Claudia Cavalluzzo: Scottish academic entrepreneurs are doing the business

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The Christmas holidays have just concluded but the ­consequences – a few pounds around the waistline and lots of unrecyclable wrapping paper – will unfortunately last longer.

Christmas is a magical time of the year – unlike any other festive break it reminds us of what really matters, family, friends and good intentions.

The end of the year has always ­represented a moment for reflection for me. I tend to become emotional thinking about what I leave behind and excited for what’s coming next. This year was no exception.

Surrounded by close family and old friends, I have been able to take the foot off the gas and really think about what 2019 has given us. Despite the political turmoil that has dominated the news and dinner table ­discussions, Scotland’s entrepreneurs have kept doing what they do best: pushing through.

The past year has been one of the most successful year to date for ­Scotland’s academic entrepreneurs.

Several deals have been announced including sizeable investments in spin outs from the University of Strathclyde, Clispec DX; the University of Edinburgh, Invizius; and the University of the West of Scotland, Novosound. Let’s not forget the University of Dundee’s start-up, Current Health, that secured a second funding round of $11million in December!

Together, these four early stage businesses alone have raised more than £27m. But what does this mean for Scotland?

It means that our small but perfectly formed nation is starting to make the right entrepreneurial noises and attract serious venture capital to back the tremendous talent that Scottish universities produce.

In the long run, these companies will grow and secure profitable exits which will bring know-how and ­commercial expertise back into the system. That’s how successful ­entrepreneurial ecosystems have become what they are.

I have a strong feeling that 2020 will exceed our expectations in terms of entrepreneurial success. Regardless of one’s political opinion, it is undeniable that some stability will reassure investors and venture capitalists, as well as large corporates, to operate and invest in the United Kingdom. And this is good for business.

No matter what the political future brings, entrepreneurs know no ­barriers nor obstacles. They will keep coming up with revolutionary ­ideas and I can say this with confidence, having had a peek at the pipeline of Scotland’s academic entrepreneurs, whose intellect and ­creativity has the power of (positively) disrupting ­markets, ideas and social systems.

A biodegradable coffee cup made from coffee waste; a sensor that checks if runway conditions are safe during aircraft approach and ­landing; a patent pending solution for the diagnosis and therapy of ‘lazy eye’, a condition affecting 230 million ­children worldwide – these are just some of the ground-breaking ­ideas emerging from this year’s pool of KickStart semi-finalists, Scotland’s largest early stage entrepreneurial development programme for academic entrepreneurs.

From tiny acorns grow mighty oaks and what starts with an idea, with a lightbulb moment, can in time turn out to be a major business success story, which we have seen time and time again.

But as our list of successes grow, so does our ambition. It is no longer ­sufficient to raise capital and create jobs (which, by the way, are critical for any economy to grow). We need to have a more holistic approach to business, one that looks at every layer of society, at the environment and the global impact. Therefore, what I hope for in 2020 is for Scotland to build on its momentum and lead the way in inclusive growth, which goes hand in hand with economic growth. This, together with the COP26 ­summit that will be held in Glasgow in November, will make 2020 a memorable year for all of us.

Claudia Cavalluzzo, director, ­Converge.