the “existing market” definition. 

Innovation = IP?

The preceding points raise the question of whether intellectual property protection is the ultimate defining factor. 

And as a business professional, I am bound to agree that this would be the most reasonable view. At least that is my interpretation of it.

Additionally, an Innovator Founder visa endorsing body has made particular reference to intellectual property protection. Therefore,  we may reasonably assume the priority importance of this factor.

This again, reflects the lack of any clarity from the Home Office on interpreting competitive advantage.

Nevertheless, we will adopt the view that IP protection would be a key factor in assessing innovation. 

And by IP protection, we are mainly referring to patents, as many can simply file for a trade mark. 

However, patents can take years to be granted, especially if there is a dispute. In this case, we are assuming that the applicant does have sufficient personal network and resources to embark on such a life.

By this, we can see that such immigration restrictions deter and discourage high-net-worth individuals who are facing major challenges with their ventures. They would certainly not want to endure further challenges posed by immigration restrictions.

Another point that may undermine the clarity of IP protection as a determinator is sub-licensing existing technologies. 

Let’s consider the(hypothetical) example below.

Example case study

The applicant manufactures a technology product (electric wheelchairs). In doing so, it combines several components, and each component is produced by the intellectual property of another party (the “OEM”).

The applicant’s product in this case is unique and may address/improve an existing market need or the the current solutions. However, the applicant may not essentially be able to obtain IP/patent protection on their invention. Does this mean that their product is not innovative?

As a business professional, my opinion of the wheelchair example is that it is commercially innovative, but in terms of IP laws, probably not so much. 

It is important to distinguish between commercial innovation and one that falls within the complex compounds of intellectual property law.

Final remarks

In this article I sought to emphasise the following key points:

  • Theoretically correct and valuable policies are not always practical
  • The innovation requirement under the Innovator Founder visa policy is theoretically correct and valuable 
  • There is a lack of clarity on the definition of “innovation” from the Home Office
  • Consequently, the aforestated means that each endorsing body will determine innovation on a case-by-case basis, instead of based on a comprehensive pre-determined set of criteria by the Home Office 
  • Using IP protection as a measure for innovation is not clarified and/or confirmed by the Home Office
  • IP protection as a determinant may have its flaws, with a hypothetical case study being used as a demonstration


Home Office. (2023). Innovator Founder. [Online]. GOV UK. Last Updated: December 2023. Available at: [Accessed 24 December 2023].

About | My name is Sohrab Vazir. I’m a UK-based entrepreneur and business consultant. At the age of 22, and while I was an international student (graduate), I started my own Property Technology (PropTech) business, StudyFlats. I did so by obtaining an endorsement from Newcastle University under the Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur Scheme. Subsequently, I obtained a further 3-year Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa (replaced by the Innovator Founder Visa). I grew my business to over 30 UK cities, and a team of four, and also obtained my Indefinite Leave to Remain (Settlement) in the UK. I now help other migrant entrepreneurs, such as myself, with their businesses, and mainly with obtaining endorsements from the endorsing bodies.