An Edinburgh researcher and a recent graduate have taken top prizes in Converge, the prestigious entrepreneurial programme for Scottish Universities and Research Institutes.
Dr Genevieve Patenaude, Senior Lecturer at the School of Geosciences, won the awards’ biggest prize, the Converge Challenge, for her startup, Earth Blox.
Elena Höge, recent graduate in Design and Digital Media at Edinburgh College of Art, took the second-biggest prize of the 2020 competition, the Creative Challenge, with her startup Yaldi Games.
Both winners are Edinburgh Innovations clients, bringing to 16 the tally of EI clients who have won awards over the 10 years since Converge launched, including three main Converge Challenge winners.
Satellite data access
Earth Blox aims to provide access to planetary-scale satellite intelligence without the need for specialist software or expertise. Applications include the better understanding of the global impact of deforestation and large-scale disasters, and the teaching of Earth-observation skills without the need for coding or lab software.
Users of Earth Blox, which is cloud based, include the UN Environment Programme as well as numerous universities wishing to conduct planetary-scale analyses with ease.
As the winner of the main Converge Challenge, Dr Patenaude receives £50,000 in funding and £21,000 in in-kind business support.
First Minister address
This year’s Converge final was hosted from Doha, Qatar, by Scottish journalist and broadcaster Halla Mohieddeen, with a keynote address by Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon.
“Winning the Converge Challenge will allow us to fast track our vision of democratising planetary scale satellite intelligence, so it becomes accessible to a whole suite of organisations dealing with humanitarian and disaster relief, and to universities for online Earth-observation learning.”
– Dr Genevieve Patenaude, winner, Converge Challenge 2020.
Dr Patenaude has been an EI client since January 2019, receiving guidance from its business advisers and a Virtual Board, and support with several successful funding applications.
She gained a Royal Society of Edinburgh Enterprise Fellowship in May 2019, which funded her to develop her venture and was hosted by Edinburgh Innovations.
“Edinburgh Innovations has been wonderfully helpful in creating connections, making introductions to the entrepreneurial ecosystem of Scotland, generating awareness of funding routes for bringing innovative ideas to market, and providing countless opportunities for learning from experts in entrepreneurship.”
– Dr Genevieve Patenaude.
Höge’s startup, Yaldi Games, aims to become a leading educational game developer with social and cultural impact, with a mission to create meaningful entertainment. Its first title, Wholesome, will inspire interest in nature and teach skills such as foraging and healthy cooking.
By winning the Creative Challenge, Ms Höge receives £20,000 in funding and £21,000 as in-kind support.
Höge recently completed Edinburgh Innovations’ 12-week Startup Summer Accelerator programme.
“Yaldi’s mission is to create meaningful entertainment that merges fun and learning.
“The funding and business support from Converge couldn’t have come at a better time, as we are currently building a fully featured prototype and starting to look for a publisher to bring it to market.”
– Elena Höge, Founder, Yaldi Games.
Third top-prize winner
The 2020 awards were the 10th since Converge Challenge’s launch, and in those 10 years clients of EI and its predecessor organisations have taken the top prize three times, previous winners being Photon Force 2015 in and Carbogenics in 2018.
In total, across the awards’ main Converge Challenge and its Impact, Creative and Kickstart categories, the University has had 16 winners and multiple runners-up over the past decade.
“Congratulations to Genevieve and Elena, Edinburgh’s latest worthy Converge winners.
“We’re proud to help our inspiring staff, student and recent graduates turn their ideas and entrepreneurism into products and services with real-world impact.”
– Dr George Baxter, CEO, Edinburgh Innovations.