Three Scottish start-ups have made it to the final round of the Innovator Launchpad Awards. Find out who’s in the running.
A smart solution to everyday challenges, a potentially life-saving swim aid and a clever app that is evolving into a vital service for students are in the running for a major innovation award.
The Innovator Launchpad Awards were launched earlier this year by Glasgow-headquartered intellectual property attorneys Murgitroyd and are designed to support and encourage start-up businesses by giving them a platform to raise their profile and compete for funding.
The Spring 2017 Awards saw biotech start-up UFraction8 scoop the inaugural Innovator Launchpad Award, winning funding and a range of support for its energy-efficient, scalable bioprocessing technology.
Now following a public vote, three exciting new Scottish businesses – Alex App, Hoolr and Turtle Pack - have been selected as finalists for the second phase of the competition.
They are now in line for a top prize of £6500 and a package of benefits that includes intellectual property services support from Murgitroyd and guidance designed to help get the winner’s business off to a flying start.
Entries for the Autumn 2017 Awards included start-ups offering new diagnostic tools for cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and epilepsy; smart upgrades for the insulin pens used by diabetics; an idea for a new plastic wine bottle flat enough to fit through a letterbox, and a new style of infant cot.
According to Murgitroyd’s European Marketing Manager, Fiona McKenzie, the impressive selection of entries showed the diverse and innovative thinking among young Scottish businesses.
“We have been impressed by the quality of the entries and the range of products and services they offer. There are some very smart young businesses out there with enormous potential to do very well.
“We’re delighted to be able to help these three finalists on their way to achieving their goals.”
So who are the finalists?
As a swim instructor, Michael Harkins had supervised as hundreds of young people learnt to swim.
As he watched, he realised that the swimming aids and floats that are typically used to support them in the water were not as effective as they might be.
He came up with Turtle Pack, a swim aid which resembles a turtle’s shell worn on youngster’s backs and which removes the need for arm bands, floats and ‘noodles’.
It features a neoprene vest which is easily adjustable, and as the child’s confidence and water skills improve the buoyancy aid can be reduced by taking segments away.
Michael, 24, from Livingston, hit on the idea while studying for a Master’s degree in Chemistry at Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh. His design has already won a number of awards, including the Scottish Edge prize of £110,000, and is due to launch next Spring.
He said: “I have received incredible support so far. I’ve received funding from a number of competitions which has enabled me to push forward with design and safety testing which is crucial for a product like this.
“It shows that if you have a good idea, there is help and advice to take it forward.”
A bad case of flu was all it took to ignite the spark of imagination that led to Alex App, a smart assistant that can deliver every day services and products at the push of a button.
As Karim Atalla struggled at home alone, he realised he had to raise himself from bed to make the journey to the pharmacy to stock up on paracetamol to tackle his symptoms.
Later he chatted through the problem with friend Jamal Bajali – and the idea of an app which could deliver ‘emergency’ essentials, from a packet of nappies late at night to collecting your mobile phone from a mate’s house was born.
The pair, both business graduates from Edinburgh University, are now preparing for a soft launch of Alex App in Scotland in early 2018, followed by a full launch later in the year.
Jamal said there has been significant support to help them through. “Edinburgh Innovations at Edinburgh University has helped me get a Graduate Entrepreneur visa to work on our start-up, and has been supporting us with advice and mentoring for the project.
“We have also received the Enterprise Initiative Grant which has helped with the development of our MVP. More recently, Business Gateway has been very helpful to signposting support option for our expected launch in Jan 2018.”
Jamal added: “Winning the competition will help us launch the app early this year on a bit larger scale than what we’re expecting. Also, the IP rights will be important to make sure that we are on the right track.”
The first few weeks at university are an expensive time for students, with digs to settle in to, social events to attend, and books to buy.
Like many first year students Alasdair Ireland was shocked by the costs of the books – most of which were of no further use once he’d completed his first term.
Swapping books or selling them on wasn’t straight forward. There were safety issues around selling to strangers online and there didn’t seem to be a clear way of searching through categories and find what was available locally.
The Economics and Business student at Glasgow University came up with Hoolr, a marketplace app that is now being used by students in Scotland’s 13 universities, as well as some in England, with hundreds of thousands of transactions already carried out.
It is also being developed to offer one to one tutoring services for students across a range of key subjects.
Alasdair, 21, from Dunoon, has benefited from funding from Scottish Edge Wild Card and Young Edge funding which has helped take his idea from drawing board to reality.
Reaching the Innovator Launchpad final is another opportunity to not just receive financial and intellectual property services support, but to raise the profile of his idea.
“I couldn’t have done this as student without financial help and support. Our next challenge is beating scalability issues and raising awareness in new markets.”
The Innovator Launchpad is being run by intellectual property attorneys Murgitroyd.
At stake is a top prize of £6,500 in cash, plus £2,500 worth of intellectual property services from Murgitroyd, £1,500 worth of funding advisory services from R&D funding specialists, Leyton, along with a limited edition Betabrand space jacket, a professional photoshoot and a range of PR and marketing services. Cash and professional service packages will also be awarded to the runners-up.
A panel which includes Dr Olga Kozlova, director of the Converge Challenge company creation initiative, will judge the final three entries.
The winner will be revealed on Tuesday, January 16.