Converge Challengers announced

Dylan Macdonaldblog

Scotland’s leading company creation competition and start up development programme for staff, students, and recent graduates of Scottish Universities announces its top 60 ‘Converge Challengers’ for 2016.

Converge Challenge, has three core award categories. Converge Challenge: for those with an established idea; KickStart: for early stage ideas; and Social Enterprise: for ideas that will have a positive impact on social and environmental issues. Business concepts can be a product or service, in any industry sector and at any stage.

Amongst this year’s main Converge Challenge category a breadth of new business ideas have emerged, including:

• zero waste clothing
• a game that helps children to play music,
• technology that can recycle construction waste into bricks
• a non-invasive test for brain cancer
• a new robot concept
• a selfie challenge game

Commenting on this year’s finalists, Dr Olga Kozlova, Director of Converge Challenge, said:

“This year we have a diverse range of applicants with very strong representation from all the key industries in Scotland including: tourism, food and drink, renewables, life sciences and the creative industries.

“We are delighted to see previous participants back again in 2016 with a stronger position and we continue to see growth in the number of applicants using digital platforms for the delivery of products and services, recognising the importance of the tech sector in Scotland.”

Core to Converge Challenge is to support business ideas at any stage in their development and, following their success in the KickStart category in 2015, two projects that have refined their propositions and secured funding for product development and market entry are back as finalists in this year’s main award category. MindMate, an app designed to empower people with dementia, was the 2015 winner of the KickStart Digital Entrepreneur Award and recently won the Pitch of the Day award at EIE16; and Estendio, software to support the development of people with dyslexia, was a runner up in the KickStart award category in 2015.

Converge Challenge top 30 finalist, Susanne Mitchske, of MindMate, said:

“Having been part of Converge Challenge last year in the KickStart category, the guidance and support we received in getting MindMate off the ground has been invaluable and I am delighted to have strengthened our position over the last 12 months and be back as a finalist in the main Converge Challenge competition in 2016.”

The Social Enterprise and KickStart award categories continue to grow year on year and highlight the strong pipeline of entrepreneurialism emerging from within Scottish Universities. Projects for 2016 include:

• gloves that will translate sign language
• teaching foreign languages digitally
• assisted living technologies
• a new marine centre
• new drug delivery systems
• technical tweed clothing
• events technologies

KickStart finalist, Calum MacKinnon, of OutLoud who want to develop gloves that can translate sign language gestures into audible speech, said:

“I’m looking forward to the training. It will provide an opportunity to test our ideas, their viability, and to possibly to encourage research into new technology.”

The successful, ‘Converge Challengers’ will now participate in entrepreneurial training and development at RBS Gogarburn before taking to the stage to present their elevator pitches to the expert panel of judges on 2nd June, 2016. They are competing for the chance to win the overall top prize valued at £150,000 – made up of a cash prize and a broad range of expert support and training provided through partners and sponsors.

Scotland’s leading academic initiative achieved a new record of 212 entrants in 2016 and, since its inception five years ago, has grown by over 450%. To date, Converge Challenge has supported 150 projects and 90 early stage ideas that have resulted in formation of 68 companies. These companies have secured over £28 million of funding and currently employ 140+ staff.

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. The winners of each of the award categories will be announced at an awards ceremony at the Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh, in September 2016.

Dr Olga Kozlova, Director of Converge Challenge, added:

“At Converge we provide a full package and we work with participants to develop their business plan, identify their funding options, and understand the role of marketing and communications right down to their own branding. We continue to see strong success rates, with 70% of Converge Challenge companies going on to secure follow-on funding and an 85% survival rate for companies after two years.”

The top 30 shortlisted for each category will pitch to judges at RBS Gogarburn on Thursday 2nd June, 2016.

A full list of all finalists can be found here on the Converge Challenge website.