3 men and 3 women holding balloons shaped as 2017

2017 Converge Challengers revealed

Graeme Thomsonblog

Innovative diabetes management, food waste digester & swimming aid products are amongst the companies vying for top entrepreneurial award. Converge Challenge 2017, Scotland’s leading company creation competition and entrepreneurial development programme for staff, students, and recent graduates of Scottish Universities and Research Institutes have revealed this year’s top 60 ‘Converge Challengers’. And there has been a leap in the number of female finalists which now account for 43% of the Challengers.

The three Converge Challenge award categories are:

  1. Converge Challenge – for those with an established idea
  2. KickStart – for early stage ideas
  3. Social Enterprise – for ideas that will have a positive impact on social and environmental issues

Business products or services, from any industry sector, at any stage are eligible. The Converge Challenge category is highly competitive this year with nine industry sectors represented and business ideas including:

  1. Brain cancer diagnostics
  2. microalgal supplements for fishmeal, to supply the livestock feed industry
  3. the world’s first automated, small-scale food waste digester to generate biogas
  4. a new flotation aid for children learning to swim
  5. garden design toolkits for adults with dementia
  6. an online platform to help people self-manage diabetes
  7. an alternative to popcorn

New for 2017 is a partnership that will benefit the top 30 Converge Challenge Life Science and MedTech participants. A number of the participants will have the chance to take part in a MediCity bespoke 3-day programme of sector specific support between the end of June and the business plan submission deadline in August.

Commenting on the finalists, Dr Olga Kozlova, Director of Converge Challenge, said:

“Every year the Converge Challenge competition gets stronger and this year looks like being the most competitive yet. Participants have put a lot of effort into describing their markets and customer interactions rather than focus on technology development. There is a strong ethical focus in many applications aiming to improve quality of life through innovations targeting 9 sectors of the Scottish Economy.

“The returning participants from 2016, emphasise the nurturing nature of the programme and our belief in supporting people as they develop their products and ideas. We look forward to seeing the Converge Challengers at our elevator pitch in June and wish them the best of luck as their entrepreneurial training and development begins.”

The 2017 Converge Challenge is already the most successful yet with 212 entries from 19 institutions, which have been shortlisted down to 60 finalists. The joint winner of Converge Challenge 2016, MindMate, led by Susanne Mitschke of University of Glasgow, has since had a great success with their assistance platform for people with dementia, their caregivers and family members.

Susanne said:

“Our Converge prize has made a meaningful difference; not only from a cash-perspective, but from the in-kind business services we’ve received.”

The Converge Challenge team were particularly gratified to see 5 applicants who were in the KickStart category in 2016 moving through to the Top 30 in 2017 in the main Converge Challenge category. This shows that they have taken the learnings from the process back to their Higher Education Institutes and have built on them, developing their business propositions to a very high standard.

As early stage shortlisted projects the KickStarters will receive two days of invaluable business support training and are encouraged, like last years Converge winner MindMate, to take on the full Converge Challenge next year. This reflects the intensive support ethos which is at the heart of Converge Challenge.

The KickStart projects are also from a wide range of sectors and, like the Converge Challengers, have raised the bar in the quality and depth of their entries. Examples of competing business ideas include:-

  • A project which aims to make life easier for people self-managing chronic diseases.
  • An innovative bicycle storage solution which saves space
  • Personal wind turbine to generate power in remote locations
  • A dyslexia screening device

The shortlisted Social Enterprise projects are businesses which have a social or environmental mission and are competing for a comprehensive package of benefits including cash prizes, in-kind business support prizes, entrepreneurial training, 1-2-1 mentorship, all geared to making them a successful, sustainable business.

The Social Enterprise participants are focused on delivering their social missions, which include:

  • A social giving platform that allows homeless and low income individuals to create profiles and raise money for basic needs
  • A platform for the remote delivery and monitoring of personalised physiotherapy exercise programmes for people with long-term conditions

Now in phase 2 of the process the 60 ‘Converge Challengers’ are set to take on an intensive entrepreneurial training and development programme, provided by Converge Challenge which culminates in the Ready, Steady, Pitch! event at the Royal Bank of Scotland Gogarburn specifically for the Converge Challenge category finalists on June 1st 2017. For those who reach phase 4, the overall programme prize fund at stake is £170,000 – a £20,000 increase on the 2016 prize fund – which includes a broad range of in-kind expert support and training provided through partners such as Murgitroyd, Morton Fraser, Mazars, and Morton Ward. Following an increase in applicants for both the KickStart and Social Enterprise award categories both prize funds were increased to £10,000 each encouraging entrepreneurship at every stage.

In March BiGGAR Economics published a report on the impact of Converge Challenge. Since its inception Converge Challenge has awarded prizes with a value of £663,000, with 56% awarded in cash, and 44% of in-kind support. Overall, £29.7 million of follow-on funding was secured by businesses based in Scotland and of this, £12.5 million can be directly attributed to the support provided through Converge Challenge. This means that every £1 funding invested by the Scottish Funding Council and universities in the Converge Challenge to date has enabled Scottish businesses to leverage a further £7.51 in funding.

Converge Challenge is the only higher education programme that is open to staff, students and recent graduates of all 19 Scottish universities and accepts applications for any product or service in any industry sector. Converge Challenge will announce the 2017 winners for each category at the annual awards ceremony on Thursday, 28 September 2017 at the Glasgow Science Centre, Glasgow.

A full list of all finalists can be found on the Converge Challenge website: https://www.convergechallenge.com

View the full independent report carried out by BiGGAR Economics