There has never been a better time to make an impact - Claudia Cavalluzzo

The year 2022 will go down as the year Scotland officially declared its ambition to become a truly entrepreneurial nation, and the Tech Scaler programme should provide a massive boost to the amount of innovation here.

Former Skyscanner executive Mark Logan’s appointment as the country’s first Chief Entrepreneurial Officer and the increase in founder funding programmes is also welcome.

But there have been false dawns before about becoming an economy that genuinely embraces the creation and commercialisation of new and exciting ideas and 2022’s momentum must continue into next year with our entrepreneurial network remaining as bold and ambitious for success.

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Our annual awards ceremony last month – with 28 finalists tapping into a prize pot of over £300,000 – showed just how much home-grown innovative brilliance is present here.

Claudia Cavalluzzo, executive director, ConvergeClaudia Cavalluzzo, executive director, Converge
Claudia Cavalluzzo, executive director, Converge

Sir Jim McDonald, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Strathclyde delivered a keynote at our ceremony where he noted over the last decade, three of Scotland’s universities – Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Strathclyde – have generated as many spinouts as the Northern Gritstone (the investment triangle of the Universities of Leeds, Manchester, and Sheffield) and equal to the spinouts generated by the supercluster of nine high-tech business groups spanning the arc between Oxford and Cambridge.

He added that last year spinouts from Scottish universities attracted investment of around £470m. But internationally, Scotland is still not considered in the top tier nations recognised for its entrepreneurial success or support.

Despite our successes, I still feel our academic entrepreneurial community remains hesitant when moving to the next step of their growth journey.

Undoubtedly, our world-class higher education institutions – despite the hardship of the last three years – have continued to support innovation and ambition by encouraging and enabling ingenious, ground-breaking ideas that can translate into economic and social benefits for both Scotland and the wider world.

A recent survey conducted by our team amongst this year’s finalists revealed that the number one motivation for starting a business is to make an impact, either through commercialisation of research or through innovative thinking applied to solve global challenges. With even more access to networks and funding opportunities provided by initiatives like Converge, it could be argued there has never been a better time to launch an impactful business.

Mark Logan also shared during the Converge awards ceremony how we must ask ourselves if we are doing absolutely everything it takes to raise the ambition and potential of those with the brightest ideas in their critical early stages. That will require commitment at all levels of the founder journey – from founders to funders.

While Converge received an increased number of applications from female founders and those from the BAME community, there is still a lot of work to do to achieve equality.

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We are committed to continuing to turn up the dial when it comes to encouraging applications from a wider range of audiences, encouraging diversity and inclusivity as well as championing those looking to make a societal change through commercial endeavours.

All of this takes time, energy, and perhaps a little bit of fearlessness – but with the potential rewards so huge, let’s maintain our appetite for success into 2023, and well beyond.

Claudia Cavalluzzo, executive director, Converge

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