Data and digital, life sciences and net zero dominate this year’s business offerings at a university startup challenge awards ceremony next month in Glasgow.

Twenty-eight finalists will contend for prizes in four categories at the annual Converge awards – showcasing the best spinouts and startups from Scotland’s universities.

Nine finalists work in data and digital technologies including Infinect, a Heriot-Watt University spinout developing reliable antenna technology for satellite communication ‘on the move’. 

A further nine are focused on health and life sciences and contain University of Edinburgh spinout, Concinnity Genetics, which is developing new AI technology that helps reduce the side-effects caused by gene therapy.

Six finalists are developing solutions as part of the energy transition, including Zephyrus Aerolabs, a University of Aberdeen company creating aerial emission monitoring technology to support the decarbonisation of the UK’s North Sea. 

Another two are making strides in advanced manufacturing, while the remaining two finalists are developing innovative ideas within food and drink.

The areas of expertise track the priorities for the Scottish Government in its 2023 innovation strategy published in June, which highlighted energy transition, health and life sciences, data and digital technologies, and advanced manufacturing.

Converge works in partnership with all 19 of Scotland’s universities and the four challenge areas are Converge, Create Change, KickStart, and Net Zero.

Since its launch in 2011, the programme has helped to create more than 330 companies which have raised in excess of £320 million in follow-on funding.

As part of this year’s programme, finalists from the Converge Challenge category will have the opportunity to travel to London to present their business ideas to investors and business leaders who can help them on their investment journey. 

The winners and runners-up of all four challenges – open to students, academics and graduates – will be named at the Converge awards ceremony in Glasgow on October 4. 

Dr Claudia Cavalluzzo, Converge’s executive director, said: “Our finalists demonstrate that Scotland’s universities are at the forefront of developing innovations that will help people and the planet while growing our economy.

“We selected our cohort of 100 start-ups and spinouts from a record 247 applicants back in May, just as the national innovation strategy was being unveiled.

“That alignment between the strategy’s objectives and the innovative ideas developed by our students, graduates, and researchers demonstrates the importance of Scotland’s universities and research institutes when it comes to fulfilling our nation’s ambitious goals.”

The Scottish Government’s 10-year national innovation strategy aims to place Scotland among the world’s most innovative small nations, including Denmark, Finland, and Norway. The strategy highlights the importance of the innovation ecosystem and the collaboration between businesses, the public sector and universities.

Paul Atkinson, founding partner at venture capital investor Par Equity and chair of Converge’s strategic advisory board, added: “Innovative universities are essential for an innovative nation to flourish, and this year’s Converge finalists demonstrate that Scotland’s students, graduates, and researchers have a key role to play in helping our nation achieve its goals.

“As a business angel and venture capitalist, these are the kinds of ideas that get investors like me excited – and the support and training that Converge offers to its cohort means that its participants are also developing the skills and abilities that investors want to see before they will sign any cheques.

“Congratulations and good luck to this year’s finalists – I can’t wait to see these companies flourishing in the future.”

See the finalists here.