Scottish Universities Converge For Top Prize

  • Scottish uni’s unite to propel innovation with global impact

The Converge Awards, Scotland's annual celebration of academic innovation and entrepreneurship across Scottish Universities, took place last week at the spectacular V&A in Dundee.

The annual quest to find the country's most promising academic entrepreneurs with innovative and commercially-viable business ideas was attended by 200 guests including university principals, investors, entrepreneurs and the wider business eco-system. The evening showcased 18 finalists with an impressive and diverse range of projects across health care, the creative industries, renewables and food security.

For the first time, more than half of the finalists were women thus showing a better representation within this innovative area.

The winner of the coveted Converge Challenge category was Dr Andrew Woodland from the University of Dundee with new drug discovery company, In4Derm. In4Derm re-engineers oral drugs and turn them into novel topical drugs to help patients suffering from skin diseases improving their quality of life.

To emerge as winner from the final eight-strong field of exceptionally talented innovators is truly humbling and the most amazing confidence-building boost any academic entrepreneur could have! Plus the prize package will really help me to develop the business - not just from a financial perspective, but also the amazing network that comes with it.

Dr Andrew Woodland, the University of Dundee

The runner-up for this category was awarded to Dr Fiona Rudkin from the University of Aberdeen with Mycobiologics - an enterprise focused on bringing new, life saving therapeutics to market to fights bacterial and fungal infections that are currently resistant to available treatments.

The next award went to Faisal Ghani from Heriot-Watt University for the Impact Challenge category. Solaris, a flat-pack, solar collector provides clean energy in the form of hot water. As well as tackling climate change head on, the tech is empowering some of the world's poorest people by providing access to low-cost, clean heat.

The runner-up to Solaris was Jamie Bankhead with Konglomerate Games, a developer specialising in healthcare gamification. The current type has been designed in partnership with Microsoft and turns physiotherapy for young people with cystic fibrosis into a series of fun computer games.

The winner of a newly-introduced Creative Challenge category, part-funded by the National Lottery was won by 'architecht-turned-entrepreneur' Pooja Katara of SENSEcity Ltd, a new-age travel guide using augmented reality and immersive tech to bring to life, stories from the distant past that remain tucked away in the corners of Glasgow.

The category runner-up was Marwa Ebrahim of Atypical Cosmetics Ltd, offering bespoke skincare to people with allergies using AI customisation tech. Through the online service, customers can select the ingredients in their moisturisers to ensure allergy-safe beauty products.

Both Pooja and Marwa's projects are joint ventures between the University of Glasgow and The Glasgow School of Art, demonstrating the power of collaboration.

The line-up of speakers included Richard Lochhead MSP, Minister for Further Education; Poonam Gupta OBE, CEO of PG Papers; Professor George Boyne, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Aberdeen and former Converge alumnus, Christopher McCann of Current Health.

For the first time ever, all 18 Scottish Universities have joined forces with the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) to pledge financial support for Converge, with SFC earmarking over £1 million funding to cover the next three years. Further additional support has been pledged by The National Lottery through Creative Scotland for the new 'Creative' Challenge.

As ever, Converge has produced exceptional winners and finalists this year. Many congratulations to them all.What we have seen again this year is the incredible collective talent of our Universities to create transformative, game-changing innovations that have the power to change people's lives for the better. From disrupting the healthcare market to novel, low cost solar energy collector, Scotland's Universities have set a new bar for innovation.

Claudia Cavalluzzo, Director of Converge

The overall entrants to Converge this year were outstanding and once again demonstrates Scotland's strengths in academic innovation and entrepreneurship.

Building on the 'CAN DO' agenda, the Scottish Government will continue to support academia-industry collaboration to boost Scotland's innovative performance.

Richard Lochhead MSP, Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science

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