A sensor that detects runway conditions before an aircraft’s high speed approach is among a number of digital solutions in the latest Converge Challenge innovation competition.

The solution, which risk-assesses runway surface conditions during take off and landing, was developed by Aberdeen-based d-finger Ltd, reflecting the fact that 40% of aviation accidents occur during flight approaches or landing.

Dr Nadimul Faisal, of Robert Gordon University, is developing the solution in order to reduce near-miss landings, avoid diversion of aircraft and prevent delays, cancellations and aborted landings. He is among 32 entries in the latest Converge Challenge KickStart semi-final, which includes a biodegradable coffee cup made from coffee waste and a patent pending solution for the diagnosis and therapy of ‘lazy eye’, a condition affecting 230 million children worldwide.

Aimed at innovative projects embarking on the first steps of the commercialisation journey, KickStart helps academic entrepreneurs, from all sectors, to test and validate their business ideas with the aim of establishing commercial viability – with some significant successes. This week for instance, 2014 KickStart winner, Chris McCann, CEO of digital health platform Current Health, announced a $11.5m investment round. 

Technology and Engineering, Life Sciences and the Creative Industries are the most represented sectors this year with a significant proportion of projects focused on solving critical environmental problems such as pollution, climate change and waste reduction. Overall, digital solutions accounted for 11 of the 32 entries – or 34% of the total.

Among them is Kachi Maduabuchi, a postgraduate student from Glasgow Caledonian University with the Susty Cup, a biodegradable coffee cup made from coffee grounds, natural resin and plant fibres. Kachi, who worked in the hospitality industry during her studies, came up with the idea after being shocked by the waste generated from coffee grounds and single-use cups.  By repurposing coffee grounds into reusable takeaway cups, Kachi aims to reduce the environmental impact of our ‘coffee on the go’ culture. 

Ross Gillanders, a Research Associate from the University of St Andrews has created a portable, low cost optical sensor to enable real-time pesticide testing in water. With pesticide contamination of drinking water a growing global issue, Ross’s innovation will help to speed up detection rates and reduce the impact of contamination events. 

Mark Dorris, a Research Associate from Edinburgh Napier University is creating sustainable alternatives to the petrochemical-derived ingredients found in many personal care products. Using nanomaterials derived from a sustainable seaweed source, Mark’s formulations are fully biodegradable, ingestible and free of harsh chemicals.

Dr Claudia Cavalluzzo, Director of Converge, said: “Every year we wait for the KickStart application deadline with trepidation, not knowing how many or what type of projects will come through. However, the breadth and creativity of applications that the challenge attracts never fail to disappoint and this year is no exception.

“It’s also heartening to see so many Universities responding to the climate emergency by supporting many incredible ideas and innovations that have the power to change lives.  It’s great to see a new generation of entrepreneurs in Scotland joining the fight to keep our planet not only surviving but thriving.”

She added: “We look forward to working with our KickStart cohort in the months ahead and helping them refine and validate their early-stage business ideas through customer discovery training, pitch coaching and the wrap-around support offered by our team and partners.”

Semi-finalists will now be invited to take part in two days of intensive business training designed specifically for academic entrepreneurs.  They will then be asked to submit a business case with the very best asked to pitch at an Awards Final in February with one lucky winner taking home a £10,000 cash prize.  A runner-up will also receive £5,000 in cash.

Converge KickStart 2020 – Participants with digital technology projects 

3finery – Llogari Casas Cambra – Edinburgh Napier University 
An augmented reality software solution that morphs the appearance of real-world objects with realistic, physically-based appearance and shadows.  With applications across mobile apps, entertainment and interactive toys, 3finery enables inanimate objects to interact, play and receive messages remotely as though they were magically coming to life.

Crack Map Ltd – Saber Khayatzadeh – University of Strathclyde
Crack Map aims to reduce the cost, time and risks associated with the health monitoring of engineering structures in the offshore wind industry. Using a novel digitalised approach, Crack Map will help to increase the lifespan of structures without the need for human interaction.    

