The Converge Challenge Strategic Advisory Board (SAB) comprises some of Scotland's most respected and influential academics and business leaders. The members of the SAB are ambassadors for the Converge Challenge programme, advising on future funding opportunities and working to ensure the long term sustainability of the programme, in addition they will input to the strategic direction of the programme through offering their advice and expertise. The group is chaired by Converge Challenge Chair Sandy Finlayson.

Paul Atkinson

Founder & Partner, Par Equity LLP

Paul is a Professional Investor, Venture Capitalist and Board Advisor with a track record of creating value for companies and investors in the technology and business services sector.

His principle focus is as Founding Partner of the boutique investment business, Par Equity LLP, which provides EIS Funds in the technology venture space as well as investment Funds in other asset classes, including Residential Property and Forestry. In addition, Par operates one of the UK’s most substantial professional investor networks, the Par Syndicate.

Prior to founding Par, Paul has established three previous businesses, Direct Resources, which was acquired by NASDAQ listed iGate Corporation in 1999 and which was acquired by another NASDAQ listed business, TMP Worldwide in 2000.   Paul also founded Head

Resourcing in 2001 which has a turnover in excess of £40M and provides specialist IT, business change and medical resourcing services.

He is highly active as an angel investor, having personally invested in over 30 fast growing technology companies, including Rocela Group, which was acquired by Version 1 of Ireland and Mobiqa, which was acquired by NYSE listed NCR Corporation.  Paul has a BSc in Physics from Manchester University.

Professor Sir Pete Downes

Principal & Vice-Chancellor, University of Dundee

Professor Sir Pete Downes has been Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Dundee since 2009.

He was Convener of Universities Scotland from August 2012 to July 2016, having previously served as Convener of its Research and Knowledge Exchange Committee. He has been a leading voice in championing the strengths an autonomous and diverse university sector can offer Scotland, and particularly the role universities can play in driving innovation and economic growth.

Sir Pete is one of the UK’s leading biochemists. He spent eleven years in the pharmaceutical industry before joining the University in 1989. Before his appointment as Principal he served as Vice-Principal and Head of the College of Life Sciences. He has played a key role in establishing Dundee as a global leader in life sciences, making a significant impact on both the Scottish economy and our understanding and treatment of major diseases including diabetes and cancer.

He was a co-founder of the Division of Signal Transduction Therapy (DSTT) at Dundee, a partnership between the University and several of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies. The DSTT was founded in 1998 and has attracted over £50 million of inward investment to the city. It is widely regarded as a model for how academia and industry can interact productively and was awarded a Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher Education in 2006.

Sir Pete was awarded the Colworth Medal of the British Biochemical Society in 1987 and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1991 and a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences in 2009. He was honoured by the Queen with an OBE in 2004 and a Knighthood in 2015.

He is a member of the Council of the Society of Biology, the National Centre for Universities and Business, the Scottish Council for Development and Industry, Chairman of the Advisory Board of Interface, a Trustee of the Saltire Foundation, and a board member of Design Dundee Ltd, which is delivering the V&A Museum of Design to Dundee.

Professor Sir Jim McDonald

Principal & Vice-Chancellor, University of Strathclyde

Professor Sir Jim McDonald joined the University of Strathclyde in 1984 followed seven years in the electric utility industry and was appointed to the Rolls-Royce Chair in Electrical Power Systems in 1993.

He became Principal and Vice Chancellor of the University of Strathclyde in March 2009.

He Co-chairs, with the First Minister, the Scottish Government’s Energy Advisory Board.   He is Chairman of the Independent Glasgow Economic Leadership Board and the Board of the Glasgow Science Centre. He currently holds several senior business appointments:  including non-executive directorships at: the Weir Group; Scottish Power; UK Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult; and the UK National Physical Laboratory.

