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.

Register your interest

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.


First prize

Winning our top prize will get you £30,000 in equity-free cash and £10,500 of in-kind business support from our industry partners towards turning your idea into a reality.


Runner-up prize

The runner-up will receive £10,000 in equity-free cash and £5,000 of in-kind business support.


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.


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.

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 Inside 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.

Applicants need to demonstrate validation of their product/service, early customer engagement, a viable route to market and be ready to start operating within twelve months of our annual Awards in October.

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)

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:


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


  • 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


  • 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 9 May. You'll then be invited to attend a one day, in-person regional training session w/c 27 May followed by intensive business training and pitching in Edinburgh* from 3-5 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 w/c 9 September and to pitch your idea live to a panel of investors and business experts from 23-24 September. Winners will be announced at our annual Awards ceremony on 3 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
    3 April 2024
  • In-person regional training
    w/c 27 May (1 day)
  • In-person training & pitch event
    3-5 June
  • Business plan submission
    31 July
  • Investment training
    9 September
  • Final pitches
    23-24 September
  • Awards
    3 October

Judging panel

Our expert judging panels are selected for their depth and breadth of entrepreneurial and business experience across Scotland's creative industries and social impact sector. Here's last year's panel to give you a flavour of who will be assessing your business idea.


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.


Ross Isdale

Senior Associate Challenges Group

Ross Isdale is a Senior Associate at the Challenges Group, a family of social businesses committed to building prosperity and impact at a global level. Working within Challenges' Ventures and Investment team, Ross manages a Scottish Government-funded venture-building programme and investment facility focused on supporting Scottish-based enterprises to internationalise into sub-Saharan Africa and beyond.

Ross has extensive experience of working within Scotland's Private, Third and International Development sectors with a particular emphasis on project management and business development.


Lynne Martin

Design for Business Strategic Lead V&A

Lynne has an extensive background in creative business support and firmly believes that creative and social businesses have a deeply important role to play in changing our world for the better. She knows from first hand and professional experience in the business support space how challenging it can be to be a creative person and run a business, so is approaching her role as a judge on this panel from a position of empathy and experience. 

In her role at the V&A Dundee she advocates for the power of strategic design for personal, team, and organisational development, and innovation. 


Daisy Ford-Downes

Head of Group Investment Programmes Firstport

Daisy’s career in finance and investment has included roles at Deloitte, the Scottish Investment Bank and Foundation Scotland. She has a Masters degree in Innovation, Creativity and Entrepreneurship, and is a Chartered Accountant and Responsible Finance Clore Fellow. As an innovative finance enthusiast, Daisy is interested in how doing business differently can get more great ideas into the world, with a particular focus on risk capital for early stage businesses. She is also a scout for a venture fund that invests in underrepresented founders.



Find answers to your questions plus a sample copy of the application form you'll need to complete.

Sample Application Form


Here's a preview of the questions you'll need to answer

Click to view

FAQs 2024


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

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Guide for Applicants 2024

Pre-Application Pack

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

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Dr. Lissa Herron

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Any Questions?
Just get in touch!