Are you an innovator looking to use your creativity as a tool for change?

The Create Change Challenge is for creative, social and cultural projects looking to become sustainable businesses.

Apply now

What's in it for you?

The Create Change Challenge can be your springboard to success with equity-free cash prizes and bespoke training with a sharp focus on creative and social business needs. At the end of the programme, you will have gained the skills, confidence and network to make your idea a reality.

We welcome applications for both product and service-based ideas with the potential to develop into sustainable businesses that deliver either creative, cultural or social impact.

£30k

First prize

Winning our top prize will get you £30k in equity-free cash and £9,750 of in-kind business support from our industry partners towards turning your idea into a reality.

2x £10k

Runner-up prizes

Two runners-up will each receive £10k in equity-free cash and £3,250 of in-kind business support.

Training

Bespoke training

All successful applicants enjoy a money-can’t-buy package of training and pitch coaching from experts with real-world experience of starting and growing creative and social businesses.

Plus

Post-programme support

Once you’ve been accepted onto our programme, your journey doesn’t end there. As a Converge alumnus, we continue to provide you with access to our network of investors and advisors, business support and publicity and promotion.

Who can apply?

This is a broad category for social shakers, creative thinkers and cultural entrepreneurs looking to change the world for the better. Whether it’s a technical solution tackling mental health issues or a new cultural or educational tool bringing people together - and everything in between - then you’ve come to the right place. 

Read our full terms and conditions

Staff and students at all Scottish Higher Education Institutions are eligible to apply.

Recent graduates (up to 36 months after graduation from the initial application date) from Scottish Higher Education Institutions are eligible to apply.

If you do have an existing company, it must be dormant, non-trading or trading for no longer than 24 months with a secured income not higher than £150,000 (including but not limited to grants, investment, loans, revenue, prizes).

Team and joint applications are accepted, provided one member of the team is a student, recent graduate or member of staff from a Scottish Higher Education Institution.

Applicants must plan to have their business headquartered in Scotland.

The lead applicant must commit to attending the final investor pitches and our Awards ceremony. Our Innovation Showcase is also a compulsory event but can be attended by any team member.

We highly recommend you attend our training events as past experience shows these dramatically increase the quality of business plans/cases and your chances of reaching the final stages of the challenge.

You must either own or have the right to use and commercially exploit all Intellectual Property Rights related to your business idea.

This challenge is aimed at new or prospective businesses that are operating within twelve months of our annual Converge Awards in November.

Applicants need to demonstrate validation of their product/service, early customer engagement and a viable route to market.

Judging criteria

We’re looking for projects with creative, cultural or social impact that are grounded in sound market research and planning. Tell us if you'd like your application to be evaluated as either a creative or social project. For full judging criteria, see below:

Innovation

  • For impact projects: novel solutions to social problems
  • For creative projects: imagination and creativity

Impact

  • Potential for long term financial sustainability and growth
  • Specifically for social projects: tangible economic, social or environmental impact

Market validation

  • Customer engagement
  • Viable route to market
  • Market fit

Team

  • Relevant experience
  • Planning for future team

Resource planning

  • Understanding of market readiness requirements including funding, operations and logistics

What's involved?

Our challenges are split into four stages over a period of six months. Applications open in January and are evaluated by a panel of university representatives.

If you're successful, we'll give you access to our online, on-demand training modules from w/c 8 May. You'll then be invited to attend in-person business training and pitching in Edinburgh* from 12-15 June. Having completed your training, you'll have the tools you need to prepare a business plan, financial forecast and 1-minute video pitch - all of which will be assessed by a panel of university representatives.

If you're shortlisted as a finalist, you'll be invited to attend further training in early September and to pitch your idea live to a panel of investors and business experts on 25 September. Winners will be announced at our annual Awards ceremony on 5 October.

*Travel expenses for in-person training and events are available. We can also cover overnight accommodation and childcare costs.

How it works
  • Application deadline
    29 March
  • On-demand training
    8 May
  • In-person training & pitch event
    12-15 June
  • Business plan submission
    1 August
  • Finalist training
    13 & 15 September
  • Final pitches
    25 September
  • Awards
    5 October

Judging panel

Our expert judging panel is selected for their depth and breadth of entrepreneurial and business experience across Scotland’s creative industries and social impact sector.

Lucinda Bruce-Gardyne

Founder Genius Foods Ltd

Founder, Genius Gluten Free

Lucinda Bruce-Gardyne is Founder of Genius Gluten Free, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and a Royal Society Entrepreneur in Residence at Edinburgh University. In 2018, she was included in the Maserati Top 100 Innovators and in the top 100 Women to Watch by Cranfield University.

 

Nick Kuenssberg OBE

Chair of the Board Royal Conservatoire of Scotland

Nick Kuenssberg is chairman of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Klik2Learn and Frog Systems.  He is also a business angel and mentor. Nick has held numerous international business positions for companies including Coats Viyella, Stoddard International and Scott & Fyfe .

 

Josiah Lockhart

CEO Changeworks

Chief Executive Officer, Changeworks

Josiah is the newly appointed CEO of Changeworks, Scotland’s leading environmental organisation delivering solutions for low carbon living. Josiah has over 14 years’ experience leading and developing social enterprises and SMEs working across the private, and third sectors using business as a force for good. Most recently, this included leading Firstport, Scotland’s primary business support agency for purpose led start-ups, through its biggest period of growth and the founding of the Impact Investment Partnership, a £15 millionl investment fund focused on early-stage impactful start-ups.

 

Helena Ward

Creative Industries Manager Creative Scotland

Creative Industries Manager

Helena is Creative Scotland's Creative Industries Manager, focusing on the sectors of design, architecture, craft, fashion and textiles. As well as sector development work, Helena's remit covers advocacy, brokering and investment. 

Before joining Creative Scotland, Helena was a manager at TRC media working primarily with Channel 4 and BBC on talent development and access to international markets. Prior to that, Helena managed the creative industries economic support at Scottish Enterprise.

 

Resources

Learn more about taking the leap from academia to entrepreneurship, boost your business skills and find resources to help you polish and perfect your challenge application.

Create Change Application Form 2023

Document

Here's a preview of the application form you'll need to complete online.

Click to view

FAQs 2023

Document

Answers to some commonly-asked questions, to help you get started.

Click to view

Guide to Applicants 2023

Pre-Application Pack

Thinking about applying? This handy little pack explains what's involved and what to expect.

Click to view

Product Design Top Tips

Factsheet

Deciding whether to outsource your product design is a big decision. This handy checklist created by product design experts, i4PD, looks at what you need to consider before taking the plunge.

Click to view

Alice Theatre Project

Case study

How a love of the performing arts led to a new, independent theatre company.

View case study

Lingo Flamingo

Case study

Recent research indicates that speaking a foreign language can postpone the effects of dementia by up to five years.  This incredible fact led Robbie Norval, a member of staff at the University of Stirling, to set up Lingo Flamingo, a social enterprise business offering tailored language classes to older adults across Scotland.

View case study