Converge Challenge

CONTEXT:

This following entry contains excerpts from the following resource:

This compendium of entrepreneurship policies illustrates 16 case studies of inspiring practice policies from 12 OECD countries, and provides actionable recommendations derived from these ecosystem interventions.

The Converge Challenge case study explores how a competition at Scottish universities and research institutions aims to create a new generation of entrepreneurs in Scotland.

SUPPORT MECHANISM:

Converge Challenge is a business creation competition and entrepreneurship development programme for staff, students and recent graduates of all Scottish universities and research institutions. 

Applicants are asked to attend a 2- or 3-day business course, depending on the category they enroll in (see eligibility criteria for each category below), and submit a business plan (including financial forecasts and a 1-minute pitch video). Depending on the category, they may also attend a full-day business consultation, and be asked to pitch their idea at an “Elevator” event. Finalists of all categories are invited to participate in a promotional film and photoshoot and attend the awards ceremony. They may also get to attend an additional day of business training, and asked to pitch their idea to a judging panel, or to a live audience at the award ceremony. Prizes vary by category.

One of the most important aspects of the Converge Challenge is the training programme. The first day of the training introduces participants to the fundamentals of business management, including business structure; how to pay yourself; employing other people; taxation; and accounting. The second day focuses on the basic corporate and commercial competencies, including quantifying commercial opportunities; estimating resources and timescales; cash flow; and building networks and teams. The third day focuses on identifying and targeting customers, market segmentation and competition.

Participants also have an opportunity to have their business plans reviewed by partners, and some participants are awarded 12 months of one-to-one mentoring.

IMPLEMENTING AGENCIES:

Converge Challenge is funded by The Scottish Funding Council, all Scottish Universities, Creative Scotland and a network of commercial partners.

ELIGIBILITY:

Converge Challenge is open to staff, students and recent graduates (i.e. having graduated within 24 months of application date) of all Scottish universities and research institutions. It accepts applicants in any of the four following categories:

1) The Converge Challenge targets new businesses that demonstrate high commercial potential and scalability. The category is for the most advanced business ideas, and is open to both product- and service-based ideas. Applicants must be able to demonstrate validation of their idea, customer engagement and a route to market. Commercialisation must be realised within 12 months of the Award.

2) The Creative Challenge aims at innovative business ideas in creative industries, including advertising, architecture, visual arts, crafts, design, fashion and textiles, film and video, photography, music, performing arts, writing and publishing, software and computer games. It is aimed at innovative ideas that demonstrate individual creativity, skill and craft. Businesses should have the ability to start trading with 12 months of the awards and have the potential to develop into sustainable businesses.

3) The Impact Challenge is open to innovative projects with a social or environmental mission. Businesses must have the ability to start trading with 12 months of the awards and have the potential to develop into sustainable businesses.

4) The KickStart Challenge category targets early-stage, innovative projects that have the potential to become high-growth businesses. The KickStart category is open to both product and service-based ideas. Applicants must be able to demonstrate that their business idea is feasible, has unique selling points and that there is market demand.

There are linkages between the KickStart Challenge and the three other categories of challenges. The winner of the KickStart Challenge is automatically qualified to the semi-finals of one of the other challenges.

MONITORING + EVALUATION METHODS

The initiative collects key metrics annually for each award category. Evaluations are not regular, but one was conducted in 2016 with the objective of estimating the economic impact of the initiative. The evaluation used data collected by Converge Challenge, as well as surveys of participants. 

RESULTS:

The initiative was evaluated in 2017 to estimate its impact. The key findings were:

  • Between 2011 and 2016, the Converge Challenge category provided training to 180 people, of which 69 people incorporated a business.

  • Of the 69 businesses created over the period 2011-16, 60 continued to operate in 2016.

  • For each GBP 1 invested to date by the universities and SFC in the Converge Challenge has enabled participating businesses to leverage a further GBP 7.51 in funding.

  • In 2016, the businesses that have taken part in Converge Challenge created an estimated 180 jobs in Scotland. Of these, 100 can be directly attributed to Converge Challenge.

  • 97% of Converge Challenge participants reported that they were either “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with their experience.

  • Overall, GBP 29.7 million (EUR 33.5 million) of follow-on funding was secured by businesses based in Scotland. Of this, GBP 12.5 million (EUR 14.1 million) can be directly attributed to the support provided through Converge Challenge.

  • It is estimated that the businesses supported by the Converge Challenge generated GBP 5.2 million (EUR 5.9 million) Gross Value Added (GVA) for the Scottish economy in 2016. Of this, it was estimated that GBP 3.4 million (EUR 3.8 million) GVA can be directly attributed to the support provided by Converge Challenge.

  • For each GBP 1 invested in 2016 by the universities and SFC, the Converge Challenge generated GBP 2.07 GVA for the Scottish economy.

In addition, statistics from 2019 indicate that the programme attracted 1 100 applications over 2011-18. In this period, it trained 300 entrepreneurs and supported 150 early stage ideas and social enterprises. An estimated 40% of projects incorporate and the three year survival rate is estimated to be 88%. Converge Challenge alumni had secured around GBP 80 million of funding as of September 2019.

CHALLENGES + LESSONS TO DATE:

No major challenges have been encountered to date. The initiative has grown from one award category to four in seven years. Financial and in-kind contributions from universities have increased, and the number of business and third sector partners has grown.

Lessons for other ecosystems:

The key success factor for the Converge Challenge is the strong partnerships between the universities, business community and third sector. The initiative relies heavily on the input provided by business support staff from the individual universities that support the project, who help to support the participating businesses before, during and after the competition process. Without this support, it is likely that the benefits associated with the project would be significantly lower.

NOTES + ADDITIONAL CONTEXT:

Horizontal and vertical linkages to other entrepreneur-support mechanisms:

Converge Challenge forms a pipeline of potential applications for the Royal Society of Edinburgh Enterprise Fellowship and other support schemes such as Scottish EDGE (a start-up competition) and the Engage Invest Exploit programme (an event for start-ups seeking funding ran by Informatics Ventures, a programme which supports technology entrepreneurs from Scottish universities). In addition to direct applications from Scottish universities and research institutes, Converge Challenge receives referrals from the Scottish Institute for Enterprise (which offers entrepreneurship education to students in Scotland), and Enterprise Campus (an initiative that support postgraduate students from Scottish universities in setting up businesses).

CURATED BY

Global Entrepreneurship Network
United States
Global Entrepreneurship Network
United States
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