a group of9 men and three women sit and stand together in a group

Converge Challenge announce new Strategic Advisory Board

Graeme Thomsonblog

Converge Challenge, Scotland’s leading company creation competition and entrepreneurship development programme for students, graduates and staff from the country’s universities and research institutes announces its new Strategic Advisory Board (SAB).

Comprising some of the country’s most respected and influential academics and business leaders, the members of the SAB will be ambassadors for Converge Challenge, advise on future funding opportunities and work to ensure the long term sustainability of the programme. In addition they will input to the strategic direction of Converge Challenge through offering their advice and expertise.

The new SAB will help build on the Converge Challenge ambition to ignite, nurture and grow the entrepreneurial mindset amongst universities and the academic community. With leading lights of academia and business on board, the SAB will identify the emerging challenges and opportunities to enhance the Scottish entrepreneurial community.

Launched in 2010 by Dr Olga Kozlova, Converge Challenge is a high profile pan-Scotland company creation competition and entrepreneurship development programme. The inaugural SAB meeting took place on 16th Nov 2016 during Global Entrepreneur Week.

The SAB members are:

  • Paul Atkinson, Founder & Partner, Par Equity LLP
  • Conrad Chin, CTO at Netthings Ltd and Chairman (non-executive), Blackford Analysis Ltd
  • Professor Sir Pete Downes, Principal & Vice-Chancellor, University of Dundee
  • Dr Stuart Fancey, Director, Research & Innovation, Scottish Funding Council
  • Susan Fouquier, Regional Managing Director Business Banking Scotland, Royal Bank of Scotland
  • Adrian Gillespie, Managing Director of Operations, Growth Companies, Innovation and Infrastructure, Scottish Enterprise
  • Dr Roddy Macdonald, Head of Higher Education and Science Division, Scottish Government Advanced Learning and Science Directorate
  • Professor Sir Jim McDonald, Principal & Vice-Chancellor, University of Strathclyde
  • Professor David Sigsworth OBE, Chairman, Sigma Capital Group plc
  • Professor Richard Williams, Principal and Vice Chancellor, Heriot-Watt University
  • Professor Lesley Yellowlees CBE, Vice-Principal and Head of the College of Science & Engineering, The University of Edinburgh
  • Sandy Finlayson, Chair, Converge Challenge
  • Dr Olga Kozlova, Director, Converge Challenge

Sandy Finlayson, Chair of Converge Challenge, said:

“Formation of the Strategic Advisory Board represents a big new step for Converge Challenge and I am delighted to see such an impressive group of leaders from academia and business come together to advise us on strategy and ensure that Converge keeps developing and delivering best value to our participants and stakeholders. We live in times of rapid change both in terms of technological development and societal shift and it is important that Converge stays ahead of the game. The Board members will bring new, diverse ideas and will enable the team to reach for new heights.”

Susan Fouquier, Regional Managing Director, Business Banking Scotland, Royal Bank of Scotland said:

“I am delighted to be joining the Converge Challenge Strategic Advisory Board and look forward to working with the other members on the strategic development of the programme. Converge routes are firmly based within higher education but it is important that the programme receives input from investment and the wider business community, to ensure that our budding entrepreneurs receive the best possible support. Working with SMEs is one of the key targets for Royal Bank of Scotland and it is great to be offered another opportunity to contribute to Scotland Can Do agenda.”

Converge Challenge is recognised as the leading opportunity for students, recent graduates and academic staff across the Higher Education sector. Jointly the companies formed within Converge Challenge have raised over £37 million of funding through grants, investment and sales, and they employ 158 staff. The Converge Challenge programme is instrumental in the creation of world leading products and services which are already making an invaluable contribution towards Scotland becoming a world-leading entrepreneurial nation. Former Converge participants have jointly formed 62 companies with 41% incorporation rate and over 80% surviving beyond three years. Two thirds of the companies formed are technology companies with high growth potential for global trading. The sectors cover Life Sciences, Energy and Renewables, ICT, Financial Services, Construction, Fashion and others.

