THE number of budding entrepreneurs – set to go head-to-head for what is believed to be Scotland’s biggest start-up prize – has risen to the highest ever.
The application deadline for the annual Converge Challenge competition passed last week (Friday 18 May) with a total of 50 entrants – up from 41 in 2011 – which will now be short-listed to 30 before the next stage, a 60-second Dragon’s Den-style pitch to judges.
Entrepreneurial talent is alive and well with applications from teams and individuals from 14 academic institutions across Scotland, from the Borders to Scotland’s newest university in the Highland and Islands.
Begins a spokesperson: “Converge Challenge is only in its third year but is attracting a growing number of applicants year-on-year. Run by Heriot-Watt University, it gives students and members of staff of any Scottish university and research institutes access to training and support to develop their entrepreneurial skills and explore commercial potential of their inventions.
“The winner, selected after a four stage process, is awarded the largest start-up prize in Scotland: £25k cash funding and a further £20k in-kind support in the form of mentoring, training and business assistance.”
Olga Kozlova, creator of Converge Challenge, said: “The Converge Challenge may still be in its infancy but the increasingly enthusiastic response from students and university staff across Scotland shows that this is still a nation of entrepreneurs with a healthy competitive spirit.
“The imagination and quality is evident in this year’s round and, with projects varying from life sciences and renewable energy to IT and the creative industries, we are confident of finding yet another impressive and ambitious rising star with the determination and drive to succeed.”
Paul Atkinson, Scotland-based entrepreneur and investor, said: “I know from experiences in my early career, that having the right kind of development support as business ideas and strategies crystallise is crucial.
“The number of applications is incredibly encouraging and proves the resilience of the Scottish enterprising ethos even in times of economic uncertainty and change.”
John McClelland, chair, Scottish Funding Council, said: “By giving the right support for potential new businesses and its founders to refine their fledgling propositions and help bring them to market, Converge Challenge helps ensure that the innovation nurtured at universities continues to directly benefit Scotland.
“The year-on-year growth in the number of applicants is indicative of the central role of higher education in creating and maintaining a vibrant, resilient economy.”
The next stage of Converge Challenge 2012, the elevator pitch, will take place on June 7.
Notes to editor
1. Since 2010, the Challenge has received over 130 applications.
2. Over 2010 and 2011, Converge Challenge:
• Trained over 50 research entrepreneurs
• Seen over 350 staff and students attend associated seminars and workshops
• Supported five companies into commercial trading, four to reaching the stage of incorporating and eight others on the path to incorporating
3. Key dates in theConverge Challenge
Residential training workshop: Thursday 7 – Friday June 8
Elevator pitch competition: Thursday June 7
Deadline for full business plans: Friday August 3
Top ten selected: Monday August 20
Judges select top six: Monday September 3
Final pitches and awards dinner: Thursday 27 September
For more information on the Converge Challenge, visit: http://www.hw.ac.uk/industry/collaborate-with-us/converge-challenge.htm
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