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Edinburgh innovators scoop Converge Awards

04 Nov 2022

Six of Scotland’s top 15 academic entrepreneurs at this year’s Converge Awards are from the University of Edinburgh, winning for their ground-breaking innovations in data, health and sustainability.

Edinburgh winners were Robocean, Bennu.AI, Concinnity Genetics, SensiBile, Rigpa and Eye to the Future. The top 15 will share over £300,000 in equity-free cash and in-kind business support from Scotland’s largest company creation programme for the university sector.

Undergraduate Niall McGrath of Robocean, which aims to rewild the oceans by restoring endangered seagrass meadows using subsea robotics, won the Net Zero Challenge. Runner up was PhD Jonathan Feldstein of robotic waste-sorter startup Bennu.AI.

In the Kickstart Challenge, Dr Jessica Birt of spinout Concinnity Genetics took the top prize for her unique AI technology for gene control systems, developed during her PhD at the UK Centre for Mammalian Synthetic Biology. Runner up was Dr Sofia Ferreira-Gonzalez of SensiBile, spun out of the Centre for Regenerative Medicine, who is developing an electrochemical biosensor to help detect problematic biomarkers in donor livers.

Former PhD Mike Huang, who commercialised his brain-inspired AI chip through startup Rigpa, took home the Cisco Future Tech Award. Dundee/Edinburgh collaboration Eye to the Future were runners up in the coveted Converge Challenge category with their software to enable early detection of glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy, the leading cause of blindness. The company is spun out of 20 years of research by Dundee’s Professor Emanuele Trucco and Edinburgh’s Dr Tom MacGillivray.

Dr John Lonsdale, Head of Enterprise at Edinburgh Innovations, the University of Edinburgh’s commercialisation service, said:

We are extremely proud to have supported all the Converge winners from Edinburgh this year. This is a key milestone in their entrepreneurial journey and they are on course to have great impact in data, sustainability and health. Congratulations to you all! ”

Professor Rebecca Goss from the University of St Andrews, who founded biotech startup X-Genix Ltd, won the overall Converge Challenge prize.

Cabinet Secretary for Education & Skills, Shirley-Anne Somerville, said: 

The Converge Awards are an excellent example of what can be achieved when research, innovation and an entrepreneurial mind-set come together and work toward a common goal. From biotech to product innovation, 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.
“Building on the foundations we already have in place in Scotland – world-class universities, cutting-edge research, and an active investment market – our National Strategy for Economic Transformation will embed a culture in which entrepreneurship is encouraged, supported, and celebrated. This approach will ensure that the creativity, ingenuity and determination needed for a start-up nation will create an economy that works for all. ”

Claudia Cavalluzzo, executive director at Converge, said: “Each of our finalists this year brought their A-game, leaving all of us and our judges in awe of their innovation, passion and utter brilliance. Our 15 winners and runners-up have created game-changing innovations that will make a real difference to health, the environment, society, and more.”

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

Header image: L- R Roma Gibb from the University of the Highlands & Islands; Jessica Birt from Concinnity Genetics; SensiBile's Sofia Ferreira-Gonzalez

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