Universities unite to fund entrepreneur programme

Scottish universities have joined forces with national funding bodies to support a “pioneering” enterprise programme encouraging the country’s next generation of entrepreneurs.

Converge alumni Alexander Enoch, founder of robotics teaching firm Robotical, won third prize in 2016's competition. Picture: Contributed

All 18 of Scotland’s universities have pledged financial backing for this year’s Converge scheme, an entrepreneurship plan which supports staff, student and recent graduates to build sustainable enterprises from their business ideas and innovations.

The universities and research institutes will collaborate with the Scottish Funding Council and, through Creative Scotland, the National Lottery to provide financial backing for Converge.

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The Scottish Funding Council has earmarked more than £1 million to cover the next three years of the scheme.

Backed by 11 Scottish universities last year, the annual programme is described as a “quest to find the country’s most dynamic and creative thinkers”, as it seeks to reward and develop ideas for commercial companies.

It also aims to provide entrants with access to a cross-section of industry experts to support the growth of their enterprises.

Converge, now in its ninth year, is one of four categories making up a wider enterprise programme – along with Impact, KickStart and Creative Challenge – which boast a total combined prize fund of £230,000.

The final of the 2019 Converge will be held at the V&A Dundee on Wednesday 25 September.

Sandy Finlayson, chairman of Converge, believes the union of Scotland’s universities will have a profound and far reaching impact. He said: “Scotland’s universities are central to the success of the Converge programme and, over the years, our university partners have given enormous support to Converge in its efforts to reach thousands of students, recent graduates and academic staff and to promote entrepreneurship.

“We now have the financial backing of all Scottish Universities and Creative Scotland which is tremendous, and it shows a clear commitment to increasing our rate of business formation and making Scotland a collaborative, inclusive and competitive nation.”

Director Claudia Cavalluzzo added: “For Scottish business to flourish in the future, we need to keep the company creation pipeline strong, aim higher and aspire more, so programmes such as Converge are playing a very valuable role.

“It excites me that our universities and research institutes are encouraging their staff and students, more than ever, to channel and cultivate exceptional creative thinking to develop ideas that are nurtured in every part of the journey. Converge offers a unique gateway to a future of innumerable opportunities.”