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Converge 2023 launches challenges


Converge is Scotland’s premier company creation programme for staff, students and recent graduates of all Scottish Universities and Research Institutes.

Converge’s mission is to empower the next generation of innovators, creators and ground breakers turn their ideas into commercially viable businesses to improve lives, safeguard our planet and help Scotland’s economy thrive.

In the Kickstart Challenge in 2022, Dr Jessica Birt of spinout Concinnity Genetics took the top prize for her unique AI technology for gene control systems, developed during her PhD at the UK Centre for Mammalian Synthetic Biology.

Runner up was Dr Sofia Ferreira-Gonzalez of SensiBile, spun out of the Centre for Regenerative Medicine on Edinburgh BioQuarter, who is developing an electrochemical biosensor to help detect problematic biomarkers in donor livers.

In the launch of the challenges for 2023, Converge is dispelling the myth that you need to call yourself an “entrepreneur” to set up a business as it reveals this year’s challenges.

The initiative – which helps staff, students, and recent graduates from Scottish universities to launch businesses – is instead highlighting the impact that founders can have through their companies, both for people and for the planet.

This year’s quartet of challenges – Converge, Create Change, KickStart, and Net Zero, which all open on Wednesday – will help innovative start-ups and spinouts to create products and services that go beyond simply making a profit but also have an impact on people’s lives.

£320,000 in funding and support is available to the winners and runners-up, along with access to the advice, events, and training that make Converge one of the most-effective company creation initiatives in Scotland.

Since it began in 2011, the initiative has helped more than 600 people to launch more than 300 businesses, creating in excess of 800 high-value jobs and raising £280 million in follow-on funding along the way.

Companies launched with its support have a 69% survival rate after 3 years, compared with a UK average of 40%.

Dr Claudia Cavalluzzo, executive director of Converge, said: “Words like ‘entrepreneur’ and ‘entrepreneurship’ are off-putting for lots of people, especially women and impact-driven individuals.

“Converge wants to help overcome this ‘entrepreneurship’ image problem by broadening the language we all use when we talk about setting up businesses to tackle problems.

“It doesn’t matter whether you call yourself an ‘entrepreneur’ or a ‘founder’ or a ‘creative’ because we don’t care about those labels.

“If you want to make a difference to people’s lives or to the planet then Converge can help you gain the skills and the tools that you need to make it happen.”

As well as working with 18 of Scotland’s higher education institutions, Converge is funded by the Scottish Funding Council, Creative Scotland and ten corporate partners including Cisco, the Royal Bank of Scotland, SIS Ventures, SSE, BeyondHR, Chiene + Tait, CPI, Haseltine Lake Kempner, I4 Product Design and MBM Commercial.

Erin’s research found that 82% of female soldiers have not received enough information or resources to carry out effective menstrual hygiene when on field exercises or deployment, while 77% of women want better period products.

Outdoor enthusiasts, adventurers, and armed forces personnel are among the most at risk from urinary tract infections (UTIs), toxic shock, or infertility because poor hygiene increases exponentially in remote environments where there is no access to toilets, handwashing facilities, or places to dispose of used menstrual products, Erin pointed out.

LU Innovations won last year’s Converge Create Change Challenge and the Rose Award, a standalone prize sponsored by the Royal Bank of Scotland to help women start businesses.

As well as a £40,000 cash prize and £10,000-worth of business support, Erin won a one-to-one mentoring session with NatWest Group chief executive Alison Rose.

Now, Erin is preparing to raise £200,000 in seed funding and bring on board both a business partner and a non-executive director to help her grow her company.

LU Innovations is already working with Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen to further develop its design and with the Medical Device Manufacturing Centre at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh on relevant healthcare standards.

Dr Cavalluzzo added: “Erin and her LU Innovations are great examples of the drive that lies at the heart of Converge – to give everyone the chance to solve a problem, no matter their background or gender.

“Erin spotted a problem that she wanted to fix and teaming up with Converge and our university partners will help her to make a difference in the lives of women around the world.

“Inclusion sits at the heart of Erin and LU’s mission and we want to make this year’s Converge even more inclusive and diverse because everyone deserves the chance to turn their ideas into innovations.

“You don’t need to think of yourself as an ‘entrepreneur’ in order to tackle a problem – Converge can help you to develop the skills you need to set up and run a business.”

As well as the support from Converge, LU Innovations has been helped on its journey by the Bright Red Triangle enterprise skills team at Edinburgh Napier University.


Converge’s mission is to empower the next generation of innovators, creators and ground breakers turn their ideas into commercially viable businesses to improve lives, safeguard our planet and help Scotland’s economy thrive.

Funded by the Scottish Funding Council, Creative Scotland, all 18 of Scotland’s universities, and a network of ten corporate partners, the programme is designed to springboard new businesses through intensive training, networking, 1-2-1 support, generous equity-free cash prizes and expert advice from a roster of business and investment experts.

Since launching in 2011, Converge has trained 600+ academic entrepreneurs and supported the creation of 300+ companies that enjoy an unusually high survival rate of 69%*.

The deadline for applications for Converge 2023 is 29th March at 12 noon.

Find out more and apply here