Crossroad Games CIC – Hannah Gordon – Queen Margaret University 
Crossroad Games CIC is a game design company and social enterprise creating imaginative, digital, visual novels for clients while running a 12 week ‘Level Up!’ programme for young people struggling at school. The company is not only solving a social problem by helping young people at a crossroads in their life but is providing real business solutions for clients looking to engage more effectively with their employees.

d-Finger Ltd – Nadimul Faisal – Robert Gordon University 
d-Finger Ltd has developed a sensor-based scanner that risk-assesses runway surface conditions during high speed approach. With 40% of all accidents occurring during the flight approach and landing, Nadimul’s novel solution will reduce near-miss landings, avoid diversion of aircraft and prevent delays, cancellations and aborted landings. 

Ellyra – Collin Powers – University of Edinburgh
Ellyra is revolutionising the tennis industry by developing virtual reality training software. Using VR, Ellyra allows players and coaches to train together in real-time from anywhere in the world. Thanks to our AI component, players are granted access to never-before seen analytics such as accuracy heat-maps and precise racket contact points.

Empowered Earth – Anji Sandhu – University of Glasgow 
Anji Sandhu of Empowered Earth who has developed a holistic management tool called PCOS Buddy for women living with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, a hormonal disorder affecting one in five British women.  With no known cure, the condition can lead to distressing symptoms including acne, hair growth and weight gain while also predisposing women to endometrial cancer and cardiovascular disease.  

Foxshyre Analytics – Luis Toral – Robert Gordon University 
Foxshyre Analytics is an emergent start-up company using data analytics and artificial intelligence that relies on costly and labour-intensive physical inspections, Foxshyre Analytics is a platform technology that can be deployed quickly and cost-effectively to analyse the structural integrity of equipment and assets.  This in turn could save the industry millions as operators look to extend the productive life of their assets.

LORAB – Spyridon Daskalakis – Heriot Watt University 
Spyridon Daskalakis from LORAB who has developed an ultra, low-cost sensor system enabling large-scale, precision farming applications. Aiming to disrupt the Agri-Tech sector, LORAB sensors can communicate over 100s of metres without the need for batteries. The data can also be read via standard smartphone devices. With climate change having far-reaching impacts on agricultural production, farmers will no longer be able to make decisions based on their own experience. Spyridon’s sensor system offers a novel alternative enabling long-term precision monitoring to radically improve farmland production and the sustainable use of resources.   

Moving Margins – Lynette Nabbosa – Glasgow Caledonian University 
Lynette Nabbosa has developed the MoveRight app, a one-stop shop providing guidance and support to social housing tenants living independently for the first time. From understanding bills and rent letters to finding out how to access grants, discounts and benefits, the app will provide a win-win for social landlords, potentially saving them thousands of pounds on court costs, eviction proceedings and lost rent. 

SmartScroll  – Howard Moshtael – University of Edinburgh
SmartScroll aims to innovate the digital reading experience by presenting text dynamically (rather than statically), so that it moves across the screen to mimic the movements of the eye when reading that text. SmartScroll is faster and a more natural method of reading from screens, even screens as small as a smartwatch. SmartScroll is especially beneficial for those with visual impairments as it removes the need to make eye movements. It also allows a more intimate interaction between machine and reader, opening the door for educational, creative and wellness benefits.

Swype Global Ltd – Peter Atorough – Robert Gordon University

Swypatune is an app-based music contest that exposes millions of upcoming artists to a wider audience, who hitherto were limited in engaging in traditionally organised music competitions due to geographical and national constraints. The app allows free, fair and remote entry into the
competition and allows users to vote for the artists who will go on to win a packaged price and recording contract. Voting is swipe based, akin to Tinder. It’s therefore simply described as ‘X-Factor meets Tinder’. Users are rewarded for engaging in the competition with ‘swypapoints’ which can be
redeemed from partner vendors in the app.