- Converge Challenge has created 35 companies
- 4 out of 5 businesses have shared in a 'follow-on’ funding pot of over £10 million
- Converge Challenge is now a focal point within the Scottish entrepreneurial ecosystem
- Scottish Funding Council extends support to Converge Challenge for a further three years
Launched yesterday (Thursday 26th February) at the Royal Society of Edinburgh and attended by Fergus Ewing MSP, the Business, Energy and Tourism Minister, Converge Challenge 2015, with its increased overall prize fund of £100,000, gives research staff and students from Scotland’s Higher Education community a chance to bring forward their best business ideas and inventions, thereby continuing Scotland’s rich and proud tradition of innovation and enterprise.
Like last year, the Universities’ aspirational entrepreneurs can participate in three main categories – Converge Challenge Award, KickStart Award and Social Enterprise Award.
Organisers have, this year, added a fourth category - the Entrepreneurial Spirit Award - a special award given to an entrant who may possess all the attributes of traditional entrepreneurs, creates value and has the willingness to take risk.
As well as expanding its categories, Converge Challenge is, for the first time, broadening its reach to embrace all university staff, undergraduates, postgraduates, as well as recent graduates (qualified in the past 12 months). Even if a fledgling business has been started and it has been trading for less than six months with sales of less than £50,000, then Converge Challenge is open to applications.
Supporting the endeavours of Scotland’s Higher Education Institutes involved in this year’s Converge Challenge, Mr Ewing remarked that the country has an education system with entrepreneurship and innovation at its core, based on the ‘world leading strength from our universities’.
Mr Ewing said:
“Our young people are our greatest asset and it is crucial, perhaps more now than ever, that we see their economic potential unleashed.
“The Converge Challenge is a focal point within the Scottish entrepreneurial ecosystem and makes clear our ambition with the vision of Scotland as a world-leading entrepreneurial and innovative nation.
“The Scotland CAN DO framework was developed with public, private and third sector partners to further sharpen our focus on creating sustainable economic growth. We are determined to see more young people starting their own businesses in Scotland.”
Over the last four years, Converge Challenge has attracted 260 applications, engaged with 120 projects, from which around 30% went on to create companies, employing 73 individuals. 4 out of 5 of these businesses have secured follow-on funding which currently stands at £10 million. Last year, 38% of entries were from female applicants.
Veronica Ferguson, Enterprise Outreach Manager of Converge Challenge comments;
“The process of establishing, developing and funding a new start-up company is one of the toughest challenges faced by budding entrepreneurs – however, students and academic staff at universities across Scotland entering the Converge Challenge competition will find a world of exciting engagement, mentoring support and encouragement really opens up for them.“
Guest speaker at today’s launch was Professor Andrea Nolan OBE, Principal and Vice Chancellor of Edinburgh Napier University.
She said: “Scottish universities have produced more spin-out companies than any other part of the UK over recent years, fuelling economic growth and enhancing our communities at home and abroad.
“That’s a result of the tremendous amount of activity going on across all our institutions – from work helping grow our biotech and construction sectors, to bolstering the digital start-up boom in Edinburgh.
“It’s a great achievement, one of which everyone should be proud, and The Converge Challenge is an excellent way of giving that next generation of entrepreneurs and innovators the confidence and support to succeed.”
Laurence Howells, Chief Executive of the Scottish Funding Council commented; “The Funding Council has supported this exciting entrepreneurial competition from the beginning and I am delighted to renew our support for another three years. It has already helped to start 35 companies, launching 35 products including revolutionary medical diagnosis tools. Last year saw a record 111 applications from students and staff at Scottish universities and I look forward to seeing many more brilliant entries this year.”
Entrants to the Converge Challenge will now have until 1st May to submit their initial form, followed by the Elevator Pitch process taking place on 2nd June with a closing deadline being set for 7th August for business plans.
The overall winner of the Converge Challenge being announced after a final pitch process at a gala event to be held at Barony Hall, University of Strathclyde in Glasgow on Thursday 29th September.
The Converge Challenge 2015 opens February 26th. Full details and how to enter can be found here. Follow @ConvergeC on Twitter using #ConvergeC
About Converge Challenge:
Converge Challenge is a high profile pan-Scotland company creation competition and entrepreneurship development programme for staff, students, recent graduates and non-trading or trading companies (for less than 6 months and with a secured income less than £50K with University support) of Scottish Universities and Research Institutes aimed at creating a new generation of entrepreneurs in Scotland. It works with any industry sector, product or service-based ideas at any stage of the development. The top prize in Converge Challenge 2015 is over £60,000. The programme will provide you with excellent networking opportunities to connect and interact with like-minded people and build your business contacts.