Converge Challenge unveils winning university start-ups

Susanne Mitschke, chief executive of MindMate, which shared the top Converge Challenge prize with MicroSense. Picture: Lesley MartinSusanne Mitschke, chief executive of MindMate, which shared the top Converge Challenge prize with MicroSense. Picture: Lesley Martin
Susanne Mitschke, chief executive of MindMate, which shared the top Converge Challenge prize with MicroSense. Picture: Lesley Martin

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Two start-ups from Scottish universities have shared the top £71,000 prize at this year's Converge Challenge awards.

The company creation competition aimed at staff, students, and recent graduates of Scottish universities, saw Edinburgh’s MicroSense Technologies and Glasgow-based MindMate each win £21,500 in cash and £14,000 worth of business support at last night’s awards ceremony at the Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh.

MicroSense, led by Professor Marc Desmulliez of Heriot-Watt University, is a service company based on a patented product called FoodSense, a microwave-based sensor system for the food and drink industries.

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MindMate, headed by Susanne Mitschke of the University of Glasgow, develops apps to help those affected with dementia live more independent lives.

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Converge Challenge lists top 60 university start-ups

Converge Challenge director Olga Kozlova said: “My congratulations to all the winners, the finalists and the participants of Converge Challenge 2016 for raising the bar yet again. This is the first time we have had a joint first place and it is testament to the quality of this year’s finalists.”

Second place, worth £29,000, was awarded to Chris Hughes of the University of Strathclyde with Estendio, a company that aims to “revolutionise” the educational development of people with dyslexia through software products and services.

A new award for 2016, to mark Scotland’s year of innovation, architecture and design, was a prize worth £24,500 handed to Dr Alexander Enoch of the University of Edinburgh with Robotical, a company that creates robots that “inspire and engage the next generation of engineers and scientists”.

The £3,000 KickStart prize, for early-stage ideas, was awarded to Dr David Harris-Birtill of the University of St Andrews with Beyond Medics, a camera-based system that remotely measures patients’ vital signs. He receives a cash prize of £3,000.

An additional award for KickStart finalists – the digital entrepreneur award, chosen by an online public vote – was awarded to Richard McAdam from Edinburgh Napier University with Regenerative Shock Absorber, which generates electricity and reduces fuel consumption and emissions.

In collaboration with Firstport, the top prize of £5,000 in the social enterprise category went to Erika Grant of the University of Aberdeen with Project TurnKey, which empowers people to see a life beyond prostitution.

The £1,000 entrepreneurial spirit award, sponsored by Entrepreneurial Scotland, was awarded to Anna Renouf of the University of the Highlands & Islands with Orrin Equestrian, a company developing a new saddle from composite materials that will offer enhanced comfort for the horse and rider.

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Keith Brown, cabinet secretary for the economy, jobs and fair work, said: “To be a ‘can do’ nation, we know that our prosperity depends on successful new ideas and new businesses being created here in Scotland, which is why entrepreneurs and innovators will be fundamental to generating jobs and economic growth in the future. The Converge Challenge makes an invaluable contribution towards Scotland becoming a world-leading entrepreneurial nation.”

IoD Scotland chair Susan Deacon added: “Collaboration and teamwork are key to the success of every business and to our economy. Converge is a fantastic example of what can be achieved when universities and businesses combine their efforts to bring people and ideas together and to support the next generation of entrepreneurs.”

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