Staff Services Student Enterprise

Converge wins for Edinburgh’s entrepreneurs

05 Oct 2023

In a successful awards night for Edinburgh’s innovators, five founders took home prizes in the annual academic entrepreneurship competition, Converge Challenge.

Excellio Labs, Whimsylabs, Concinnity Genetics, CEXAL and Edinburgh Innovations’ student ambassador Mishal Tariq were all winners at last night’s ceremony. They will receive a share of £320,000 in equity-free cash and in-kind business support.

PhD student Mishal, of Edinburgh Cancer Research, won the Kickstart Challenge for her drug discovery technology startup GenProtex, jointly founded with Ricardo Moreno Ballesteros of Dundee University.

And runner up was PhD student at the Roslin Institute, Kamila Malysz, whose company Excellio Labs is using stem cells to rejuvenate skin at a biological level, for use in the beauty industry.

Last year’s Kickstart winner, Jessica Birt of Concinnity Genetics, won this year’s IBioIC award. A bioengineer at the UK Centre for Mammalian Synthetic Biology, her company uses unique AI technology to build gene control systems that reduce the side effects of gene therapies.

Runner up in the Create Change category was EdTech startup Whimsylabs, led by Physics and Astronomy PhD graduate Dr Joseph French, which uses AI to provide immersive laboratory sandbox environments for students.

And School of Social and Political Science graduate and co-founder Matteo Cese won the CENSIS121 award for startup CEXAL, which is using novel biosensors to develop cartridge tests to detect pathogens in drinking water.

Pictured above: Excellio Labs' Kamila Malysz, runner up in the Kickstart Challenge

Keynote speaker this year was the Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Edinburgh, Professor Sir Peter Mathieson. He said:

The Converge awards demonstrate the talent and accomplishments of our academic entrepreneurs. We are very proud to be able to support our students, staff and graduates to successfully innovate their ideas. Many congratulations to all of the winners and finalists. ”

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

It’s fantastic to see our ground-breaking founders progressing through the growing entrepreneurial ecosystem we have here in Scotland.
At EI, we look forward to continuing to accompany and support them on their journey towards making a real difference in the world. Congratulations to you all! ”

The overall Converge Challenge winner was Dr Georgina Robinson, from the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SMAS), a partner of the University of the Highlands & Islands. Her company N-ovatio-N is tackling the growing problem of organic waste in the agricultural industry.

Open to students, graduates, and staff from across Scotland’s universities, Converge supports new businesses through intensive business training, networking, 1-2-1 support, generous equity free cash prizes and expert, professional advice from its roster of industry partners.

Richard Lochhead, Innovation Minister, said:

Entrepreneurship and innovation are at the heart of our National Strategy for Economic Transformation, and academia-industry collaboration helps fulfil Scotland’s potential to nurture many more inventive new start-up companies.
With a focus on tackling environmental and societal challenges, this year’s winners have demonstrated outstanding talent and creativity and I congratulate all those that took part in this year’s awards for their efforts. ”

Dr Claudia Cavalluzzo, executive director at Converge, said:

Scotland’s universities are truly world-class and this is evident in the achievements and ambition demonstrated by the talented pioneers we’ve recognised at this year’s awards. These founders represent the magic that Scotland needs to realise its ambitions and fulfil its potential as one of the world’s greatest nations of innovators.
Supporting young companies that are focused on creating positive impact and long-term societal change is imperative for everyone working in the innovation ecosystem as these companies hold the future of our economy and society in their hands. ”

More information on the winners and runners-up can be found on the Converge website.