Nine Strathclyders have made it through to the semi-final stage of the Scotland-wide Converge Challenge company creation programme.

The Converge Challenge is celebrating its 10th anniversary and a record number of applications were submitted to the competition this year.

The Strathclyde projects are among 60 semi-finalists across the three ‘Challenge’ categories: Converge, Creative and Impact.

Top prize

Among the entries competing for the top prize is Loch Electronics, a business created by University of Strathclyde post-graduate student Franciso Carreno, who has designed plans for a dishwasher that uses medical grade UV-C light to fully disinfect PPE facemasks in hospitals, which helps to address supply shortage issues.

The other projects are:

  • Undergraduate student Robbie Macisaac who has created the FLUX Blowpipe, a universal bagpipe blowpipe engineered to solve moisture issues for pipers, and in turn reduce their risk of pipers’ lung disease.
  • Postgraduate student Bartosz Soltowski and his business Connex Solar which comprises an interdisciplinary team developing microgrid technology to transform off-grid electrification in the developing world. The company’s Energy Box smart controller connects households to form community microgrids, allowing people to share electricity to generate income.
  • Alumnus Kieran Duncan of Mako Aerospace Ltd whose first product is an “electric alternative to the jet engine” that reduces aircraft fuel costs by 60% and enables use of today’s battery technology for greater than 600km all-electric flights.
  • Undergraduate student James Swinburne of Metacarpal who has created an advanced and affordable body-powered prosthetic arm, which through a variation of 3D printing, could be manufactured anywhere at a low cost.
  • Graduate Yanik Adam Nyberg of Seawater Solutions Ltd, an agri-environmental company that pioneers seawater farming for climate change by developing technology and approaches to turn degraded farmland into healthy wetland ecosystems where food is grown with seawater. In 2018, Seawater Solutions launched the UK’s first seawater farm, and have since focused on developing innovative products and services such as saltwater vegetables and carbon credits.
  • Staff member Dr Steven Owens of Huli (Beinn Bike Ltd.) who aims to make the outdoors accessible to everyone through simple-to-use-technology. Huli is a software product that automatically creates routes for outdoor activities, such as cycling, running and walking that match users’ preferences.
  • Lecturer Xavier Bellekens of Lupovis, a software-based innovation provisioning an AI-driven deception environment that enables the definition and execution of pro-active cyber-attack mitigation strategies.
  • Research associate Dr Stuart Hannah of Microplate Dx, which has developed Microplate – a rapid, low-cost, antibiotic susceptibility test that provides a summary indication of which antibiotic to use for each patient with bacterial or fungal infections and facilitates better antibiotic stewardship.

Unparalleled backdrop

Dr Claudia Cavalluzzo, director of Converge, said: “Six months ago, no one knew that we would be in the midst of a pandemic that would have such a profound impact on all our lives.

“In the context of such a massive and unparalleled backdrop, imagine our delight that entries this year are at record levels. Staff, students and researchers across our Higher Education Institutions have again demonstrated that, even in the face of upheaval, they continue to strive to unlock their potential to transform lives and improve society.”

This year, Converge Challenge semi-finalists will take part in ‘Inside Innovation’ – a new, virtual pitching event taking place on Tuesday 30 June.

Each semi-finalist will have just 60 seconds to capture the attention of an investor-led panel of judges with a Best Pitch and Audience Choice prize up for grabs. Another highlight of the evening will be an interview with serial tech entrepreneur, Lesley Eccles, co-Founder of fantasy sports platform, FanDuel, who recently launched Relish which promises to be the world’s first relationship training app.

Before then, semi-final entrants undergo intensive online training to develop their business and hone their pitching skills. They will then be asked to submit a business case with the very best progressing to the Converge Awards final on 24 September.

Converge is Scotland’s largest company creation programme for staff, students, and recent graduates of Scottish Universities and Research Institutes aimed at supporting and celebrating a new generation of entrepreneurs in Scotland.

Converge exists as a pathway for university entrepreneurs, meaning that the innovators of the future receive the right support at the right time to ensure profitable businesses for Scotland.