Following record-breaking entries to Converge Challenge 2018, the leading Top 60 projects from Scottish universities include a range of innovative ideas covering women’s health, virtual reality, renewables and sustainability.

The three Converge Challenge award categories are:

  1. Converge Challenge – for those with an established idea
  2. KickStart – for early stage ideas
  3. Social Enterprise – for ideas focussing on social and environmental issues

Cybercrime, virtual reality, robotics and social inclusion are topics and issues that surround us every day and the innovative minds of Scotland’s academia have risen to the challenge with products and services that meet these societal needs.

The impact of the Design and Creativity award, introduced in 2016, is demonstrated in the success of such innovative products as wheelAIR – a battery powered cushion for wheelchair users enabling them to exercise safely. The 2018 shortlist includes a proposition that that brings together health and design with aesthetically pleasing footwear for people with foot drop due to Multiple Sclerosis or a stroke.

A trend displayed in the shortlist, and making up over 30% of entries, is the shift towards sustainable solutions to a range of challenges – reducing consumption, re-using more products and recycling waste. The Top 60 includes innovative software which is designed to improve the overall energy conversion efficiency of wind, hydro and tidal energy turbines.

Both technology and health sectors stand out this year as a major focus for entries. This includes a ground-breaking ultrasound detection system to evaluate the response to medical treatment responses in days rather than months, resulting in earlier discovery and quicker treatment. Also shortlisted is a low cost, non-invasive, digital home test to help women monitor their own gynaecological health and a novel electronic skin, which enables robots to sense and feel like a human does with their own skin.

Professor Andrea Nolan O.B.E., Convener of Universities Scotland, said:

“I am truly delighted to see the shortlisted Converge Challenge participants continue to raise the bar each year and produce pioneering and innovative products and services from technology to robotics and health.

“The ambition of these 60 budding entrepreneurs is to change the lives of people here in Scotland and the rest of the world for the better through social good and inclusive solutions.

“I look forward to tracking the progress of these wonderful projects which exemplify the excellence of our Scottish universities and showcase the diversity of sectors they support.”

As competitors progress to the Top 60 they will benefit from a range of opportunities and an extensive programme of support that is critical to enable them to further develop their business propositions. Benefits of the programme support include: 1-2-1 bespoke advice; enhanced business and pitch training; hands-on mentoring; and a total prize fund of over £160,000 of cash and in-kind business support for the winners.

A stand out aspect of Converge Challenge is that previous applicants are encouraged to return, which is central to the nurturing ethos that is fundamental and unique to the programme.