Converge Challenge

MindMate and MicroSense share top prize

Susanne Mitchske: joint winner
Susanne Mitchske: joint winner

MindMate and MicroSense Technologies have been named joint winners of the Converge Challenge, Scotland’s company creation competition and start up development programme for staff, students, and recent graduates of Scottish Universities. 

The first place prize, valued at £71,000 and including £43,000 in cash and £28,000 worth of business support, will be split between the joint winners (valued at £35,500 each, £21,500 in cash and £14,000 in business support).

MindMate led by Susanne Mitchske of University of Glasgow is an assistance platform for people with dementia, their caregivers and family members.

Marc Desmuilliez: joint winner
Marc Desmulliez: joint winner

MicroSense Technologies is led by Professor Marc Desmulliez of Heriot-Watt University, a service company based on the patented product called FoodSense, a microwave based sensor system for the Food & Drink industries.

Dr Olga Kozlova, director of Converge Challenge, said: “My congratulations to all the winners, the finalists and the participants of Converge Challenge 2016 for raising the bar yet again. This is the first time we have had a joint first place and it is testament to the quality of this year’s finalists.

Second place went to Chris Hughes of University of Strathclyde with Estendio, a company aiming to revolutionise the educational development of dyslexics throughout the world by delivering innovative software products and services. The firm takes home a prize fund of £29,000, including £15,000 in cash and £14,000 in business support.

New for 2016, to celebrate Scotland’s Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design, was a prize valued at £24,500 including £10,000 in cash and £14,000 in business support for Design and Creativity that was awarded to Dr Alexander Enoch of University of Edinburgh with Robotical, a company that creates robots that inspire and engage the next generation of engineers and scientists.

The KickStart prize, for early stage ideas, was awarded to Dr David Harris-Birtill of University of St Andrews with Beyond Medics Ltd: Automated Remote Pulse Oximetry, a camera-based system that remotely measures patients’ vital signs. He receives a cash prize of £3,000.

An additional award for the KickStart finalists was the KickStart Digital Entrepreneur Award, recognising internet entrepreneurialism and the online marketing talent of the finalists’ early-stage ideas.

The winner was chosen by an online vote that was open to the public in the weeks leading up to the final and was awarded to Richard McAdam from Edinburgh Napier University with Regenerative Shock Absorber, an innovative shock absorber that generates electricity and reduces fuel consumption and harmful emissions.

In collaboration with Firstport, the Social Enterprise category focused on ideas that will have a positive impact on social and environmental issues. The first place prize of £5,000 cash was awarded to Erika Grant of University of Aberdeen with Project TurnKey, a social enterprise that empowers people to see a life beyond prostitution.

The Entrepreneurial Spirit Award sponsored by Entrepreneurial Scotland recognises the participant that has demonstrated drive, focus and determination. The cash prize of £1,000 was awarded to Anna Renouf of University of the Highlands & Islands with Orrin Equestrian, a company developing a pioneering new saddle, produced from composite materials that will offer enhanced comfort for the horse and rider, allowing them to work to their maximum potential. 

The annual awards hosted more than 220 guests including the panel of expert judges, made up of industry experts, leading entrepreneurs and investors from across the business community, who judged the finalists as they presented their final business plans in 45 minute pitches. 

The 2016 Converge Challenge programme has been the most successful to date with 17 of Scotland’s universities represented, among 212 applications. This was a record number of applicants and represents 14% growth year on year.

Applications were received from undergraduates (30%), postgraduates (40%) and staff (30%) and increased applications for both the KickStart (34%) and the Social Enterprise award categories (14%).

Dr Kozlova, continued: “Scotland’s universities have once again shown that their ambition to create world leading products and services is thriving and we are committed to offering the practical support that these blossoming ideas always need. I would also like to thank all our partners for their continued support; we are already looking forward to Converge Challenge 2017.”

Guest speaker Lord Bilimoria, founder of Cobra Beer, told guests that luck played a significant part in business success.

He also said “guts” were a key part of what made an entrepreneur. “They have guts to do it when others give up,” he said.

He added: “It is better to fail doing the right thing, rather than succeed doing what is wrong.”

Keith Brown, Economy Secretary, said: “The Converge Challenge is an excellent example of universities collaborating, sharing best practice in entrepreneurial education and activity. 

“To be a CAN DO nation, we know that our prosperity depends on successful new ideas and new businesses being created here in Scotland, which is why entrepreneurs and innovators will be fundamental to generating jobs and economic growth in the future.

“The Converge Challenge makes an invaluable contribution towards Scotland becoming a world-leading entrepreneurial nation.”

After dinner speaker Susan Deacon, chairman of Institute of Directors Scotland, said: “Collaboration and teamwork are key to the success of every business and to our economy.

“Converge is a fantastic example of what can be achieved when Universities and businesses combine their efforts to bring people and ideas together and to support the next generation of entrepreneurs.

“We should never underestimate the importance of forging the human connections which enable individuals and their companies to learn, innovate and grow.”


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