Scotland's research entrepreneurs move closer to GBP25,000 cash prize

Olga Kozlova and the 2011 elevator pitch winner, Dr Helen Hastie

Twenty-six budding entrepreneurs have survived a 'Dragon's Den-style' elevator pitch and moved one step closer to winning a cash prize of £25,000.

It is amazing the range of new business ideas that exist within the research of students and staff in Scotland's universities/p> Ewan Morton, Mortonward

The pitches were part of a two-day commercialisation training course for Converge Challenge, a unique business competition run by Heriot-Watt University aimed at finding Scotland's next generation of entrepreneurs.

Each applicant was given just one minute to pitch their business idea to a panel of judges, made up of leading entrepreneurs and business men and women from across the country.

Pitch perfect

The winner of the Elevator Pitch event was 'Health Coach', an Absence Management Service (AMS) created by Dr. Helen Hastie of Heriot-Watt University. Her idea impressed the judges with its potential to improve the UK's work absentee rates and save employers billions of pounds each year. The concept consists of a mobile phone app for employee health monitoring combined with a web-portal that provides intelligent analysis of triggers of absence.

Other ideas included:

  • A device to support the early screening of dementia, which could provide quicker diagnosis for patients and save the health service millions of pounds.
  • A pioneering long-distance gaze-tracking system which will allow companies to monitor advertising engagement in real time and evaluate its real impact.
  • A mobile phone energy application that boosts the efficiency of mobile phones by reducing energy consumption and provides benefits to users through financial reward.

"An amazing range of new business ideas"

Converge Challenge launched in 2010 and is the brainchild of Olga Kozlova, Enterprise Creation Manager at Heriot-Watt University. She said: "The ideas pitched to the judges were both innovative and far reaching and demonstrated that entrepreneurialism in Scotland is very much alive and kicking.

"Our elevator pitch event is designed as a fun part of the two-day training that all our entrants take part in. However it does have a serious point to it in that anyone with a good business idea has to be able to explain it as clearly and concisely as possible within a tight timeframe. It is a skill worth developing and which will be put to good use as our budding entrepreneurs look to convince advisers and investors of their idea."

Alan Faichney of Edinburgh Instruments, one of the judges and a sponsor of the Converge Challenge, said: "With so many outstanding candidates with equally brilliant ideas presenting themselves, picking a winner was no easy task. Being able to pitch your business idea in 60 seconds is vital in the non-stop world we live in today. This initiative by Heriot-Watt University to enhance the skills of candidates, is crucial to their development and is a programme I would actively encourage more people to participate in."

Ewan Morton of design agency, Mortonward, also a sponsor of the competition, said: "It is amazing the range of new business ideas that exist within the research of students and staff in Scotland's universities. I am a huge supporter of competitions like this that encourage our future entrepreneurs. The pitches provided a window into the ingenuity, innovation and vision, which so often remains hidden within academia."

Converge Challenge 2011

The overall winner of Converge Challenge 2011 will be announced at a prestigious dinner event hosted by Steve Chapman, Principal and vice-Chancellor of Heriot-Watt University on 27 September.

Find out more about the Converge Challenge business plan competition.