The UK Hackathon Guide


The tech community have embraced Meetups in the last few years as a great way of learning more and socialising - but are they anywhere near as exciting as competing in a Hackathon?

Does anything beat the adrenaline rush of being on a team with amazing programmers or creatives and being let loose for 24 hours or so whilst probably on a few too many energy drinks?

Your team gets to design, build and demo cool projects digitally and solve problems - and those problems are not always solely about helping a software company.  They can be as diverse as helping create smart cities, eco-friendly solutions and even making the world a better place

It’ll be a challenge, hard work, but also fun and might even be the experience of a lifetime.  And yes, you’ll lose some sleep but what you can gain should be well worth it.

We've searched high and low for all of the UK's hackathons for 2018 so you can choose which you like the look of. To see the full list click on the button below


And here's a quick preview of what is coming up soon

Event Name Location Date
Decentralised A.I. Hack London 5 May
Kaggle hackday London 5 May
Hack The South Southampton 5 - 6 May
BIBA hackathon Manchester 16 - 17 May
Filmmaking hackathon for data-driven storytelling York 18 May
Securi-Tay 2018 Dundee 18 May
Infusion Hackathon Healthcare London 19 May
Codethecity 13 - Hack society's relationship with alcohol Aberdeen 19 May
Second Sheffield Smart City Hackathon Sheffield 20 May
UWL18 Hack Birmingham 22 - 23 May
HackBelfast - Queen's University Belfast Development Weeks Event Belfast 23 May
NHS New Knowledge - hack day Leeds 23 May
HACK::SOHO May - Hacking Robots Before Skynet London 24 May
Hacks/Hackers London: May 2018 meetup London 30 May
Edinburgh MedTech Hackathon, June 2018 Edinburgh 1 - 3 June 

Why are Hackathons great?

1.   Learn, teach and improve fast

You’ll get the chance to work freely without the normal restrictions and barriers often in place at work and you’ll learn by doing/hacking/creating something from scratch often using new technologies and learning from experts.  And maybe you’ll be able to teach the rest of your team a thing or two at the same time!


You may use the skills you use every day or find you’ve got skills that you didn’t even know you had.  You’ll certainly develop your teamworking skills and how to present your work whilst taking a step back to see the bigger picture. And you'll work under pressure in a positively exciting way for once

2.   Innovate and build something new

Companies often run hackathons to bolster innovation within their own companies with internal hackathons or enhance their opportunities using the wider community. 

It can often be hard to innovate within a day job and hackathons provide the right environment for testing out new ideas, being creative with a diverse group of people and pushing the limits of technology.

The fact that there is a set time scale alongside blue sky thinking allows for actionable solutions, fixes for problems and often great products.  They’re not going to be perfectly finished products or fixes but the start of something great.  And building new stuff is always fun and rewarding

3.  Feel the satisfaction of completing a good job

Hackathons are intense but you’ll be amazed at what you can do collaboratively within a day or two.  Yes they are like marathons – hence the name, but the feeling when you complete the project will be fantastic – and yes you’ll be exhausted - but happy when you get to the finishing line

4.  Join the Community


A good hackathon should not only create cool ideas but also create something for the long term both for developers and businesses.  Developers get to work with their peers and  make new friends whilst businesses get to start a relationship with you and maybe even continue working with you for the future

5.  Network with likeminded people

You’ll meet all sorts of people at the event but you should all have something in common and find it possible to forge relationships even if you’re an introvert.  It’s a great chance to work on all angles of your skillset whilst working with people that are as excited about the work as you are, clever, and probably fun too.  You might even find yourself working with them for the long term as colleagues!

6.  Improve your teamwork and communication


There are different roles at a hackathon from designer, coder to potentially something really unusual and you might be learning something new, so don’t worry too much about your skill set.  You are likely to be able to contribute something useful whatever your role and will hopefully gain in confidence. 

Going through a new experience with a new team will open up your eyes to the different roles that are required and you’ll be forced to learn the art of flexibility, how work is done differently in those roles, and to work together in a short time scale very quickly (and yes there may be a few stressful ups and downs). 

We work in a fast paced world so this will be excellent practice and valuing the different people in your team will give you some invaluable soft skills too.  You’ll learn to communicate well with the team – tell them what you’re doing and why and ensure that that they’re ok and don't need help


7.  Gain the respect of your peers

If you win you’ll obviously get bragging rights back at your normal work place and you may get some cool stuff as prizes.    Completing a project well however should be enough and it may even be worth adding to your cv or social media profile

8.  Multiple benefits when running a hackathon

If you're a company actually running a hackathon there are a number of benefits that might make a real difference to your companies success.  You’re likely to start engaging with your developer community much better and getting feedback on your technology or products – especially in the longer term too.  Your brand may become much more accepted by developers and at the very least they will certainly be more aware of it.  You may even find that new solutions are created that help your brand develop and crack new markets.  You may even find your next employees as you’ll see who performs well and gain exposure to top talent whilst hopefully proving to them that you’re a fun and ‘hacker friendly’ employer

When Hackathons go bad

Not all hackathons are created equal and there have been occasions where companies have used them to take advantage of free labour, sell their products or launch new businesses.  Equally if you're a developer only driven by prize money you're possibly missing the point too if you're only focussed on the 'stuff'.

Added 30-Apr-2018