A Scotland-wide academic enterprise programme has indicated the entrepreneurial gender gap may be closing as female business leaders made up nearly half of semi-finalists for this year’s competition.
The Converge scheme, available to staff, students, and recent graduates of Scottish universities and research institutes, has selected 60 aspiring entrepreneurs to compete for a place in the enterprise final, where a total prize fund of cash and in-kind support worth £230,000 awaits the winner.
Female entrepreneurs comprise almost half (49 per cent) of contestants in the semi-final, in which technology, engineering and the creative industries were some of the most represented sectors. In particular, tech for social good is an emerging trend, with entrants using technology to solve “some of the world’s toughest challenges”.
Concepts that made the grade this year include patent-pending technology that turns wastewater into freshwater while simultaneously generating electricity; an interactive map to help blind and visually impaired people to navigate safely around train stations; and a flat-pack solar collector offering affordable, clean energy for developing countries.
Semi-finalists will now be invited to attend three days of intensive business training which has been designed to best prepare academic entrepreneurs in both start-up and spin-out companies. In addition, the cohort will receive one-to-one pitch coaching to help them master their “60-second pitch”.
Semi-finalists in the Converge Challenge category will also take part in “Ready, Steady, Pitch” – a live pitching competition attended by investors, Converge alumni and members of Scotland’s business community on 12 June at the Dovecot Studios, Edinburgh.
In the next phase of the programme, semi-finalists will submit a business plan with the best ideas going forward to the Converge 2019 final at the V&A Dundee on 25 September.
Claudia Cavalluzzo, director of Converge, said: “Converge thrives on ideas that are genuinely innovative and that have the ability to transform lives and this year our cohort has really pushed the boundaries with some truly ground-breaking projects.
“These pioneers are addressing some of the biggest global challenges of our time around water security, food production, pollution, climate change and healthcare in an environmentally and economically sustainable way.
“Dramatic change won’t be driven by traditional thinking so we need to mobilise our most entrepreneurial and creative minds to solve these problems and Converge provides the ideal platform to do this.”