The Converge Challenge is a demanding and increasingly well-respected competition. At stake is a first prize of £60,000 in cash and kind to help the winner develop the commercial potential of their inventions. Now in its fourth year, it’s open to students and staff of any Scottish university and, this year, four of the top six finalists come from Edinburgh and will battle it out with entrepreneurs from other Scottish universities.
Through to the Converge Challenge final from the capital are – University of Edinburgh trio Kanika Bansal, an RSE Enterprise Fellow from the Department of Biomechanical Engineering, third year PhD student Liita Lyaloo Naukushu from the School of Political Science, working with Helen Fisher a Santander Entern from LAUNCH.ed. Also in the final are Dr Colin Simpson, a reader in Population Health Sciences and Heriot Watt University’s Dawn Maskell, a Post-Doctoral Research Associate. Each of them has created their own start-up business with a strong emphasis this year on providing solutions across the medical device and healthcare sectors.
Kanika has developed IV Prev, a non‐invasive, disposable device which offers a 99.4% reduction on skin bacteria to prevent infection from IV needle punctures. Likewise, Liita’s and Helen’s business – Beckdales Ltd is a company developing a range of home and industrial cleaning products to dramatically reduce the spread of infections. Colin Simpson’s business is TriScribe is described as a ‘BigData’ spin‐out from Edinburgh BioQuarter. It analyses data relating to drug by linking prescription information to clinical outcomes. Meanwhile, Dawn Maskell’s business, Horizon Proteins, is developing a sustainable source of proteins for food industries, whereby co‐products from Scotch whisky, as an example, might be converted to a high‐quality protein feed for the Scottish aquaculture industry.
According to Olga Kozlova, the creator of Converge Challenge, the competition “is about equipping people with the right skills and support they need to turn their academic research into a successful commercial venture. New businesses like these set the tone for Scotland’s continuance as a centre of excellence for aspiration and innovation. Kanika, Liita, Helen, Colin and Dawn, together with the other two finalists from Dundee and Aberdeen, have demonstrated impressive commercial acumen and business planning throughout the entire process leading to this stage.”
The final of the Converge Challenge takes place in Edinburgh on Tuesday 24th September at the Edinburgh Conference Centre, Heriot Watt University, where the keynote speaker will be John Swinney MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Employment and Sustainable Growth in the Scottish Government.
The Converge Challenge offers the largest cash prize of its type available and gives both students and members of staff of any Scottish university and research institute access to training and support to develop their entrepreneurial skills and explore commercial potential of their inventions. This year’s entries covered a wide range of innovative businesses, from consumer products and novel drugs, to renewable energy devices, web applications and service based businesses.
The Scottish Funding Council has pledged £525,000 of funding over the next three years, in addition to Scotland’s eight research universities pledging financial support to the tune of £360,000 over the same period, as Scotland’s flagship entrepreneurial business competition continues to flourish.