Scotland’s entrepreneurial pipeline is in rude health - Dr Claudia Cavalluzzo

Here’s a business creation stat to sit up and take notice of: Scottish university spin-outs have just topped an influential equity investment league for the second year running, with more securing finance here than anywhere else in the UK, according to the British Business Bank.

Of the 211 equity deals involving UK spin outs during 2021, just over a fifth (44) came from Scottish academic institutions – the highest regional or devolved nation number.

And this powerful equity flow has continued into this year. Deals announced during the first half include an £8m investment in Elasmogen, an Aberdeen university biotechnology spin-out, which was our Converge Challenge runner-up in 2015.

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Barry McCulloch, the bank’s senior manager in Scotland, confirms what we at Converge have been saying for years – this country is blessed with “world-class research institutions that are developing ground-breaking products and processes”, particularly in sectors such as life sciences and technology.

Claudia Cavalluzzo is executive director at Converge, Scotland’s largest company creation and enterprise programme for the university sector
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“Investing in research-led businesses is essential for fostering an innovation economy,” Mr McCulloch adds.

Let’s park all the awful cost-of-living-driven doom and gloom, for a moment at least, and rejoice that pioneering Scottish innovation is very much alive and kicking within any one of our university campuses, and being quite rightly recognised with the finance it deserves.

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I had actually heard all the evidence I needed to be upbeat during an eye-popping evening recently in the company of 49 of our sparkiest young business hopefuls. Each delivered a rapid-fire, one-minute pitch on how they planned to make them the next blockbuster success.

This was Converge’s ‘Inside Innovation’ event, held in the suitably appropriate surroundings of Edinburgh’s Dovecot Studios, the landmark centre for the very best in contemporary Scots arts and design.

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University spin-outs are in demand

It’s no exaggeration to say, I was genuinely wowed by the quality of the ideas presented, as was the audience, who included some of the country’s leading entrepreneurs, investors, and business leaders.

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Let’s be clear, this certainly wasn’t a beauty parade of quirky widgets hoping to become the next Christmas bestseller or passing million-pound fad.

This was a shortlist of potentially homegrown winners – spin-outs and start-ups – one or some of which could genuinely end up being spring-boarded to global success.

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How’s this for a snapshot of the variety of invention on display:

the world’s first vaccine to fight a drug-resistant form of bacteria, StrepA a smart bin that uses AI to sort rubbish automatically a diagnostic device tackling diabetes-related amputations a revolutionary type of liquid biopsy to vastly improve cancer detection in dogs a line of smart clothing and app that can monitor muscle performance and injury recovery.

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This year’s Converge semi-finalists (all 49 of them) are right now re-sharpening their pitches and refining their business models ahead of moving onto the Converge Awards final in November.

These potential companies are living proof of the uber-healthy state of Scotland’s entrepreneurial pipeline, which is key to the nation’s economic regeneration.

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Claudia Cavalluzzo is executive director at Converge, Scotland’s largest company creation and enterprise programme for the university sector

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