Artificial intelligence (AI) is at the ‘heart’ of a new wave of innovative companies coming out of Scottish universities, according to the Converge Challenge startup support scheme.

Converge has today unveiled the 100 start-ups and spinouts that will receive support to turn their ideas for products and services into reality as part of its 2023 programme.

They include novel uses of AI to help tackle challenges including the climate emergency, health conditions, and childhood literacy.

Nineteen universities are represented in the latest cohort of promising companies with would-be entrepreneurs demonstrating how AI can help solve some of the world’s biggest challenges.

Examples include Books2Life, created by Aisha Kasim from Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen, which uses AI to create illustrations based on the text of any book, bringing stories to life for children with dyslexia.

Scott Black, from Claymore Surgical at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, is using AI to speed up the diagnosis of paediatric obstructive sleep apnoea, one of the most common respiratory disorders in children.

Darius Roman’s yaiLab at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh helps companies to optimise their use of large batteries connected to the electricity grid through the use of AI.

Dr Claudia Cavalluzzo, executive director at Converge, said: “This year’s cohort proves that ideas and innovations are thriving in Scotland’s universities, with AI at the heart of many of these new companies. 

“Turning ideas into impact is at the core of Converge’s mission to unlock the potential of innovators, creatives, and aspiring business founders across Scotland’s universities.”

Data released last week by Beauhurst showed that Edinburgh is the top start-up hub outside London, with 12.3 per cent of companies working in AI, digital security, and financial technology. 

Dr Cavalluzzo added: “We are proud to be supporting ambitious people from right across Scotland who demonstrate that university students, staff, and graduates are rising to the challenge of delivering sustainable and inclusive economic growth in every region.

“At Converge, we continue to become more diverse and inclusive, with a 28 per cent increase in applicants from ethnically diverse backgrounds, and an 8 per cent rise in applications from women. Broadening diversity and inclusion is part of our aim to change the narrative around the word ‘entrepreneur’, which has negative connotations for lots of people, particularly women and impact-driven individuals.”

Converge Challenge is funded by the Scottish Funding Council, Creative Scotland, all 18 of Scotland’s universities, and a network of ten corporate 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 business and investment experts.