The quest to find the next generation of entrepreneurs from Scotland's thriving academic entrepreneur community is underway once again.
Converge Challenge alumni launched the 2017 programme at the University of St Andrews challenging every Scottish university to uncover the next big idea.
In 2016, Erika Grant of the University of Aberdeen won the Social Enterprise category with Project TurnKey, a social enterprise that empowers people to see a life beyond prostitution.
The University of Aberdeen has a strong success record with Converge Challenge having won a total of five prizes. In 2015, Caroline Barelle won 2nd place in the main Converge Challenge award with Elasmogen and James McIlroy won the Social Enterprise award with EuroBiotix.
Between 2011-2015, the initiative has trained 240 emerging entrepreneurs that have formed 62 Converge companies and secured over £39 million of follow-on funding. Converge Challenge cements its position as the leading opportunity for Scotland’s university based entrepreneurs as 4 out of 5 Converge companies have secured follow-on funding and 80% are still trading after three years.
Businesses established through Converge Challenge have, to date, created 175 new jobs. This success can be attributed to its comprehensive business training programme delivered by an expert team that focuses on developing the key skills required to create a company. Participants and winners also receive advice and expertise from leading partner organisations on services that include: legal, finance, branding, product development and recruitment as well as networking and mentoring opportunities.
In 2017, the total prize fund is valued at over £150,000. In addition to a cash prize, winning projects receive a comprehensive business support package from selected partner organisations. Highlights include:
Automatic eligibility to pitch to investors at EIE 2018.
Royal Bank of Scotland remains a key partner for a second year and will provide winners with a money can’t buy package that includes their Innovation Gateway programme, access to the Open Innovation Centre in Edinburgh, a range of free cloud services and access to their global technology partner network.
Continued support from Firstport, Scotland’s development agency for start-up social entrepreneurs and social enterprise, providing ongoing business support and mentoring to the Social Enterprise category.
Converge Challenge focuses on practical hands-on training with participants taking part in an intensive entrepreneurial development programme that includes: 1-2-1 bespoke advice and support, mentoring, pitching experience and networking opportunities. Participants ultimately develop and submit a comprehensive business plan for their company, product and/or service. An expert panel of judges made up of leading entrepreneurs and investors from across the business community will assess the business plans and select the winners that will be announced at an awards ceremony at Glasgow Science Centre in September.
Converge Challenge brings together the most ambitious and creative thinkers from any Scottish Higher Education Institute (HEI) and offers three 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. Converge Challenge is open to staff, students and recent graduates and ideas can be for a product, process or a service, at any stage of development and from any industry sector. The key aim of the programme is to support the local enterprise activities that are delivered by individual universities and provide a national platform to showcase the entrepreneurial talent within the Scottish research base.
Olga Kozlova, Director of Converge Challenge, said: “This year every Scottish university is tasked with uncovering the next big idea and as a female entrepreneur I would like to personally encourage more women to apply in 2017. Following an increase in applicants for both the KickStart and Social Enterprise award categories both prize funds have been increased to £10,000 encouraging entrepreneurship at every stage.
“Converge Challenge remains committed to developing ambitious entrepreneurs and helping them build a valuable network of contacts that helps them to grow their business on a global stage. We are delighted to have the continued support of our entrepreneurial partners including Entrepreneurial Scotland who are providing broader networking opportunities for our winners.”
Converge Challenge is now open from Tuesday 7th February for applications and closes on Monday 10th April at 5pm GMT. To enter visit www.convergechallenge.com