Company-creation programme Converge pushes button on scaled-up 2022 offering

Scotland’s Converge initiative, which helps the university sector make headway in entrepreneurship, has officially opened applications for its 2022 programme – saying it includes the largest prize pot in its 11-year history.

Converge has announced that from today until April 5, university entrepreneurs with “ground-breaking” business ideas can apply to gain access to a funding pot of more than £300,000 in addition to bespoke business training, peer-to-peer learning, and pitch coaching.

Additionally, Converge, which describes itself as Scotland’s largest company-creation and enterprise programme for the university sector, also said its 2022 programme promises to be bigger than ever, with new categories and more places available – increasing to 100 from 90.

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From left: 2021 Converge Challenge winner Mallikarjun Chityala of Fitabeo Therapeutics; Converge executive director Claudia Cavalluzzo; and 2020 Converge Challenge winner Genevieve Patenaude of Earth Blox. Picture: contributed.
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"From this year, Converge will increase both its support to very-early-stage ideas through its enhanced Kickstart programme as well as strengthen its focus on investment readiness for more advanced businesses,” it said.

Applications are now open for a raft of challenges, in addition to the core Converge Challenge. These include the Net Zero Challenge, which is new for this year, is sponsored by SSE, and has been designed to accelerate academic entrepreneurs tackling the climate emergency.

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Also new is the Create Change Challenge, which aims to support those that have a product or service idea with the potential to develop into a sustainable business that delivers either creative, cultural or social impact.

There is also the KickStart Challenge, suitable for early-stage entrepreneurs with an innovative business idea they would like to test, validate and prepare prior to launch. As of this year it will support 50 businesses (up from 30 in 2021), giving them an opportunity to tap into an increased prize pot worth £40,000, with special prizes for ideas covering wellbeing, climate action and entrepreneurial spirit.

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In addition, this year’s programme includes two special awards, one sponsored by Cisco – the Future of Tech award – and the Rose Award, aimed at ambitious female entrepreneurs, sponsored by Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS).

Claudia Cavalluzzo, executive director at Converge, said: “In our first decade, we have given hundreds of Scotland’s dynamic, seedling organisations a launchpad for growth at a pivotal time in their existence – several of which have achieved considerable external investment to accelerate their growth internationally in the last year.

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"As we move into the next ten years, we are eager to receive applications from as diverse a group of individuals and companies than ever before to respond to our ever-changing global challenges.”

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She also said successful applicants will benefit from the enhanced training programme that will be delivered by major businesses in Scotland including key Converge partners Cisco, SIS Ventures, SSE and RBS. “Having seen the accomplishments that many Converge alumni have enjoyed since participating, I can’t wait to see what 2022 brings in terms of new ideas and innovations,” she added.

Converge – which is based at The Grid at Heriot-Watt University – has also announced that Haseltine Lake Kempner is the new intellectual property partner.

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It furthermore notes that it is open to new and prospective businesses that will be operational in the 12 months following the awards ceremony, which is set for November 3 this year. It also says that to date it has supported 500 entrepreneurs and the creation of 300-plus companies, with Novosound and Current Health (formerly Snap40) among previous winners.

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