He chairs two of the pan-Scotland research pools in Energy and Engineering and is Chair of the Royal Academy of Engineering Research Committee. In the Queen’s Jubilee Birthday Honours List on 16 June 2012, Professor McDonald was awarded a Knighthood for services to education, engineering and the economy.  

He is a Fellow of the Royal Academy, the Royal Society of Edinburgh, the Institution of Engineering and Technology, the Institute of Physics and the Energy Institute.

Dr Stuart Fancey

Director, Research & Innovation, Scottish Funding Council

The Scottish Funding Council (SFC) is responsible for the development of Scotland’s further and higher education institutions. 

In his present role, Stuart is responsible for SFC’s research funding policy, knowledge exchange and innovation policy, SFC’s contribution to the development of the Research Excellence Framework and various other liaison activities across the Scottish and UK university and innovation landscape. His team are closely engaged with Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise to find opportunities to better exploit the excellence of Scotland’s university research base for economic and societal benefit.

Susan Fouquier

Regional Managing Director, Royal Bank of Scotland

An experienced banker with significant knowledge gained in a variety of cross border roles including Corporate Real Estate Finance, Risk Assurance and Corporate Portfolio Management. Since March 2015 Susan has been the Regional Managing Director of Business Banking Scotland. She has delivered a number of transformational change programmes within the bank and is currently responsible for 120 staff and 35,000 SME’s.

Susan is passionate about supporting business expansion, job creation and economic growth in Scotland. She is also a champion for diversity within the workplace.

Susan is the current chair of Business in the Community’s Scottish National Action Plan for Responsible Business Committee and sits on The Royal Bank’s Scotland Board. She is also regularly called upon as a respected judge at various Business Awards across Scotland.

Susan read International Business & Modern Languages at Strathclyde University. A busy working mother, her personal time is focused on raising and supporting her active rugby mad sons. She also strongly believes in supporting the next generation of Entrepreneurs and Future leaders and personally mentors a number of businesses and young people.

Rhona Allison

Interim Managing Director of Operations (Growth Companies & Innovation)

Rhona Allison oversees Scottish Enterprise’s business support and company building functions, including our Account Management portfolio, Scottish Manufacturing Advisory Service, Innovation Support, Regional Selective Assistance and commercialisation.

Rhona has been with Scottish Enterprise for over 16 years. Immediately prior to her current role, Rhona was Director of Company Growth for Scottish Enterprise with responsibility for setting and delivering Scottish Enterprise's Company Growth strategy to support the economic growth and development of Scotland.

Prior to joining SE, Rhona held a variety of positions within Scottish and Global companies. These included working with Ethicon (a global medical technology company) and a number of Contract Research Organisations which encompassed heading up the largest and fastest growing department of a young SME start-up to leading a global clinical research team with a wide international client base for one of the largest CROs in the world.

Rhona is also a Board Member of Opportunity North East (ONE) a private sector Board to broaden and boost the economy of the North East of Scotland and a member of the Converge Challenge Strategic Advisory Board.

Dr Roddy Macdonald

Head of Higher Education and Science Division, Scottish Government Advanced Learning and Science Directorate

Dr Roddy Macdonald is a Senior Civil Servant with the Scottish Government, where he is Head of the Higher Education and Science Division. Prior to this he was Head of Innovation, Investment and Industries Division, which led Scotland CAN DO, the Government’s framework for innovation and entrepreneurship.

During his 17-year career with the Scottish Government he has worked in policy and project management related to economic development, planning, social enterprise, education and social care. Prior to working with the Scottish Government he worked in planning and economic development consultancy with the Halcrow Group and as a lecturer and researcher at the School of Planning, Oxford Brookes University. He has a BSc and PhD in Town Planning and is a member of the Institute of Directors. In 2011 he was a Churchill Fellow travelling to Canada and the USA to investigate methods of funding development infrastructure.

