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Converge 2023 finalists announced

08 Sep 2023

One fifth of this year’s Converge finalists - Scotland’s most innovative startups and spinouts - are from the University of Edinburgh, it was announced today.

This year’s finalists in the springboard competition for university founders address key themes from Scotland’s national innovation strategy published in June: energy transition, health and life sciences, data and digital technologies and advanced manufacturing.

Edinburgh has two of the six companies in the coveted Converge Challenge category, where finalists travel to London to present their ideas to investors and business leaders.

One of these is Concinnity Genetics, co-founded by bioengineer Jessica Birt, out of the UK Centre for Mammalian Synthetic Biology, which uses unique AI technology to build gene control systems that reduce the side effects of gene therapies.

Ms Birt (pictured above centre, at last year's awards) said: “This is very timely for us, as we are just about to start our seed raise, ahead of spinning out of the University early next year.

“We won the KickStart award last year, so it's been a credit to the work put in by the whole team – including my co-founder Matt, our advisor David Venables and EI and Scottish Enterprise, who have both been supporting us - that we've achieved enough to now be considered for the main prize!”

The other is Singular Photonics, a School of Engineering spinout from Dr Aravind Venugopalan Nair Jalajakumari and Professor Robert Henderson, which is taking to market high performance camera modules based on sensitive light detectors, with applications in spectroscopy, microscopy and medical imaging.

Both have received funding through the Scottish Enterprise High Growth Spinout Programme.

Two Edinburgh student startups feature in the Create Change category. Socially-focussed Ujamaa Spice was founded by current postgrad Rist Van de Weyer, of the School of Biological Sciences, and Jawahir Al-Mauly (both pictured above) to help create a fair global spice trade by working with small hold farmers in Zanzibar.

And EdTech startup Whimsylabs, led by Physics and Astronomy PhD graduate Dr Joseph French, uses AI to provide immersive laboratory sandbox environments for students.

KickStart Challenge finalists include CEXAL and Excellio Labs – the former led by School of Social and Political Science graduate Matteo Cese, who is using novel biosensors to develop cartridge tests to detect pathogens in low volumes of liquids.

Current Vet School PhD students Kamila Malysz and Kasia Maj (main picture) founded Excellio Labs to develop cellular rejuvenation techniques for the cosmetic industry.

Dr John Lonsdale, Head of Enterprise at Edinburgh Innovations, said:

It’s a pleasure to see so many of our brilliant companies in the Converge 23 final. These innovators are helping us meet the world’s greatest challenges in our priority areas of climate, data and AI for good, and global health, and give us all great cause for optimism.
EI has supported these companies through programmes like the Startup Summer Accelerator and PhD Max, so it’s fantastic to see Scotland’s entrepreneurial ecosystem functioning well to support them as they go from strength to strength. ”

Leah Pape, Head of Entrepreneurship and Investment at Scottish Enterprise said:

Scottish Enterprise is the second most active investor in the UK for the number of equity deals going into spinouts, and it’s hugely exciting to see companies we’ve supported, such as Concinnity Genetics and Singular Photonics at UoE contending for these prestigious awards. Good luck to all the finalists - some of the most exciting and ambitious new companies in Scotland. ”

Dr Claudia Cavalluzzo, Converge’s Executive Director, added:

Our finalist demonstrate that Scotland’s Universities are at the forefront of developing innovations that will help people and the planet while growing our economy. “

The winners and runners-up in all categories will be named at the Converge awards ceremony in Glasgow on October 4.

Related links

For the full list of finalists visit the Converge website

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