By Press Office 26 February 2015

Converge Challenge, Scotland’s premier company creation competition, has expanded its award categories for 2015, giving research staff and students from Queen Margaret University an even greater opportunity to challenge for the £100,000 prize fund including a comprehensive support and training package.

As well as expanding its categories, Converge Challenge is, for the first time, broadening its reach to embrace all university staff, undergraduates, postgraduates, as well as recent graduates (qualified in the past 12 months). Even if a fledgling business has been started and it has been trading for less than six months with sales of less than £50,000, then Converge Challenge is open to applications.

Like last year, the University’s aspirational entrepreneurs can participate in three main categories – Converge Challenge Award, KickStart Award and Social Enterprise Award. The Organisers have this year added a fourth category - the Entrepreneurial Spirit Award - a special award given to an entrant who possesses all the attributes of traditional entrepreneurs, creates value and has the willingness to take risk.

Launched today (Thursday 26th February) at the Royal Society of Edinburgh where Fergus Ewing MSP, The Business, Energy and Tourism Minister gave the keynote speech, the Converge Challenge seeks, therefore, to create entrepreneurs and develop the entrepreneurial mind-set.

Supporting the endeavours of Queen Margaret University and Scotland’s other Higher Education Institutes involved in this year’s Converge Challenge, Mr Ewing remarked that Scotland has an education system with entrepreneurship and innovation at its core, based on ‘world leading strength from our universities’.

Business Minister Fergus Ewing said:

“Our young people are our greatest asset and it is crucial, perhaps more now than ever, that we see their economic potential unleashed.

“The Converge Challenge is a focal point within the Scottish entrepreneurial ecosystem and makes clear our ambition with the vision of Scotland as a world-leading entrepreneurial and innovative nation.

 “The Scotland CAN DO framework was developed with public, private and third sector partners to further sharpen our focus on creating sustainable economic growth.  We are determined to see more young people starting their own businesses in Scotland.”

Since its inception in 2010, Converge Challenge has reached some significant milestones. Over the last four years, the programme has engaged with 120 projects from 14 universities, from which around 30% went on to create companies, employing 73 individuals. 4 out of 5 of these businesses have secured follow-on funding which currently stands at £10 million. The competition has attracted 260 applications.

Converge Challenge is now a focal point within the Scottish entrepreneurial ecosystem. It is sharply focused on developing the entrepreneurial skills of students and research staff through rigorous engagement over an 18 month period, during which participants receive training, coaching and one-to-one mentoring as well as substantial cash prizes for the three winners.

Veronica Ferguson, Enterprise Outreach Manager of Converge Challenge takes up the story;

“Converge Challenge provides an excellent example of universities collaborating, sharing best practice in entrepreneurial education and advocacy on entrepreneurial activity for the good of the Scottish Higher Education landscape.

The process of establishing, developing and funding a new start-up company is one of the toughest challenges faced by budding entrepreneurs - however, anyone from Queen Margaret University entering the Converge Challenge competition will find a world of exciting engagement, mentoring support and encouragement really opens up for them."

From the launch today, entrants to the Converge Challenge will have until 1 st May to submit their initial form, followed by the Elevator Pitch process taking place on 2nd June with a closing deadline being set for 7th August.

If entries from Queen Margaret University make it through to the national final, the judging panel, consisting of some of the most illustrious names in the Scottish business community, will put forward their final selections, with the overall winner of the Converge Challenge being announced after a final pitch process at a gala event to be held at Barony Hall, University of Strathclyde in Glasgow on Thursday 29th September.

Adding her voice, Queen Margaret University’s Principal and Vice Chancellor, Professor Petra Wend, urged as many staff and students to come forward for this year’s Converge showcase.

“QMU is committed to enhancing the student experience and encouraging students to view entrepreneurship as a first destination career choice. We are therefore delighted to be taking part in this year’s Converge Challenge which will help some of our talented students access prize funding, support and training to get their businesses off the ground.

“At QMU, we encourage all our students to take every opportunity to extending their skills and knowledge in new and innovative ways.  We live in a fast changing and global economy, so those who possess specialist knowledge and continue to develop their entrepreneurial skills will be in increasingly in demand across the business world.” 

Veronica Ferguson concludes;

“ Queen Margaret University has traditionally been a hotbed of academic prowess in areas such as health sciences, speech therapy, nutrition and disease management entrepreneurial and our Converge Challenge categories offer a great opportunity especially for junior staff and students to gain experience of starting a company and of the skills required therein. So, if you have developed an idea to support patients or a new speech app, then Converge Challenge would love to hear from you.

Ultimately, this may help retain highly qualified and talented people in Scotland by channelling the opportunity and by the nature and quality of support it provides.  The skills developed through participation in the competition support both entrepreneurial and intrapreneurial behaviours, so even if the participant does not go on to start up a company, the economy of Scotland will unquestionably benefit.”

The Converge Challenge 2015 opens February 26th. Full details and how to enter can be found at www.convergechallenge.com. Follow @ConvergeC using #ConvergeC

About Converge Challenge

Converge Challenge is a high profile pan-Scotland company creation competition and entrepreneurship development programme for staff, students, recent graduates and non-trading or trading companies (for less than 6 months and with a secured income less than £50K with University support) of Scottish Universities and Research Institutes aimed at creating a new generation of entrepreneurs in Scotland. It works with any industry sector, product or service-based ideas at any stage of the development. The top prize in Converge Challenge 2015  is over £60,000. The programme will provide you with excellent networking opportunities to connect and interact with like-minded people and build your business contacts.

Over the last four years, the programme has attracted 260 applications, engaged with 120 projects, from which around 30% went on to create companies. 4 out of 5 of these businesses have secured follow-on funding which currently stands at £10million. Converge Challenge is now a focal point within the Scottish entrepreneurial ecosystem. Converge Challenge is focused on developing the entrepreneurial skills of students and scientists through rigorous engagement over an 18 month period during which participants receive training, coaching and one-to-one mentoring as well as substantial cash prizes for the three winners.

Notes to Editor

For further media information please contact Jonathan Perkins, Press and PR Officer, Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh, tel: 0131 474 0000, Email: jperkins@qmu.ac.uk

For further information, please contact Kevin Dorrian at Acumen on 0131 661 7027 or email – kevin.dorrian@acumen-pr.com. URL www.acumen-pr.com

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