Scotland's biggest business start-up prize gets GBP525,000 from Scottish Funding Council

Dr Olga Kozlova with the Converge Challenge trophy

Converge Challenge, the entrepreneurial competition that awards the biggest start-up prize in Scotland, has been awarded £525,000 of additional funding from the Scottish Funding Council over the next three years.

The funding comes just two months after eight Scottish universities pledged to provide £360,000 of financial support to the Challenge, which was set up by Heriot-Watt University.

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 intensive and tailored programme of mentoring and training.

A panel of judges then assesses entrants' business plans, invites shortlisted candidates to take part in a 'Dragons Den' style pitch - and selects the final winners.

2012 Converge Challenge

Last year, Dr Michael Fontaine from Moredun Research Institute won Converge Challenge, collecting £25k cash funding and a further £25k of support from the private sector to assist business growth.

The challenge attracted a record 50 entries in 2012, from 14 institutions across Scotland.

Mark Batho, chief executive of the Scottish Funding Council, said: "The Funding Council is pleased to continue to support this Challenge, which attracts entries from institutions across the whole of Scotland, to nurture individual entrepreneurial talent.

"This is a great initiative to take innovative ideas out of universities into new businesses, helping to strengthen the economy and demonstrate the important place of universities in creating jobs and growth."

Olga Kozlova, Enterprise Creation Manager at Heriot-Watt University and creator of Converge Challenge, said: "Converge Challenge's ability to attract £885,000 of additional funding over the course of the past three months is testament to Scotland's higher education sector's appetite to encourage the growth of SMEs.

"This funding will help support the continued growth of Converge Challenge and assist more academics with turning their research expertise into successful commercial ventures."

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.