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Converge Awards

Clean sweep for female-led spin-outs in Converge final

Genevieve Patenaude: ‘This will allow us to fast track our vision’

For the first time in the 10 year existence of the Converge Awards, female entrepreneurs have emerged as winners from the three main categories.

The event celebrated academic innovation and entrepreneurship among 18 emerging businesses who reached this year’s final. 

In a keynote address via a webcast to a global audience, Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s First Minister, praised this year’s cohort as having “the very qualities and the mindset that the Scottish Government will continue to encourage and support”.

Earth Blox, a University of Edinburgh start-up tackling climate change issues, run by Genevieve Patenaude a senior lecturer from the School of Geosciences, won the flagship Converge Challenge Award and the top prize of £71,000 in equity free cash and in-kind business support.

Dr Patenaude said: “Winning the Converge Challenge will allow us to fast track our vision of democratising planetary scale satellite intelligence, so it becomes accessible to a whole suite of organisations dealing with humanitarian and disaster relief.”

The Impact Challenge was won by Leia Kennedy of Aquaponics Garden from the Fife-based Scotland’s Rural College. She co-founded Aquaponics Garden to offer a scalable, sustainable and profitable indoor farming model that overcomes seasonality. 

Elena Höge, a design and digital media masters graduate from the University of Edinburgh, secured the top prize for the Creative Challenge thanks to her newly founded start up, Yaldi Games, an interactive and educational nature experience game production company.

Susan Fouquier, managing director, business banking, Royal Bank of Scotland, presented the inaugural Rose Award to Leia Kennedy of Aquaponics Garden from SRUC making her a double winner on the night. Her prize will include a one-to-one mentoring session with Alison Rose, chief executive of NatWest (RBS) Group.

This year’s final was hosted directly from Doha, Qatar by Scottish news presenter Halla Mohieddeen.

Nicola Sturgeon joined Kresse Wesling MBE, environmental entrepreneur and co-founder of sustainable British fashion brand, Elvis & Kresse; and Professor Andrea Nolan OBE, -principal and vice-chancellor, Edinburgh Napier University.

In a video address, Ms Sturgeon said: “It is highly commendable that Converge alumni have established around 200 companies since it started in 2010, adding more than £20 million to Scotland’s economy last year alone. Together they have helped to create more than 500 jobs in a range of key sectors. 

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“We know that innovation is vital to our economic future to help us meet some of the great challenges of our time. We want Scotland to be at the forefront of meeting these kinds of global challenges by designing and inventing the advances which will shape all of our futures.

“That’s why we have increased Government funding for research and development and why we are supporting Innovation Centres in areas such as precision medicine, biotechnology and big data.”

Claudia Cavalluzzo, director of Converge, said: “The standard of entries continues to reach new heights. Unquestionably, the growth of Converge is proof positive that the entrepreneurial mindset is alive and well across our university sector. 

“Of course, this year has unquestionably been a challenge for us all. Despite university campuses being in lockdown, the making of an entrepreneur lies in the unerring ability to overcome any obstacle and push on regardless. At Converge, we’ve seen this time and time again.”

A full list of all the winners can be found on the Converge website:

Award CategoryNameProject NameUniversityPrize
Converge ChallengeWinnerGenevieve PatenaudeEarth BloxUniversity of Edinburgh£50,000 cash and £21,000 in-kind support)
Converge Challenge Runner-upRobyn HickersonTen BioUniversity of Dundee(£20,000 cash and £9,000 in-kind support))
Creative ChallengeWinnerElena Höge Yaldi GamesUniversity of Edinburgh£20,000 cash (plus £21,000 in kind support)
Creative Challenge – Runner-upRobbie MacIsaacMacIsaac LimitedUniversity of Strathclyde£10,000 cash (plus £9,000 in kind support)
Impact ChallengeWinnerLeia Kennedy Aquaponics GardenSRUC£20,000 cash (plus £15,000 in-kind support)
Impact Challenge Runner-upFraser StewartConnex SolarUniversity of Strathclyde£10,000 cash (plus £9,000 in-kind support)
DB Media Services News and corporate photography

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