Converge Challenge Strategic Advisory Board biographies

Paul Atkinson

Founder & Partner, Par Equity LLP

Paul is a Professional Investor, Venture Capitalist and Board Advisor with a track record of creating value for companies and investors in the technology and business services sector.

His principle focus is as Founding Partner of the boutique investment business, Par Equity LLP, which provides EIS (Enterprise Investment Scheme) Funds in the technology venture space as well as investment Funds in other asset classes, including Residential Property and Forestry. Par also operate one of the UK’s most substantial professional investor networks, the Par Syndicate.

Prior to founding Par, Paul has established Direct Resources (acquired by NASDAQ listed iGate Corporation), RecruitmentScotland.com (acquired by another NASDAQ listed business TMP Worldwide) and Head Resourcing, which has a £40M turnover and provides IT, business change and medical resourcing services. An active angel investor, he has invested in over 30 fast growing technology companies, including Rocela Group and Mobiqa. Paul has a BSc in Physics from Manchester University.

Conrad Chin

CTO at Netthings Ltd

Chairman (non-executive), Blackford Analysis Ltd

Conrad has spent his career in leadership roles at technology companies in industries ranging from healthcare, to travel, to energy management.  As a computer-scientist by training he has a natural enthusiasm for technology, but has also developed a deep interest in product and the people dynamics of start-ups.  He has worked in growth companies at all stages (pre-revenue to £30m+) and has experience of acquisitions from both buyer- and seller-side.

His early career was at medical start-up Voxar where he led the design of the company’s core product – one of the world’s first PC-based 3D medical imaging tools.  Conrad then worked for Belgian company Barco after their 2004 acquisition of Voxar, overseeing later generations of the Voxar product family.  Subsequently, he spent several years consulting for a range of technology companies, including a youthful Skyscanner (where he would later run the software team), Toshiba (helping with the $250m+ acquisition of med-tech business Vital Images), and Blackford Analysis (where he was instrumental in founding the company with CEO Ben Panter, and appointed non-executive chair).  He has been in his current role with Netthings for 2 years where he leads the product development team.

Professor Sir Pete Downes

Principal & Vice-Chancellor, University of Dundee

Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Dundee, Sir Pete was Convener of Universities Scotland from 2012 to 2016. One of the UK’s leading biochemists he champions the role universities play in driving innovation and economic growth.

After working in the pharmaceutical industry he joined the University in 1989, helping establish Dundee as a global leader in life sciences. A co-founder of the Division of Signal Transduction Therapyat Dundee (awarded a Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher Education), his awards and nominations include the Colworth Medal of the British Biochemical Society, Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences. He was honoured by the Queen with both an OBE and a Knighthood.

His memberships include the Council of the Society of Biology, the National Centre for Universities and Business, SCDI, Trustee for the Saltire Foundation and a board member of Design Dundee Ltd.

Dr Stuart Fancey

Director, Research & Innovation, Scottish Funding Council

The Scottish Funding Council (SFC) is responsible for the development of Scotland’s further and higher education institutions.

In his present role as Director, Research & Innovation for the Scottish Funding Council, Stuart is responsible for SFC’s research funding policy, knowledge exchange and innovation policy, SFC’s contribution to the development of the Research Excellence Framework and various other liaison activities across the Scottish and UK university and innovation landscape.

His team are closely engaged with Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise to find opportunities to better exploit the excellence of Scotland’s university research base for economic and societal benefit.

Susan Fouquier

Regional Managing Director, Business Banking Scotland, Royal Bank of Scotlan

An experienced banker with significant knowledge gained in a variety of cross border roles including Corporate Real Estate Finance, Risk Assurance and Corporate Portfolio Management.

Since March 2015 Susan has been the Regional Managing Director of Business Banking Scotland. She has delivered a number of transformational change programmes within the bank and is currently responsible for 120 staff and 35,000 SME’s.

Susan is passionate about supporting business expansion, job creation and economic growth in Scotland. She is also a champion for diversity within the workplace.

