Eleven Strathclyde semi-finalists in Converge Challenge

Eleven entries from the University of Strathclyde have been named as semi-finalists in academic company creation programme Converge. The semi-finalists are spread across the competition’s four categories and their businesses are in a range of fields, including health, computing, engineering and agriculture.

Campus viewed from Rottenrow

They are in contention to win the top prize of £50,000 and runners-up prizes of £20,000, along with post-programme support and five days of bespoke business training. The winners will be announced at the Converge awards ceremony on 30 September. The companies have received support from Strathclyde Inspire, the University’s flagship entrepreneurship programme, which offers entrepreneurial training and opportunities to every student and staff member.

Fiona Ireland, Head of Enterprise at Strathclyde said, “It’s great and highly encouraging news that Strathclyde has so many semi-finalists in the Converge programme, which is a highly regarded competition in Scotland’s academic and business communities.

“The successes of our students and alumni are a testament to the culture of entrepreneurship which we foster at Strathclyde and which we promote and support through our institution-wide entrepreneurship strategy, Strathclyde Inspire. These and many other companies with their origins in Strathclyde display the innovation and ambition which a thriving society needs; we wish them well in this year’s Converge programme.” 

Dr Claudia Cavalluzzo, Director of Converge, said: “I’m always amazed at the inventiveness and creativity of the projects coming through Converge and, despite the difficult times we’re experiencing, this year is no exception.

“Starting a business right now might seem counterintuitive. However, as the history books show, difficult business environments can offer rich opportunities with moments of crisis serving as a powerful impetus for innovation. We can’t wait to get started and would like to congratulate all our semi-finalists on getting through to this stage.”

The finalists are:

Converge Challenge

  • Dr Mallikarjun Chityala, graduate, Fitabeo Therapeutics Ltd – Fitabeo (FTx), a Strathclyde spinout company, was incorporated in April 2021. It is a speciality pharmaceutical company developing new medicine platforms for patients with advanced incurable diseases
  • Professor Ivan Andonovic, Department of Electronic & Electrical Engineering, Lupovis – Lupovis is a software-based innovation providing a dynamic AI-driven deception environment that enables the definition and execution of cyber-attack mitigation strategies. It provides early cyber-attack identification, dynamic management and classification of breaches
  • Kieran Duncan, graduate, Mako Aerospace Ltd – Mako’s mission is to create the engine technologies required for sustainable flight. The key to a future with zero-emission flight lies in new electric propulsion technologies and Mako is drawing experience from some of the biggest aerospace companies in the world to develop them
  • Dr Stuart Hannah, Research Associate, Department of Biomedical Engineering, Microplate – current antibiotic susceptibility testing is expensive and time-consuming, taking more than two days. Meanwhile, the wrong antibiotic may be prescribed which can be detrimental to patient health and can drive antibiotic resistance. Microplate has developed a rapid – taking less than an hour – low-cost, sensor-based, antibiotic susceptibility test, which provides a summary indication of which antibiotic to use for each patient with bacterial or fungal infections at the point of care.

Impact Challenge

  • James Swinburne, undergraduate student, Department of Design, Manufacturing & Engineering Management, Metacarpal – when an amputee visits a prosthetist, they get the option of a state-of-the-art electronic hand or an old body-powered hook. Despite decades of development, electronic devices are still heavy, expensive and incredibly fragile. Hooks function far better, yet many users are understandably put off by the way they look. Metacarpal is the first company to develop the old body-powered products into something exciting that users want to wear. The company was the 2021 winner of the Fresh Ideas enterprise competition
  • Ruth Crozier, graduate, Silver Lion Innovations – the company is a Scottish family start-up which focuses on digital health solutions, to allow people with immobility to self-manage their condition and promote their independence. It was founded after Ruth’s experience in caring for a parent managing their Parkinson’s Disease for the past 14 years. The first product, EasyOver, is a ‘smart’ mattress topper powered by technology that safely turns people with mobility issues over in bed, facilitating uninterrupted sleep for the person and those who care for them.

Creative Challenge

Lee Turnbull, postgraduate student, Department of Design, Manufacturing & Engineering Management, Turnbull Design Engineering Ltd – the company has developed a patent-pending fitness device which can act as an everyday fitness aid and allow the user to perform hundreds of functional exercises. The equipment has a specialised mechanism which maximises the number of exercises a user can perform, making it outperform everything else in its equipment category.

KickStart Challenge

  • Hugo Spinola, graduate, AKPonics Ltd – vertical farms are used to grow crops fast; this is best done by controlling their environment, which is most easily achieved using a control system, which measures environmental conditions throughout the farm. As an operator of a vertical farm, AKPonics requires a control system that is low-cost yet powerful. The company is developing an IoT- (Internet of Things) based control system that will meet these needs. Once complete, the system will help optimise plant growth rates and drastically reduce required labour hours on the farm, ultimately boosting profitability
  • Callum Gallacher, graduate, BabyReady Finance Ltd – BabyReady is a financial tool (website and app) designed to help expectant parents take charge of their financial life and prepare financially for their first-born. BabyReady helps first-time parents by increasing the transparency of prenatal and childcare costs. It enables them to check automatically for governmental support, such as Child Benefit, Tax-free Childcare and Sure Start Maternity Grant
  • Joe Gibson, undergraduate student, Department of Electronic & Electrical Engineering, Gibson Robotics – founded by the 2017 winner of the UK-wide Telegraph STEM Award, Gibson Robotics sets out to truly ensure safe airspace. Disruption to airports by drones costs the industry hundreds of millions every year but, more importantly, puts hundreds of lives at risk and with drones becoming cheaper and more common, these flying plastic problems will only get worse. Gibson Robotics has developed a rapidly responding fixed wing platform capable of safely capturing an aerial threat and handing it over to the relevant authorities – guaranteeing airspace safety to airports, prisons, public spaces and other critical infrastructure
  • Janani Prabhakaran, graduate, Unbaggaged – Unbaggaged is the world’s first on-demand luggage management network, connecting travellers wanting to be free of their bags with taxi drivers who can pick them up and return them where and when needed. Unbaggaged runs the digital infrastructure and provides customer support and luggage guarantees and tracking; most importantly, it fosters the relationships and partnerships that enable it to offer customers a convenient, secure and affordable way to travel hands-free.

Source: University of Strathclyde

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