• Converge has published its 2022 shortlist which has seen an increase in innovative projects focusing on sustainability, AI, and healthcare.
• There has also been growth in the diversity of this year’s shortlist with more BAME, disabled and non-British participants than ever before.
• Converge has also announced a new partnership with Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre (IBioIC) with one Biotech project in the running for a prize package at the awards ceremony in November.
Converge, Scotland’s largest company creation and enterprise programme for the university sector, has published its most innovative shortlist for the 2022 programme.
Over 200 applications have been whittled down to 101 shortlisted projects across four ‘challenge’ categories – Converge, Create Change, Net Zero and KickStart, with all 18 Scottish universities represented in the final cut.
Sustainability, AI, and engineering are key themes that shine through from this year’s shortlist, as well as several health-related projects that could directly benefit social care, mobility, and chronic disease management. Projects with the potential for global impact include Converge Challenge semi-finalist, Podspectrix Ltd, a joint project from Heriot-Watt University and the University of Edinburgh. Using AI to detect and prevent diabetic foot ulcers – one of the main causes of limb amputations in the UK, this project has the potential to reduce life-altering complications for patients, as well as reducing pressure on the NHS.
Meanwhile, a Net Zero semi-finalist, SolSafe from Robert Gordon University, has developed a smart thermal battery, a green gamechanger for the energy industry as it can replace both fossil-fuel boilers and supplement heat-pump systems.
Projects in the Creative Industries are strongly represented this year including Storybuild, a semi-finalist in the Create Change category, developing a webapp to enable users to co-create literary works, making the writing process more interactive and less solitary.
There have also been many ingenious and original ideas in the KickStart Challenge, an early-stage category designed to help academic entrepreneurs at the very first stages of the commercialisation journey. One such project is Empatech, from Queen Margaret University, which is developing reusable wearable devices that simulate different physical impairments associated with neuro-disabilities.
The 2022 cohort is the most diverse in Converge’s 11-year history, with 24% of projects from the BAME community. In addition, 10% of participants identify as disabled, as well as 42% non-British participants.
Claudia Cavalluzzo, executive director at Converge, said: “I am continually amazed by the high quality of innovation emerging from Scottish universities, and this year is no different. I believe that this will be one of the most competitive years to date. The diversity and inclusivity of this year’s shortlist is particularly encouraging, with more participants from the BAME community and those with disabilities making it into the cohort. While parity across all areas remains some way off from being achieved, our efforts to extend the appeal of Converge to a broader and more diverse audience is working.
“I am also particularly inspired to see more of the current university population coming forward with interesting and new concepts and projects to make a difference in the world that we live in. Collaboration and ideation within higher education have been undeniably challenged over recent years, however, as we welcome a high proportion of submissions from students this year, this trend has been bucked and is stronger than ever.”Converge has also announced a new partnership with the Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre (IBioIC), one of Scotland’s seven innovation centres, which will award a package of support to one successful Biotech project. This includes a free membership to IBioIC, a dedicated IBioIC account manager and £20,000 in project funding for the university where the project originated. Semi-finalists will now move on to attend in-depth training sessions over the coming months, culminating in an award ceremony on 3 November 2022, where the cream of this year’s projects vie for a slice of the £300,000+ prize pot to advance their businesses. Converge has supported 500+ entrepreneurs and the creation of more than 300+ companies since it launched in 2011.
Full list of semi-filnalists
Create Change Challenge
Net Zero Challenge
Converge is Scotland’s largest company creation programme for staff, students and recent graduates of all Scottish Universities and Research Institutes.Converge’s mission is to help 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 professional 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 industry partners. Since launching in 2011, Converge has trained 500+ academic entrepreneurs and supported the creation of 300+ companies that enjoy an unusually high survival rate of over 80%.