Showcase of Academic Innovation Throws Spotlight on Scotland’s Inventiveness
Invention and ingenuity were in full force yesterday at the annual Inside Innovation showcase, a pitching event featuring 58 of Scotland’s most exciting academic entrepreneurs. Hosted by Converge, Scotland’s largest company creation programme for the university sector, the fast-paced, virtual event showcased the very latest technologies, products and ideas emerging from Scottish universities. Featuring semi-finalists across three challenge categories – Converge, Impact and Creative – and with cash prizes for ‘Best Pitch’ at stake, participants had just 60 seconds to capture the attention of the 200-strong audience and a panel of judges.
Taking ‘Best Pitch’ in the Converge Challenge category and winning £500 in cash was Stuart Hannah from the University of Strathclyde with Microplate Dx, a rapid, low-cost, sensor-based antibiotic susceptibility test that identifies, within minutes, the best choice of antibiotic to treat a patient’s infection.
Triumphing in the Impact Challenge category and scooping £500 was Melanie van de Velde from the University of Glasgow with B Journeys, a data and consultancy service making travel a force for good. Sponsored by Social Investment Scotland, the Impact Challenge is for new businesses ideas with the potential for significant and long term social or environmental impact. Melanie’s vision is to encourage travel providers to consider destinations typically left aside by tourism, lifting millions of people out of poverty and reducing migration to city slums.
In the Creative Challenge category, Jonathan O’Neill from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland won Best Pitch and £500 cash with Make your Own Musicals, a musical theatre activity pack helping children write their very own musicals. Designed to develop children’s creative skills, each pack contains child-friendly writing prompts, original backing tracks, interactive sound effects and fun cut-outs.
The pitches were judged by a panel of business experts including Gordon Stark, CEO at Murgitroyd; Alfredo Ramos, Managing Director at CPI Enterprises and Neil Norman, Partner at accountancy firm, Chiene +Tait.
Beamed live from a production studio in Edinburgh and hosted by BBC Scotland Innovation Correspondent, Laura Goodwin, the event featured an interview with tech veteran and serial entrepreneur, Seonaidh MacDonald, best known for leading innovative Scottish spin-out, mLED ltd, to a hugely successful trade sale with Facebook. Joining Laura Goodwin in the studio, and commenting on the day’s pitches, were two Converge alumni: Alice Smith, CEO of Speak:Unique, a finalist from Converge 2019 and Murray Collins, CEO and Co-founder of Space Intelligence, a semi-finalist from Converge 2018.
The international audience included university principals, senior academic staff, investors, entrepreneurs, business influencers, media, Converge funders and commercial partners with a number of guests appearing live onscreen in the studio to add their insight and commentary.
The event marked the culmination of a full week of intensive business training and pitch coaching for Converge semi-finalists designed to equip them with vital skills to further develop their businesses. In the next phase of the programme semi-finalists will submit a business plan with the best ideas going forward to the Converge Awards final on 30 September 2021.
Claudia Cavalluzzo, Director of Converge, comments:
“Inside Innovation is one of the highlights of the Converge calendar, bringing together the very best, new ideas and technologies from across Scotland’s world-renowned university sector. Created during a pandemic, in the most trying of circumstances, they are testament to the inventiveness and resilience of Scotland’s students, graduates and university staff.
Despite all the difficulties of the past year, yesterday’s showcase gives us great cause for hope and demonstrates very clearly that we have a strong pipeline of entrepreneurs emerging from Scottish academia.
I want to congratulate all our semi-finalists for their fantastic pitches and particularly the winners as they were up against some stiff competition”.
Converge is funded by the Scottish Funding Council, all 18 of Scotland’s universities, Creative Scotland and a network of nine professional partners.