Eighteen fledgling businesses and innovative ideas from Scottish universities are to be showcased in the Converge 2020 final later this month.
The event which will be staged virtually via a webcast is to showcase the best of Scottish academic entrepreneurship.
Finalists are competing across three of the four Converge ‘Challenges’: Impact , Creative and flagship Converge category as they vie for a chance to win part of the £230,000 total prize fund of equity-free cash and in-kind support.
The body said that this year’s cohort of entrants had been all the more resilient as they built their business propositions in the face of the Covid pandemic.
Technology and data-driven innovation remain overarching themes in this year’s entries which include the analysis of satellite data, assessing fish health across Scotland’s salmon farming sector and diagnostic techniques to identify heart diseases in companion animals using a single blood sample.
An interactive mobile gaming platform that educates and informs users on foraging, cooking and crafting; breathing fresh life into knitting using digital knitting patterns and a novel blowpipe engineered to reduce pipers’ risk of lung disease, are among the entries hoping to emerge as winners of the Creative Challenge.
Meanwhile, the Impact Challenge, aimed at developing businesses that focus on social or environmental issues, includes propositions that span from microgrid technology that will transform off-grid electrification in the developing world to innovative farming approaches to turn degraded farmland into a healthy wetlands ecosystem where food can then be grown.
In spite of the pandemic, applications to Scotland’s premier academic company creation programme have been exceptional high this year with a record number of initial submissions up 17% on 2019.
In June, 60 semi-finalists presented their ideas via two virtual pitch events that reached a global audience, where more than 300 people logged in from the likes of the US and India.
To add to the global dimension, this year’s Converge final is hosted directly from Doha, Qatar by Scottish news presenter Halla Mohieddeen.
She will welcome guest speakers including Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, multi-award-winning environmental entrepreneur, Kresse Wesling MBE, co-founder of sustainable British fashion brand, Elvis & Kresse, Professor Andrea Nolan OBE, Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Edinburgh Napier University.
Susan Fouquier, managing director, business banking, Royal Bank of Scotland will also announce the winner of the‘Rose Award’, a brand-new award presented to an aspiring, ambitious female entrepreneur from this year’s Converge cohort, named after Alison Rose, CEO, The Royal Bank of Scotland.
Venture capitalist and serial investor, Paul Atkinson, founder of Par Equity and Chair of the Converge Strategic Advisory Board, believes that, despite the Covid-19 pandemic, the high calibre of entries this year is testament to Scotland’s Higher Education Institutions’ continued support of innovative projects and ideas.
He said: “This year has unquestionably been a challenge for us all. Despite university campuses being in lockdown, the making of an entrepreneur lies in the unerring ability to overcome any obstacle and push on for success.
The final takes place on Thursday 24 September.