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Scotland’s Universities Bring Forward a New Pipeline of Aspiring Entrepreneurs

A biodegradable coffee cup made from coffee waste; a sensor that checks if runway conditions are safe during aircraft approach and landing; a patent pending solution for the diagnosis and therapy of ‘lazy eye’, a condition affecting 230 million children worldwide – these are just some of the ground-breaking ideas emerging from this year’s pool of KickStart semi-finalists. 

32 trail-blazing entrepreneurs from across Scotland’s world-class universities are now through to the next stage of the Converge KickStart Challenge, an early-stage entrepreneurial development programme for university staff, students and recent graduates across Scotland.  Aimed at innovative projects embarking on the first steps of the commercialisation journey, KickStart helps academic entrepreneurs, from all sectors, test and validate their business ideas with the aim of establishing commercial viability.

From tiny acorns grow mighty oaks and what starts with an idea, with a lightbulb moment, can in time turn out to be a major business success story. This week for instance, 2014 KickStart winner, Chris McCann, CEO of Current Health announced a $11.5m investment round.  2020 shows all the signs of being just as prolific a year with incredibly innovative and impactful projects being shortlisted for the 2020 KickStart programme.

Technology and Engineering, Life Sciences and the Creative Industries are the most represented sectors this year with a significant proportion of projects focused on solving critical environmental problems such as pollution, climate change and waste reduction.  

Among them is Kachi Maduabuchi, a postgraduate student from Glasgow Caledonian University with the Susty Cup, a biodegradable coffee cup made from coffee grounds. By repurposing coffee grounds into reusable takeaway cups, Kachi aims to reduce the environmental impact of our ‘coffee on the go’ culture. 

Ross Gillanders, a Research Associate from the University of St Andrews has created a portable, low cost optical sensor to enable real-time pesticide testing in water.  With pesticide contamination of drinking water a growing global issue, Ross’s innovation will help to speed up detection rates and reduce the impact of contamination events. 

Mark Dorris, a Research Associate from Edinburgh Napier University is creating sustainable alternatives to the petrochemical-derived ingredients found in many personal care products. Using nanomaterials derived from a sustainable seaweed source, Mark’s formulations are fully biodegradable, ingestible and free of harsh chemicals.

Dr Claudia Cavalluzzo, Director of Converge, is delighted with the range and diversity of this year’s projects.

Dr Cavalluzzo comments:

“Every year we wait for the KickStart application deadline with trepidation, not knowing how many or what type of projects will come through. However, the breadth and creativity of applications that the challenge attracts never fail to disappoint and this year is no exception.

It’s also heartening to see so many Universities responding to the climate emergency by supporting many incredible ideas and innovations that have the power to change lives.  It’s great to see a new generation of entrepreneurs in Scotland joining the fight to keep our planet not only surviving but thriving”

We look forward to working with our KickStart cohort in the months ahead and helping them refine and validate their early-stage business ideas through customer discovery training, pitch coaching and the wrap-around support offered by our team and partners”

Semi-finalists will now be invited to take part in two days of intensive business training designed specifically for academic entrepreneurs.  They will then be asked to submit a business case with the very best asked to pitch at an Awards Final in February with one lucky winner taking home a £10,000 cash prize.  A runner-up will also receive £5,000 in cash.

The full list of shortlisted projects are below:

Project NameApplicantUniversity
3fineryLlogari Casas
Edinburgh Napier
Aquaculture Health
Brian QuinnUniversity of the West of
BombinaSean Fisher The Glasgow School of Art
BIRDHugo Sardinha Heriot-Watt University
Black Goblin Gabrielle HaleyUniversity of Edinburgh
University of the Highlands and
Butterfly AdventuresLtdMelanie van de Velde University of Glasgow
Connex Solar Bartosz SoltowskiUniversity of Strathclyde
Crack Map LtdSaber KhayatzadehUniversity of Strathclyde
Crossroad Games CICHannah GordonQueen Margaret University
d-Finger LtdNadimul FaisalRobert Gordon University
Ellyra Collin PowersUniversity of Edinburgh
Empowered EarthAnji SandhuUniversity of Glasgow
Eyesight Electronics
Amin Rigi University of Edinburgh
Robbie BeautymanUniversity of Dundee
Foxshyre AnalyticsLuis Toral Robert Gordon University
Gibson RoboticsJoe GibsonUniversity of Strathclyde
Heritage MeetsSèverine
University of Stirling
Heriot-Watt University
Mercel Mark DorrisEdinburgh Napier
Mór Protection Ryan FearneUniversity of Strathclyde
Moving Margins Lynette NabbosaGlasgow Caledonian
F-SenseRoss GillandersUniversity of St Andrews
SEACLEANCharlie WilsonUniversity of Aberdeen
Sigma Sensor
Iain CampbellUniversity of St Andrews
SiMologics Mohammed Al
University of Strathclyde
SmartScrollHoward MoshtaelUniversity of Edinburgh
SustyKachi MaduabuchiGlasgow Caledonian
Swype Global LtdPeter AtoroughRobert Gordon University
TCBS InnovationsTom CarewUniversity of the Highlands and Islands
TremodentFlorian SchabusUniversity of Strathclyde
VennleJack Noble University of Edinburgh