A Scottish university has teamed up with the married co-founders of a successful global consultancy firm to fund a new competition that ‘encourages innovation’ and supports enterprising students and recent alumni.

Edinburgh’s Queen Margaret University (QMU) has partnered with former student Jamie Riddell and his wife Katherine through their latest venture – Escaping Gravity – which is a global SEO consultancy for challenger brands.

The Escaping Gravity Entrepreneurship Competition, to which the Riddells have donated £5,000, offers QMU Business Innovation Zone (BIZ) members the opportunity to enhance their businesses using creative and innovative digital technology, such as website or app development and social media marketing.

In its first year, five £1,000 prizes have been awarded to successful student and alumni start-ups, who were required to submit a 60-second video pitch explaining how they would use the funding to enhance their business digitally.

This year’s winners are David Blomquist Media, Half/Cut Films, Spider Arts, ShadowHill Studios Limited and Naka Media, which will all receive £1,000 worth of funding.

Jamie and Katherine Riddell said: “We were absolutely delighted with the response to this entrepreneurship competition and the standard of the videos in which the entrants presented their company or product, was very high. There were many great ideas and choosing just five was a tough task for the judges. Well done to all the winners but we also thank everyone who entered and wish them all the best with their ventures.”

Fiona Rich, founder of Spider Arts, said: “We are absolutely delighted to have the support of Escaping Gravity to help us realise our vision of making creative digital media available in our mobile art therapy service, the Calmbulance. The funds will allow us to purchase an iPad, Apple Pencil and a suite of creative apps and software, unlocking a world of unlimited creative potential for our clients. Introducing this technology makes art-making more accessible to a wider range of individuals seeking therapeutic support.”

David Blomquist, from David Blomquist Media, said: “I am beyond words receiving this support for my business, as it will allow me to create a website and upgrade my software, which in turn will build a platform for audience interaction and display of current video content. Most importantly, it gives me an incredible opportunity for growth, after such a difficult year.”

Ross Brydon from ShadowHill Studios said: “ShadowHill’s Tuition Series has made significant developments in the delivery of our service since its inception back in 2016; but now thanks to the support of Escaping Gravity, we really are evolving into a complete tuition solution.”

Ben Ramsay and Chris McCall from Half/Cut Films said: “At Half/Cut, we are incredibly grateful to Escaping Gravity, both for the fun experience of developing a video pitch and for the funding that followed. After a tough year, we really can’t express just how much this funding will help us in the coming months to develop our craft and continue to grow as a company.”

Louise Duncan and Anton Winters, co-directors and founders of Naka Media, said: “We were both so thrilled to find out that we had won. This money will really help us during this pandemic and will also help us to grow in the world after. Podcasting has been a way for many to connect with each other, and for us, a way to connect with our audience and friends during this hard year.”

Thomas Kelly, Head of Development and Alumni at QMU, said: “We are incredibly thankful to Escaping Gravity, whose support is going to have an incredible impact on each of our five winners. Not only this, Jamie and Katherine are setting the foundations for other like-minded alumni and friends of QMU to support our entrepreneurship at QMU.”

Escaping Gravity is an SEO Consultancy focused on driving profitable growth for challenger brands. They support the expansion of clients across international markets including the USA, UK, France, Germany, Austria and Australia.