Susan is the current chair of Business in the Community’s Scottish National Action Plan for Responsible Business Committee and sits on The Royal Bank’s Scotland Board. She is also regularly called upon as a respected judge at various Business Awards across Scotland.

Susan read International Business & Modern Languages at Strathclyde University. A busy working mother, her personal time is focused on raising and supporting her active rugby mad sons. She also strongly believes in supporting the next generation of Entrepreneurs and Future leaders and personally mentors a number of businesses and young people.

Adrian Gillespie

Managing Director of Operations, Growth Companies, Innovation and Infrastructure, Scottish Enterprise

Adrian Gillespie oversees Scottish Enterprise’s business support and company building functions, including our investment in infrastructure, our Account Management portfolio, Scottish Manufacturing Advisory Service, Innovation Support, Regional Selective Assistance and commercialisation.

Adrian has been with Scottish Enterprise for over 14 years. Prior to his current role, Adrian was Senior Director of Energy and Low Carbon Technologies for Scottish Enterprise, responsible for working with industry to establish and deliver clear priorities for investment and growth, with a particular focus on offshore energy.

Adrian spent 10 years in commercial and financial management positions within Marks and Spencer plc before joining Scottish Enterprise.

Adrian has a Bachelor of Accountancy degree from Glasgow University and an MBA from the University of Strathclyde. He is currently a Board Member of Opportunity North East (ONE) – a private sector Board to broaden and boost the economy of the North East of Scotland and the Glasgow Science Centre Charitable Trust.

 Dr Roddy Macdonald

Head of Higher Education and Science Division, Scottish Government Advanced Learning and Science Directorate

Dr Roddy Macdonald is a Senior Civil Servant with the Scottish Government, where he is Head of the Higher Education and Science Division. Prior to this he was Head of Innovation, Investment and Industries Division, which led Scotland CAN DO, the Government’s framework for innovation and entrepreneurship.

During his 17 year career with the Scottish Government he has worked in policy and project management related to economic development, planning, social enterprise, education and social care.

Prior to working with the Scottish Government he worked in planning and economic development consultancy with the Halcrow Group and as a lecturer and researcher at the School of Planning, Oxford Brookes University.

He has a BSc and PhD in Town Planning and is a member of the Institute of Directors.   In 2011 he was a Churchill Fellow travelling to Canada and the USA to investigate methods of funding development infrastructure.

Professor Sir Jim McDonald

Principal & Vice-Chancellor, University of Strathclyde

Professor Sir Jim McDonald joined the University of Strathclyde in 1984 following seven years in the electric utility industry and was appointed to the Rolls-Royce Chair in Electrical Power Systems in 1993. He became Principal and Vice Chancellor of the University of Strathclyde in 2009. He Co-chairs, with the First Minister, the Scottish Government’s Energy Advisory Board. He is Chairman of the Independent Glasgow Economic Leadership Board and the Board of the Glasgow Science Centre.

His non-executive directorships include: Weir Group; Scottish Power; UK Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult; National Physical Laboratory. He chairs two of the pan-Scotland research pools in Energy and Engineering and is Chair of the Royal Academy of Engineering Research Committee.

Awarded a Knighthood for services to education, engineering and the economy, he is a Fellow of the Royal Academy, the Royal Society of Edinburgh, the Institution of Engineering and Technology, the Institute of Physics and the Energy Institute.

Professor David Sigsworth OBE

Chairman, Sigma Capital Group plc

Chairman of Sigma Capital Group plc, which specialises in property development and urban regeneration, David’s background is in energy and the development of energy utility assets. After being main board executive director of the FTSE 100 utility companies SSE plc and Scottish Hydro Electric plc. He was Chairman of the SEPA till 2015.

David has investment and non-executive interests in off-shore renewables, combined heat and power, smart grids and low energy buildings.

David led an independent group of experts reviewing Scottish fuel poverty policy.  In October 2016 the Scottish Government published the Scottish Fuel Poverty Strategic Working Group report and is considering recommendations for the eradication of fuel poverty.  David is also a member of the Scottish Government’s Strategic Energy Advisory Board.