Professor David Sigsworth OBE

Chairman, Sigma Capital Group plc

David Sigsworth is Chairman of the Edinburgh based Sigma Capital Group plc, which specialises in property development and urban regeneration.  His background is in energy and the development of energy utility assets.  For over ten years he was a main board executive director of the FTSE 100 utility companies SSE plc and Scottish Hydro Electric plc.  Subsequently he spent eight years as Chairman of the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, stepping down in December 2015.

He remains an active player in the energy sector with investment and non-executive interests in off-shore renewables, combined heat and power, smart grids and low energy buildings.

Over the past year David has led an independent group of experts reviewing fuel poverty policy in Scotland.  On 24th October the Scottish Government published the report of the Scottish Fuel Poverty Strategic Working Group and is currently considering the recommendations for a new vision and strategy for the eradication of fuel poverty in Scotland.  David is also a member of the Scottish Government’s Strategic Energy Advisory Board.

David has an active involvement with academia as Chairman of the Advisory Boards of the Energy Technology Partnership, based at the University of Strathclyde, and the Offshore Renewables Institute at the University of Dundee where he holds an honorary professorship.

Professor Richard Williams

Principal and Vice Chancellor, Heriot-Watt University

Professor Richard A Williams OBE FREng FTSE is the Principal and Vice Chancellor of Heriot-Watt University.  He is Vice President of the Royal Academy of Engineering.

His background is an academic and entrepreneur working in mineral, energy storage systems and environmental technologies. He is a graduate of Imperial College (B.Sc (Eng), PhD) and has held posts at University of Manchester (UMIST), Exeter (Camborne School of Mines), and as Pro Vice Chancellor at the University of Leeds (2005-2011) and University of Birmingham (2011-2015). He has founded several business including two plcs and previously served as an elected member on Council of CBI in Yorkshire and the West Midlands. He was a founding Director of the Manufacturing Technology Catapult Centre in Coventry (2011 – 2015). 

He is a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering (UK) and a Fellow of the Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (Australia). He has worked extensively in establishing new educational and research collaborations in Middle East, Africa, Singapore, Malaysia and China. He is a visiting professor at the Chinese Academy of Sciences (Beijing), Southeast University (Nanjing) and Taylors University (Kuala Lumpur). He has published over 400 journal papers and patents and developed technologies in commercial use relating to environmental measurement and energy systems. He is a trustee of the Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland and Advisory Board member of the Lloyds Register Foundation.

Professor Lesley Yellowlees CBE

Vice-Principal and Head of the College of Science & Engineering, The University of Edinburgh

Lesley Yellowlees CBE, is currently Vice Principal and Head of the College of Science and Engineering at the University of Edinburgh. She has worked with the Royal Society of Chemistry for many years and became their first female President in July 2012.

She is a champion for the promotion of women in science and in 2011 was honoured by the IUPAC as a Distinguished Woman in Chemistry for her scientific contributions to the global chemistry community. Her research interests include inorganic electrochemistry and spectroelectrochemistry, epr spectroscopy, solar energy and CO2 conversion.  Her other interests include the public engagement of science and the promotion of women in science.

She was awarded an MBE in 2005 for services to science and a CBE in 2014 for services to chemistry.  She was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 2012 and an Honorary FRSC in 2016.  She has honorary degrees from Aberdeen, Bristol, Edinburgh Napier, Heriot-Watt, The Open and Strathclyde Universities.  Lesley is married to Peter and they have two children, Sarah and Mark.

Polly Purvis, OBE

CEO, ScotlandIS

Polly is CEO of ScotlandIS the trade body for digital technologies.  She started her career in banking in the City of London, and has also worked in management consultancy.  She held a variety of roles at the Scottish Development Agency/Scottish Enterprise, with particular emphasis on small business policy development.

Polly represents ScotlandIS on the Digital Excellence Business Excellence Partnership, the ICT Skills Group, and the Industrial Advisory Board of the University of Dundee's School of Computing. She chairs the board of CodeClan and is a director of dotScot Registry.