A start-up business from the University of Strathclyde has beaten off strong competition from five other finalists in the 2014 Converge Challenge, a prestigious national contest which champions enterprise and entrepreneurial innovation from within Scotland's academic community.
Claudia Chen who created Savitur Metrics was announced as the 2014 winner of the 5th Converge Challenge at a gala event in front of 200 guests at Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, addressed by Professor Anne Glover CBE, Chief Scientific Adviser to the President of the European Commission.
She will now benefit from £35k cash and £25k in-kind support from the private sector, the biggest prize fund of its kind in Scotland. Claudia beat off tough competition from a record 111 applicants from Scotland's universities and research institutes.
Savitur Metrics aims to become a leading global supplier of monitoring technology for effective quality control across pharmaceutical and chemical plants around the world.
Claudia, together her team, Ian Stevenson and Suresh Thennadil plan to target a £100m market within this sector and will spin her business out from the University of Strathclyde at the start of 2015.
Gillian Fleming, Commercial Manager for this opportunity from Research and Knowledge Exchange Services (RKES) University of Strathclyde commented " We are delighted that the Savitur team has won this prestigious award which clearly demonstrates the calibre of opportunities coming from Strathclyde and this reinforces the commercial potential for this new spectroscopy system. The appointment of Ian Stevenson as CEO Designate has also been instrumental in taking this forward."
Ultravizion: Second place
In second place was Muhammad Sadiq from the University of Dundee with his company Ultravizion, a medical device "Active Needle" technology that allows clinicians to see standard medical needles in colour during ultrasound guided needle procedures, and in third place was Alexander Ward and colleagues, Jack Barraclough and Clifford Hicks from the University of St Andrews. Alexander's company, Razorbill Instruments, produces ¬a machine capable of precise movement at the nano-scale to be used in microchip manufacturing, physics and biomedical research.
Speaking at the Converge Challenge final, Professor Anne Glover said: "Yet again, the spirit of academic innovation and enterprise emanating from the university campuses in Scotland reinforces how students and academic staff are engaged with Converge Challenge.
"For five years now, Converge has been a shining beacon of academic flair and entrepreneurship, giving participants an opportunity to crystallise their research and inventions. Converge Challenge is now synonymous as the key competition for academic enterprise and its year-on-year growth has been testament to its enduring success. The Converge Challenge is a great example of academic excellence having a real impact on the economy."
This year's judging panel was once again headed by Converge Challenge Chairman, Mervyn Jones, who, after 20 years with BP, is now heavily involved in university knowledge exchange and chairman of a number of SMEs.
He comments: "The judges had a really difficult decision to reach. As the Converge Challenge grows each year, the standard of entries reaches new heights. Unquestionably, the growth of Converge Challenge is further evidence of entrepreneurial endeavour and aspiration that thrives in Scottish higher education. All six finalists can be proud of their achievements on reaching this stage and I'm confident they'll all take away 'positives' from their individual journeys."
The winner, Claudia Chen said: "The ultimate goal is to build a successful business and I'm particularly thrilled that I have managed to have been trained and mentored in so many aspects of business management, an invaluable experience that helps me bridge the academic and commercial worlds. This has been an incredible experience for both myself and the other finalists.
The Converge Challenge experience was central in the process of getting our business plan investor-ready and we are honoured to be recognised as the winner in this year's competition. We aim to use the cash prize to leverage further funding and bring our product to market."
Converge Challenge is in its fifth year and is attracting a growing number of applicants year-on-year. As well as the largest cash prize of its type available, it gives students and members of staff of all Scottish university and research institutes access to training and support to develop their entrepreneurial skills and explore the commercial potential of their inventions.
In 2013, The Scottish Funding Council pledged £525,000 of funding for three years, in addition to Scotland's eight research universities pledging financial support to the tune of £360,000 over the same period. This makes Converge Challenge the flagship entrepreneurial business competition for academics.
Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Heriot-Watt, St Andrews, Stirling and Strathclyde universities all jointly funded the training and prizes for Converge Challenge which is open to all Scottish Universities and Research Institutes.