Scottish universities pledge funds to support new research start-ups

(L-R) Michael Fontaine and Richard Mole of of the Moredun Research Institute, winners of the Converge Challenge 2012.

Eight universities have pledged £360K over the next three years to Heriot-Watt University €™s nationwide programme that supports the creation of research-led SMEs and awards the biggest start-up prize in Scotland.  

Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Heriot-Watt, St Andrews, Stirling and Strathclyde universities have all pledged to jointly fund the training and prizes for Converge Challenge, the entrepreneurial business competition, which is led by Heriot-Watt University.

Creating Scotland's Entrepreneurs

Converge Challenge gives students and staff from universities and research institutions across Scotland the chance to develop the commercial potential of their inventions through a six-month series of business mentoring and training events. A panel of judges then assesses entrants €™ business plans and selects final winners. This year €™s overall winner, Dr Michael Fontaine from Moredun Research Institute, collected £25k cash funding and a further £25k of in-kind support from the private sector.

Converge Challenge attracted a record 50 entries in 2012, from 14 institutions across Scotland. Entries included Dr Michael Fontaine €™s vaccine for the animal health market, a €˜smart paint €™ that detects structural defects and a new form of plastic that can purify water.

The backing of other universities will help us meet that demand and further expand the annual Converge Challenge programme

Olga Kozlova, Enterprise Creation Manager at Heriot-Watt University and creator of Converge Challenge

Olga Kozlova, Enterprise Creation Manager at Heriot-Watt University and creator of Converge Challenge, said, "Since starting just three years ago, the rapid growth of Converge Challenge indicates a real appetite among academics for support in turning their research into a successful commercial venture. The backing of other universities will help us meet that demand and further expand the annual Converge Challenge programme."

Professor Steve Chapman, Principal of Heriot-Watt University, said, "As rising numbers of university start ups are created, the growth of Converge Challenge is further evidence of the entrepreneurial spirit and research excellence that thrives in Scottish higher education. With this added support from other universities, we look forward to seeing Converge Challenge grow and enable even more academics to launch businesses."  

Professor Pete Downes, Convener of Universities Scotland and Principal of the University of Dundee commented, "Supporting the expansion of Converge Challenge will help bring the expertise, products and services that our universities develop to the market, driving economic growth and job creation in Scotland."  

According to the Higher Education Statistics Authority, university research led to the creation of 184 spin-offs in Scotland in 2010/11, up from 74 in 2008/9.