David is Chairman of the Advisory Boards of the Energy Technology Partnership, based at the University of Strathclyde, and has an honorary professorship with the University of Dundee’s Offshore Renewables Institute.

Professor Richard Williams OBE

Principal and Vice Chancellor, Heriot-Watt University

Principal and Vice Chancellor of Heriot-Watt University Professor Williams is Vice President of the Royal Academy of Engineering.

A graduate of Imperial College, he has held posts at University of Manchester (UMIST), Exeter (Camborne School of Mines), and was Pro Vice Chancellor at University of Leeds and University of Birmingham. A founding Director of the Manufacturing Technology Catapult Centre in Coventry and several other businesses, he served on both CBI Yorkshire and West Midlands Councils.

A Royal Academy of Engineering (UK) and Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (Australia) Fellow, he has helped establish educational and research collaborations worldwide. Visiting professor at the Chinese Academy of Sciences (Beijing), Southeast University (Nanjing) and Taylors University (Kuala Lumpur) he has published over 400 journal papers and patents and developed a range of commercial technologies. He is a trustee of the Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland and Advisory Board member of the Lloyds Register Foundation.

Professor Lesley Yellowlees CBE

Vice-Principal and Head of the College of Science & Engineering, The University of Edinburgh

Lesley Yellowlees CBE is Vice Principal and Head of the College of Science and Engineering at the University of Edinburgh.  Having worked with the Royal Society of Chemistry for many years, she became their first female President in 2012.

A champion for the promotion of women in science, she was honoured by the IUPAC as a Distinguished Woman in Chemistry for her scientific contributions to the global chemistry community. Her research interests include inorganic electrochemistry and spectroelectrochemistry, epr spectroscopy, solar energy and CO2 conversion.  Her other interests include public engagement and the promotion of women in science.

Awarded an MBE for services to science and a CBE for services to chemistry, she was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and an Honorary FRSC.  She has honorary degrees from Aberdeen, Bristol, Edinburgh Napier, Heriot-Watt, The Open and Strathclyde Universities.

Sandy Finlayson

Chair, Converge Challenge

Sandy Finlayson took over the role from Mervyn Jones at the 2016 Converge Challenge Awards. Sandy is a co-founder of law firm MBM Commercial, dedicated to serving the needs of young technology companies and their investors. Involved in forming, then Chairing Business Forum Scotland, he has also been a Director and Company Secretary of several successful companies.

Sandy has been involved in numerous initiatives to support the funding of high growth companies including: introducing the founders of Archangels, which developed into the biggest business angel syndicate in Scotland; the formation of Seraphim Capital, the UK’s first Enterprise Capital Fund; and several other Enterprise Capital Funds as well as a number of other early stage venture capital funds. Sandy has a strong reputation across the business community for his knowledge of corporate finance, mergers and acquisitions, high growth start-ups and spin outs, corporate governance and strategic advice.

Dr Olga Kozlova

Director of Converge Challenge 

Dr Olga Kozlova is the founder and Director of Converge Challenge – Scotland’s leading business start-up competition and entrepreneurship training programme. Converge Challenge helps to develop the next generation of entrepreneurs from all nineteen Scottish universities.

Olga started her career as a Royal Society of Edinburgh Enterprise Fellow at the University of Edinburgh. She then moved on to become a founder and a CEO in a biotechnology start-up company and afterwards worked in business development within life science and healthcare before moving into technology transfer and commercialisation role at Heriot-Watt University.

Olga is a member of the Young Academy of Scotland and a co-chair of its Industry Working Group. She is also a board member of Young Enterprise Scotland.

Her background includes commercialisation of intellectual property, fundraising and business development. She is experienced mentor and non-executive director. Her current focus is on providing training and mentorship to early stage entrepreneurs.

Olga holds a PhD from the University of Edinburgh in Cell Biology and an MSc in New Venture Creation.