New inventions emerging from Scotland’s universities could change life as we know it.
A novel vaccine production platform that could prove decisive in the battle against Streptococcus; a fun, social robot designed to promote and instil handwashing behaviour in schoolchildren, and an electric alternative to the jet engine to enable sustainable flight – these are just some of the revolutionary ideas that have made it to the 2021 semi-finals of Converge, Scotland’s largest company creation programme for the university sector.
Approximately 90 academic entrepreneurs are now through to the Converge 2021 semi-finals, with representation from all 18 of Scotland’s universities. Semi-finalists are split across the four challenge categories – Converge, Creative, Impact and Kickstart. Edinburgh Napier has three projects recognised in the shortlist including university spin out companies PlusPEP and Mercel in the Converge category, and Edinburgh Napier student Erin Reid in the Impact Challenge.
PlusPEP promises to be Scotland’s first “antiviral, immunity boosting supplement pill”, while Mercel makes a range of sustainable material products using patented seaweed nancellulous technologies. Edinburgh Napier student, Erin Reid, proposes an easy-to-use menstrual hygiene product aimed at Military personnel to eliminate the taboo of menstruation in this male-dominated environment.
Nick Fannin, Head of Bright Red Triangle at Edinburgh Napier University, said:
“The Converge Challenge is a great showcase for the aspiring entrepreneurial talent emerging from Scotland’s universities and we’re delighted to see both Plus PEP and Mercel make it to the semi-final stage of the main competition and also undergraduate student, Erin Reid, in the Impact Challenge. We are continuing to build on our success in recent years with both spin-out companies and student start-ups.”
This year’s cohort also includes early-stage projects on the very first steps of the commercialisation journey. A clear trend this year is for projects with an environmental mission at their heart including renewable biomass briquettes, an advanced robotic system that sifts out contaminants at recycling centres and natural plant-based yarns for sustainable fashion which are homegrown and spun in the UK.
Commenting on this year’s cohort announcement Dr Claudia Cavalluzzo, Director of Converge, said:
“I’m always amazed at the inventiveness and creativity of the projects coming through Converge and, despite the difficult times we’re experiencing, this year is no exception.
Starting a business right now might seem counterintuitive. However, as the history books show, difficult business environments can offer rich opportunities with moments of crisis serving as a powerful impetus for innovation. We can’t wait to get started and would like to congratulate all our semi-finalists on getting through to this stage”
This year’s cohort will now attend intensive business training followed by a series of masterclasses from Converge’s network of professional advisors. Joining the Converge partner network this year is leading firm of accountants, Chiene + Tait who, under a three-year agreement led by partner Neil Norman from the firm’s Entrepreneurial Tax Team, will support both emerging and more established entrepreneurs on key tax and finance issues as well as wider business matters.
Commenting on the new partnership, Dr Cavalluzzo, said:
“Our professional partners play a vital role by providing invaluable, free advice to our cohort and alumni community to set them up for success. Chiene + Tait bring a wealth of expertise and have an unrivalled reputation in the early-stage investment space so we are absolutely over the moon to welcome them to the Converge family”
Neil Norman said:
“This is an exciting partnership with Converge, an initiative which continues to get bigger and better. We’re delighted to have this opportunity to work alongside the group’s other highly regarded corporate partners to further support their extensive network of entrepreneurs behind innovative university spin-out businesses. Chiene + Tait’s expertise in tax and financial matters along with our in-depth experience in supporting businesses with high growth potential brings real value to this partnership.”
Converge is funded by the Scottish Funding Council, all 18 of Scotland’s universities, Creative Scotland and a network of partners including Cisco, The Royal Bank of Scotland and Social Investment Scotland.
Find out more about Converge and the 2021 semi-finalists here.