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New Inventions from Scotland’s Universities Could Change Life as We Know It

A novel vaccine production platform that could prove decisive in the battle against Streptococcus; a fun, social robot designed to promote and instil handwashing behaviour in schoolchildren and an electric alternative to the jet engine to enable sustainable flight – these are just some of the revolutionary ideas that have made it to the 2021 semi-finals of Converge, Scotland’s largest company creation programme for the university sector.

Academic entrepreneurs from across Scotland’s university sector are now through to the next stage of the Converge programme. Split across four challenge categories – Converge, Creative, Impact and KickStart – all 18 of Scotland’s universities are represented in the final shortlist. 

In a reflection of the current Covid crisis and the ongoing climate-change emergency, the three dominant themes among this year’s semi-finalists are the life sciences, wellbeing and net zero.  

In the life sciences are a number of projects that could help democratise the availability of life saving medicines by significantly reducing their production costs.  Among them is Helge Dorfmueller, a University of Dundee lecturer, who has created RhaPSeda, a novel vaccine production platform that could prove decisive in the battle against StrepA, a contagious bacteria that kills 500,000 people annually, mainly from low-income countries. Despite a 100-year hunt for a vaccine, none currently exists with the pathogen showing increasing signs of antibiotic resistance. RhapSeda’s patented technology significantly reduces manufacturing costs, taking us a step closer to a worldwide solution to this global killer.

In the wellbeing space is Yvonne Wyroslawska, a graduate from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, who is looking to harness the power of music to address postnatal depression which affects between 10-15% of new mums in the UK.

Meanwhile, Mako Aerospace Ltd, founded by University of Strathclyde graduate, Kieran Duncan, is one of a number of net zero focused projects to make it through to this year’s semi-finals.  The company is on a mission to create the engine technologies required for sustainable flight with their first product, an electric alternative to the jet engine, reducing aircraft fuel costs by up to 60% and enabling all-electric flights on today’s battery technology. 

This year’s cohort also includes early-stage projects on the very first steps of the commercialisation journey. A clear trend this year is for projects with an environmental mission at their heart including renewable biomass briquettes, an advanced robotic system that sifts out contaminants at recycling centres and natural plant-based yarns for sustainable fashion which are homegrown and spun in the UK.

Commenting on this year’s cohort announcement Dr Claudia Cavalluzzo, Director of Converge, said:

“I’m always amazed at the inventiveness and creativity of the projects coming through Converge and, despite the difficult times we’re experiencing, this year is no exception.

Starting a business right now might seem counterintuitive. However, as the history books show, difficult business environments can offer rich opportunities with moments of crisis serving as a powerful impetus for innovation. We can’t wait to get started and would like to congratulate all our semi-finalists on getting through to this stage”

This year’s cohort will now attend intensive business training followed by a series of masterclasses from Converge’s network of professional advisors. Joining the Converge partner network this year is leading firm of accountants, Chiene + Tait who, under a three-year agreement led by partner Neil Norman from the firm’s Entrepreneurial Tax Team, will support both emerging and more established entrepreneurs on key tax and finance issues as well as wider business matters.

Commenting on the new partnership, Dr Cavalluzzo, said:

“Our professional partners play a vital role by providing invaluable, free advice to our cohort and alumni community to set them up for success. Chiene + Tait bring a wealth of expertise and have an unrivalled reputation in the early-stage investment space so we are absolutely over the moon to welcome them to the Converge family”

Neil Norman said: “This is an exciting partnership with Converge, an initiative which continues to get bigger and better. We’re delighted to have this opportunity to work alongside the group’s other highly regarded corporate partners to further support their extensive network of entrepreneurs behind innovative university spin-out businesses. Chiene + Tait’s expertise in tax and financial matters along with our in-depth experience in supporting businesses with high growth potential brings real value to this partnership”

Converge is funded by the Scottish Funding Council, Creative Scotland, all 18 of Scotland’s universities and a network of nine professional partners.

