Converge semi-finalists point to closing gender gap

The Converge team, led by Claudia Cavalluzzo (second left), is gearing up for this year’s semi-final ‘Ready Steady Pitch’ event  on 12 June at the Dovecot Studios in Edinburgh.

A system that mimics human skin, to replace animal testing, an interactive map to help blind and visually impaired people to navigate safely around train stations, and a flat-pack, solar collector offering affordable, clean energy for developing countries – these are just some of the trail-blazing ideas emerging from this year’s pool of Converge semi-finalists.

Around 60 aspiring entrepreneurs from across Scotland’s Universities are now through to the next stage of Converge, Scotland’s leading academic enterprise programme. Semi-finalists will now be invited to attend three days of intensive, hands-on, business training which has been designed specifically to best prepare academic entrepreneurs in both start-up and spin-out companies. Nearly half of all semi-finalists this year are women entrepreneurs, with technology, engineering, and the creative industries some of the most represented sectors.

Tech for social good is an emerging trend with a large number of semi-finalists using technology to solve some of the world’s toughest challenges. This includes Dr Ali Abbassi Monjezi, of Waterwhelm, from the University of Edinburgh, who is tackling the global issue of water scarcity with a patent-pending technology that turns wastewater into freshwater while simultaneously generating electricity. With an estimated 2.1bn people lacking access to clean water and the effects of climate change creating ever more water insecurity, Waterwhelm’s innovative technology could be a game changer.

Meanwhile, Converge is working to build Scotland’s pipeline of creative industries’ entrepreneurs with several innovative projects now through to the next stage. This includes Robert Gordon University’s lecturer, Nicci Thompson, who is looking to disrupt the comic book industry, currently dominated by three US companies, with Untitled Comics, a pioneering digital publisher looking to showcase new and original content from creatives around the world.  

In addition to the bespoke business training, the cohort will receive one-to-one pitch coaching to help them master their ’60-second pitch’. Semi-finalists in the Converge Challenge category will also take part in ‘Ready, Steady, Pitch’ – a live pitching competition attended by investors, the entrepreneurial ecosystem, Converge alumni and members of Scotland’s business community on 12 June at the Dovecot Studios, Edinburgh. 

Dramatic change won’t be driven by traditional thinking so we need to mobilise our most entrepreneurial and creative minds.

Dr Claudia Cavalluzzo.

In the next phase of the programme, semi-finalists will submit a business plan with the very best ideas going forward to the Converge 2019 final at the V&A Dundee on 25 September.

Dr Claudia Cavalluzzo, Director of Converge, commented: “Converge thrives on ideas that are genuinely innovative and that have the ability to transform lives and this year our cohort has really pushed the boundaries with some truly ground-breaking projects. Nearly half of our semi-finalists are women, an encouraging trend particularly in light of the recent Rose Review that has shed light on the huge untapped potential of UK women in business. 

“We are also seeing a growing trend towards ‘tech for social good’ with academic entrepreneurs harnessing the power of technology to create economic wealth while positively impacting our society and the environment. These pioneers are addressing some of the biggest global challenges of our time around water security, food production, pollution, climate change and healthcare in an environmentally and economically sustainable way. Dramatic change won’t be driven by traditional thinking so we need to mobilise our most entrepreneurial and creative minds to solve these problems and Converge provides the ideal platform to do this.”