Female-led firms sweep board at Converge Awards

A trio of female entrepreneurs has secured backing worth a total of more than £140,000 for their businesses after triumphing at an awards for spin-out firms.

Genevieve Patenaude, winner of the flagship Converge Challenge Award. Picture: Lloyd Smith.
Genevieve Patenaude, winner of the flagship Converge Challenge Award. Picture: Lloyd Smith.

It is the first time in the history of the Converge Awards for academic innovation and entrepreneurship that female-led businesses have won the three main categories. Earth Blox, run by Genevieve Patenaude who is a senior lecturer at the School of Geosciences at the University of Edinburgh, won the flagship Converge Challenge Award and the top prize of £50,000 plus £21,000-worth of support.

Her business aims to remove barriers that prevent the widespread adoption of global satellite data and intelligence and to provide better understanding of the impact of deforestation and urban expansion.

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Leia Kennedy of Aquaponics Garden from the Scottish Rural College won the Impact Challenge prize for work in developing a scalable and sustainable indoor farming model that overcomes seasonality. By developing technology to grow crops in urban areas that convert fish waste into nutrients for plants, the businesses aims to reduce the impact of food production on the environment.

Elena Höge, a design and digital media masters graduate from the University of Edinburgh, secured the Creative Challenge prize for her start-up, Yaldi Games, an interactive and educational nature experience game production company.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, addressing the virtual awards event, said this year’s Converge cohort had “the very qualities and the mindset that the Scottish Government will continue to encourage and support”.

Commendable

She added: “It is highly commendable that Converge alumni have established around 200 new companies since it started in 2010, adding more than £20 million to Scotland’s economy last year alone. Together they have helped to create more than 500 jobs in a range of key sectors.”

Claudia Cavalluzzo, director of Converge, said its growth “is proof positive that the entrepreneurial mindset is alive and well” across the university sector.“Of course, this year has unquestionably been a challenge for us all. Despite university campuses being in lockdown, the making of an entrepreneur lies in the unerring ability to overcome any obstacle and push on regardless. At Converge, we’ve seen this time and time again.”

Converge provides a platform for university staff, students and recent graduates to explore the commercial potential of their research, creativity and ideas.It provides intensive business training, one-to-one guidance, networking opportunities and cash support to help businesses.

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