This year’s semi-finalists are:

Converge Challenge

AlgacraftMate RavaszEdinburgh
AskMyClassDavid MartinDundee
Bridging the Gap AcademyAbigail JohnstonDundee
Edenbreeze LtdReginald AnkrahRGU
Exergy 3Markus RondéEdinburgh
Fertility GenomicsOndrej DlaskAbertay
Fitabeo Therapeutics LtdMallikarjun ChityalaStrathclyde
Glen Clova ScientificJohn FoersterDundee
Lightwater SensorsRoss GillandersSt Andrews
LupovisIvan AndonovicStrathclyde
Mako Aerospace LtdKieran DuncanStrathclyde
Mask LogicAlistair McConnellEdinburgh
Mercel Mark Dorris Edin Napier
MI:RNA LtdEve Hanks SRUC
Microplate DxStuart HannahStrathclyde
Morphic TechnologyJeremy VinerEdinburgh
Net AIPaul PatrasEdinburgh
PlusPEP LtdRobert GoodfellowEdin Napier
Power to Go HydroKen MorrowRGU
RhaPSedaHelge DorfmuellerDundee
Skrambla Intelligence LtdAshan AbeyratneStirling
SoftechLuigi ManfrediDundee
SolOLEDTomas MatulaitisSt Andrews
SoundOFFLisa RossiAberdeen
Theo HealthJodie SinclairDundee
Virtual Education TechnologiesScott HowieUWS
WellFish DiagnosticsBrian QuinnUWS
X-Genix LtdRebecca GossSt Andrews
Xavier Bionix LtdFiras BakriDundee

Creative Challenge

3030 GamesSam HodsonAbertay
Aberdeen Ceramic WorkshopAimee MorrisRGU
CanchaJack OswaldStirling
Dirty PoliticsSean McKennaQMU
EchoVectorConnor MooreEdinburgh
GamerMateCat BurroughsAberdeen
Knit ItLucy FisherRGU
Leather IdentityLucy DickieGSoA
Make your Own MusicalsJonathan O’NeillRCS
Music & Maternal Mental Health HubYvonne WyroslawskaRCS
NeosomeJo-Anne TaitRGU
QueerativityHeather RichardsonQMU
Savora DrinksDanielle WhiteDundee
The Grey HillBarry RobertsonRGU
Turnbull Design Engineering LtdLee TurnbullStrathclyde

Impact Challengesponsored by Social Investment Scotland

B JourneysMelanie van de VeldeGlasgow
Bennu.AiJonathan FeldsteinEdinburgh
BioLibertyRoss O’HanlonEdinburgh
Circular Materials DepositoryLynn WilsonGlasgow
ConcussEdStephanie AdamsEdinburgh
eMoodieClaire Ann BangaEdinburgh
Empowering Local EnergyMichelle StevensEdinburgh
Grand Bequest LtdKatherine GundersonEdinburgh
LUErin ReidEdin Napier
Maddie is OnlineKonstantina MartzoukouRGU
MetacarpalJames SwinburneStrathclyde
ScrappEvan Gwynne DaviesHWU
Silver Lion Innovations LtdRuth CrozierStrathclyde
WallBoAmol DeshmukhGlasgow

KickStart Challenge

GallasmonHugo SpinolaStrathclyde
Alpha One Plus LtdKwabena Amo-AffulGCU
Aphelion Industries LimitedJames SnapeStirling
BabyReady Finance LimitedCallum GallacherStrathclyde
FORCEnceBadri AekboteGlasgow
Danu Robotics LtdXiaoyan MaEdinburgh
DeepQAThomas CartwrightEdinburgh
DigiGenDaniel BeeEdinburgh
Ellyra LtdCollin PowersEdinburgh
ENerveCShahin HomaeigoharDundee
FAB FeetLorna McHattieRGU
Field to Fabric Rosemary BristowHWU
FirehorseAnna RenoufUHI
Gibson Robotics Joe Gibson Strathclyde
Nozzle CyclesGlen CraigDundee
Predictive EnergyGoncalo dos ReisEdinburgh
JanusHamid RafieeHWU
HerpAlertHannah BialicGlasgow
Industrial Revolutions Kathryn RudySt Andrews
J-RAO Contemporary ApothecaryJennifer Rao-WilliamsDundee
MPulseO2Victor Ochoa-GutierrezGlasgow
North Sea GamesBrentton WhiteAbertay
Oatridge Rangers & Countryside StewardsAndrew BeverleySRUC
PodspectrixMarija VellaHWU
Prozymi Biolabs LtdIoannis StasinopoulosEdinburgh
SEACLEANCharlie WilsonAberdeen
The Koji KitchenRobin SherriffQMU
UnbaggagedJanani PrabhakaranStrathclyde
ViSion-RFDimitris AnagnostouHWU
WhiteHaulMohamed KassemEdinburgh
CCRM CameraXu WangHWU