Early brain tumour diagnosis attracts praise from top business leaders

Winners of the Converge Challenge Ready Steady Pitch competition.

ClinSpec Dx, a simple blood test to detect brain tumours earlier, was the winning pitch when Converge Challenge applicants competing for Scotland’s largest academic start-up prize went head-to-head to give 60-second ‘Dragon’s Den’ style pitches in Edinburgh last night.

Dr Holly Butler, a Research Associate at the University of Strathclyde, delivered the winning pitch and captured the audience with some staggering statistics on current brain tumour diagnosis and how ClinSpec Dx can change these statistics through earlier detection.

Commenting on winning, Holly said,

I’m incredibly pleased that the judges saw the potential in ClinSpec Dx – pitching was a nerve-wracking but very thrilling experience and it’s exciting to have the support from leading entrepreneurs and investors.

Second place was awarded to mycoBiologics led by Dr Fiona Rudkin, a Royal Society of Edinburgh Enterprise Fellow at the University of Aberdeen. mycoBiologics is a platform for generating monoclonal antibodies designed to combat invasive fungal infections with a portable diagnosis test similar to a simple pregnancy test. Third place went to novosound led by Dr Dave Hughes, a Fellow at the University of the West of Scotland. novosound has developed sensors that can provide high resolution ultrasound imaging at a fraction of the cost of current MRI scanners revolutionising the medical, dental and veterinary markets.

The ‘Ready, Steady, Pitch!’ event took place on Thursday 1st June at Royal Bank of Scotland, Gogarburn. The pitching competition is only for the Top 30 finalists of the Converge Challenge award category. Each participant is given just 60 seconds to outline their business proposal to an expert judging panel and audience of 120 industry experts.

Dr Olga Kozlova, Director of Converge Challenge, said: 

Being able to communicate an innovative proposition in less than a minute is a core skill that will serve our participants well when they are talking to their customers and investors. And this is what Converge Challenge is all about, helping our participants to develop practical business skills.

“This event is one of the highlights of the Converge calendar and provides an opportunity to see the best projects developed by students, graduates and staff from the country’s universities and research institutes in action.

“Last night’s finalists showcased an array of high quality projects once again, demonstrating that Converge helps develop a very strong pipeline of innovative companies from Scottish academia.”

The expert judging panel included: Gordon Stark, Chief Operations Officer of Murgitroyd; Morven Cameron, Head of Universities, Education & Skills at Highlands & Islands Enterprise; Lynne Cadenhead, Chair of Women’s Enterprise Scotland; and Steve Ewing, Director of Operations at Informatics Ventures. Guest speakers on the night included Keith Brown MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Jobs and Fair Work and Alistair Forbes, a GlobalScot, tech entrepreneur, angel investor and business mentor.

Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Jobs and Fair Work, Keith Brown said:

“To achieve our potential as a nation, it is vital that we give as many people as possible the opportunity to reach their potential.

“For the past three years, Scotland CAN DO has stood as our national statement of intent towards becoming a world-leading entrepreneurial and innovative nation.

“The quality of the Converge Challenge Top 30 – is quite simply inspiring. We all need this next generation of entrepreneurial talent to turn their ideas into businesses that can become successful in Scotland and beyond, to help shape our economy and society.”

The finalists will now utilise their training to develop a comprehensive business plan over the coming months. The plan will be assessed at different stages with the Top 6 shortlisted Converge Challenge candidates going forward to the final. They are competing for a share of the total prize fund of £170,000 - a £20,000 increase on the 2016 prize fund. The package of support includes a broad range of in-kind expert offerings provided by partners to build on the cash prizes. All aimed at helping participants to establish and grow successful and sustainable businesses.

Converge Challenge is Scotland’s leading company creation competition and entrepreneurial development programme for staff, students, and recent graduates of Scottish universities and Research Institutes. The competition has three core categories: Converge Challenge: for those with an established idea; KickStart: for early stage ideas; and Social Enterprise: for ideas that will have a positive impact on social and environmental issues. The 2017 Converge Challenge is already the most successful yet with 212 entries from 19 institutions and an increase in female entrepreneurs reaching the Top 60 shortlist across all categories.

The winners of each of the three categories will be announced at a gala awards ceremony at the Glasgow Science Centre on Thursday, 28th September 2017.

A full list of all finalists can be found on the Converge Challenge website: www.convergechallenge.com