Got a business idea with a social or environmental mission at its heart?

Sponsored by Social Investment Scotland, the Impact Challenge is for sustainable business ideas with the potential for significant and long term social or environmental impact.

Register your Interest

What’s in it for you?

The Impact Challenge is designed to help you take your mission-led business idea from concept to commercial reality with cash prizes, intensive business training and support from our industry partners.


First prize

Winning our top prize will get you £20k in equity-free cash and £14,920 of in-kind business support from our industry partners towards turning your idea into a reality.


Runner-up prize

The runner-up will receive £10k in equity-free cash and £8,280 of in-kind business support from our industry partners to help get your business up and running.

5 days

Bespoke business training

All successful applicants enjoy five days of business training and pitch coaching tailored for academic entrepreneurs from leading trainers.


Post-programme support

Dedicated events, workshops, access to the Converge Enterprise team and opportunities to get involved in future activities and publicity.

Who can apply?

The Impact Challenge is open to all mission-led enterprises with a social or environmental cause at their heart. We welcome applications for both product and service-based ideas that have the potential to make the world a better place.

Read our full terms and conditions

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

Recent graduates (up to 24 months after graduation from the initial application date) from Scottish Higher Education Institutions are also eligible to apply.

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 attend the final investor pitches and our awards ceremony.  The Inside Innovation showcase event is also compulsory but can be attended by any team member. We highly recommend you attend our training events too as past experience has shown these dramatically increase the quality of business plans/cases and the chances of reaching the next stage 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 September.

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

Judging criteria

The Impact Challenge is aimed at progressive, innovative business ideas led by a social or environmental purpose. To be successful, proposals must demonstrate that the social or environmental impact can be significant, long term and achieved in a sustainable way.


  • Unique selling point
  • Competitive advantage


  • Potential for significant and long term social or environmental impact

Market validation

  • Customer engagement
  • Viable route to market
  • Market fit


  • 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 these are evaluated by a panel of university representatives.

Successful applicants are invited to attend training sessions that prepare them to put forward a business plan, financial forecast and 1-minute video pitch to be assessed by a panel of university representatives

Shortlisted finalists then pitch their idea live to a panel of investors and experts in mission-led businesses with the winners announced at our annual Converge Awards ceremony in September.

How it Works
  • Application Deadline
    30 March
  • Business Training
    7 – 11 + 21 - 23 June
  • Inside Innovation Pitching Event
    24 June
  • Business Plan Submission
    3 August
  • Final pitches
    22 September
  • Awards Event
    30 September

Judging panel

Our diverse judging panel brings together disrupters, entrepreneurs, researchers and leaders with experience spanning social enterprises, and the public and private sectors working towards impact and value creation.

Caroline Halliday

Board Director Green Angel Syndicate

Caroline has 20 years of technical, commercial and management experience, with a background in Chemical Engineering with British Gas and BP and later becoming a crude oil and derivatives trader with BP. Following a move back to Scotland, Caroline gained a further Masters in Environmental Management and joined The Scottish Environment Protection Agency. Here, Caroline specialised in projects focussing on resource efficiency and waste management, later joining the Senior Operations Management Team. Caroline has been a Business Angel since 2014, with the Scottish-based syndicate Equity Gap and UK-wide Green Angel Syndicate. Caroline has a portfolio of investments in both private and social enterprise companies and has a strong interest in energy and resource efficiency. In addition, she is a Chair and Trustee of two charities.


Josiah Lockhart

CEO Firstport

Chief Executive Officer, FirstPort

Josiah, as Chief Executive, oversees the development and strategic planning of FirstPort. Josiah has over 10 years’ experience leading and developing social enterprises though has also worked in the private and public sectors.  He has a strong history of seeing some of Scotland’s most successful social enterprises through intense change including the start-up of the Grassmarket Community Project and the rescue and restructure of Gorgie City Farm.


Dr Martin Valenti

Energy Transition & Green Enterprise Director South of Scotland Enterprise Agency

Dr Martin Valenti is a serial disruptor and award-winning sustainability practitioner with extensive experience in strategic business engagement and innovation.

For over 30 years he has worked in a variety of senior management roles shaping and delivering inclusive growth initiatives including project managing major collaborative projects. He has successfully delivered high profile projects for the Scottish Government on climate change and sustainability and transformative Corporate Social Responsibility.

He played an instrumental role in setting up Scotland’s 2020 Climate Group and co-created the award winning 2050 Young Leaders Climate Group. In 2018 he created the Vacant & Derelict Land taskforce to transform how Scotland deals with its post-industrial legacy. Following a secondment as head of climate enterprise at Scottish Enterprise, he joined South of Scotland Enterprise in July 2021 as energy transition and green enterprise director.


Rob Halliday

Lead Fund Manager SIS Ventures

Edinburgh based young-company investor and SIS Ventures Fund Manager, a UK leading Impact Investment Fund. ICAS qualified Chartered Accountant, and Deloitte alumnus, with post-qualification experience in Corporate Finance Advisory, Venture Debt and early-stage Equity Investment. Rob is responsible for the investment activity of SIS Ventures, a FCA regulated subsidiary of Social Investment Scotland. SIS Ventures invests in high growth and impact potential young companies with innovative, market-led propositions. As a strategic investor SIS Ventures works with the management teams of mission-led businesses towards impact and value creation. 



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.

Downloadable file

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

Download now


Downloadable file

Answers to some commonly-asked questions, to help you on your way

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SIS – top tips on setting up a mission driven business

Downloadable file

Setting up a mission-led business? Here's some sound advice from Social Investment Scotland.

Download now



Don’t miss our 2021 workshop series for aspiring academic entrepreneurs.

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Case study

"Winning the 2019 Impact Challenge was without a doubt the turning point for SolarisKit!" Find out more about Faisal's world-changing innovation.

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Lissa Herron

Enterprise Manager

Any Questions?
Contact the team...