Converge Challenge prize for early tumour detection

Dave Hughes, novosound; Holly Butler, ClinSpec Dx; and Fiona Rudkin, mycoBiologics (Pic credit: Lesley Martin)

Converge Challenge prize for early tumour detection

A 60-second pitching competition has seen ClinSpec Dx, a simple blood test to detect brain tumours earlier, take Scotland’s largest academic start-up prize.

Dr Holly Butler, a research associate at the University of Strathclyde, delivered the winning pitch and captured the audience with some staggering statistics on current brain tumour diagnosis and how ClinSpec Dx can change these statistics through earlier detection.

“I’m incredibly pleased that the judges saw the potential in ClinSpec Dx,” said Holly. “Pitching was a nerve-wracking but very thrilling experience and it’s exciting to have the support from leading entrepreneurs and investors.”

Second place was awarded to mycoBiologics led by Dr Fiona Rudkin, a Royal Society of Edinburgh Enterprise Fellow at the University of Aberdeen. mycoBiologics is a platform for generating monoclonal antibodies designed to combat invasive fungal infections with a portable diagnosis test similar to a simple pregnancy test.

Third place went to novosound led by Dr Dave Hughes, a Fellow at the University of the West of Scotland. novosound has developed sensors that can provide high resolution ultrasound imaging at a fraction of the cost of current MRI scanners revolutionising the medical, dental and veterinary markets.

The pitching competition is only for the Top 30 finalists of the Converge Challenge award category. Each participant is given just 60 seconds to outline their business proposal to an expert judging panel and audience of 120 industry experts.

Dr Olga Kozlova, director of Converge Challenge, said: “Being able to communicate an innovative proposition in less than a minute is a core skill that will serve our participants well when they are talking to their customers and investors. And this is what Converge Challenge is all about, helping our participants to develop practical business skills. 

“This event is one of the highlights of the Converge calendar and provides an opportunity to see the best projects developed by students, graduates and staff from the country’s universities and research institutes in action.”

The expert judging panel included:

  • Gordon Stark, Chief Operations Officer of Murgitroyd
  • Morven Cameron, Head of Universities, Education & Skills at Highlands & Islands Enterprise
  • Lynne Cadenhead, Chair of Women’s Enterprise Scotland
  • Steve Ewing, Director of Operations at Informatics Ventures

Guest speakers on the night included Keith Brown MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Jobs and Fair Work and Alistair Forbes, a GlobalScot, tech entrepreneur, angel investor and business mentor.

The finalists will now utilise their training to develop a comprehensive business plan over the coming months. The plan will be assessed at different stages with the Top 6 shortlisted Converge Challenge candidates going forward to the final.

They are competing for a share of the total prize fund of £170,000 - a £20,000 increase on the 2016 prize fund. The package of support includes a broad range of in-kind expert offerings provided by partners to build on the cash prizes, all aimed at helping participants to establish and grow successful and sustainable businesses.