Converge Challenge Awards 2017

Converge Challenge Awards 2017 - How Alice qualified for the finals for the Social Enterprise category

Hi everyone,

Hope you’ve enjoyed your reading week, but also, that you’ve managed to get some uni work done while at it.

This blog is about the Converge Challenge Awards of which the award ceremony took place on September 28th. One of the highlights of the event was the appearance of Nicola Sturgeon as a guest speaker, but also, the fact that a student from our university has managed to get shortlisted as a finalist in the Social Enterprise category. The student I’m referring to is Alice, who is currently in her 4th year for Digital Interaction studies, and her social enterprise “Open Ears”.

A little bit about Converge Challenge

First things first, if you haven’t heard of the Converge Challenge before, essentially, it is a company creation competition that aims to provide students and staff of all Scottish universities and research institutes with practical commercial skills. One of its objectives is to enable and facilitate innovation which will contribute to Scotland growing as a dynamic economy.


The challenge consists of 3 categories:

1. The Converge challenge (for recent university graduates)

2. The Kickstart (early-stage idea for a new product or service)

3. The Social Enterprise

The value of prizes for each category amounted to £78 000, £10 000 and £10 000 respectively (value is not estimated only in cash), you can find out more about the competition and the rewards for each category here .

The Centre of Entrepreneurship is one of the sponsors for the competition, but also, Converge sponsors some of the prizes for our own Venture competition (which takes place on February of every year, during the Week of Entrepreneurship). Our relationship with Converge enables us to be aware of all the deadlines for participation in competitions and we are always keen in pushing that through our social media channels for students to know and participate if interested.


First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon was a guest speaker at the Converge Challenge Award Ceremony 2017



Alice and her experience from participating in the Converge Challenge:

I was glad that I got the opportunity to get Alice to answer a few questions regarding her experience in the Converge Challenge Awards and this is what she had to say:

How did you find out about converge?

“I found out about the Converge Challenge as a result of participating in the 2016 Global Health Challenge within the University of Dundee. Dr. Linda McSwiggan (senior lecturer at the School of Nursing and Health Sciences) was part of our original team and she suggested Converge as an opportunity for us.”


Alice Horton at the Finalist’s Award Ceremony


What role has the Centre of Entrepreneurship played in you applying to the Converge Challenge Awards 2017?

“I had a bit of an awkward relationship with them at the beginning of the process. I attended one of the Converge outreach workshops run by Veronica Ferguson (…) This was when I first became aware of Brian McNicoll (Enterprise and Entrepreneurship manager for Dundee University).

I was aware of the spinout culture as part of other Scottish universities and I was overprotective of my project. I regret avoiding the resources made available by the Entrepreneurship team at Dundee. I believed the University had no part in the project as I had achieved what I had done so far without their support. However, on reflection they are very understanding and I should have taken advantage of their resources and network earlier. I’m looking to be much more involved with them in the future.”

What is your business idea for the competition and what inspired it?

“My idea is ‘Open Ears’, a deafness awareness toolkit.

Open Ears is an emerging social enterprise that provides training for staff and other individuals to allow them to develop more effective communication methods through experiential learning.

Open Ears was inspired from experiences I had within the Tayside Deaf Hub that provides information, services and workshops for deaf people within Dundee.”


How long did you have to work on this idea?

“In total I’ve been working on Open Ears for around 11 months.”

What benefits did you get out of this experience?

“I would recommend Converge to anyone who has the commitment to work with an idea for at least a year. Converge pushes your project forward with challenges and deadlines. It’s a supportive environment with access to feedback from experienced people in your sector. Being able to meet other Social Enterprise founders allowed me to learn about the reality of starting a business and all the legal requirements that come along with it.

Aside from just making Open Ears so much stronger Converge offers you networking opportunities. (…)You are also encouraged to explore the other funding options available in Scotland. There’s nothing stopping you from taking part in many opportunities off the back of the Converge Challenge.”



Are you looking to further develop your idea into an enterprise in the future?

I have the aim of incorporating Open Ears as a CIC (Community Interest Company) within the next two years. I plan to do this by entering the Converge Challenge 2018 and taking part in some of the other challenges that I’m now aware of. I’ll be documenting the future of Open Ears as well as my experiences in Converge 2018 on my website:

So as you can see, opportunities like the Converge Challenge can be extremely beneficial to participants, not only in terms of developing a project but also in regards to the networking opportunities that come along with it. In case that you are interested in participating in the Converge Challenge 2018, do not hesitate to come in contact with our team at the Centre of Entrepreneurship, as we will make sure to provide you with the best advice and guidance through the competition.



Until next time,



Photography credits go to Lesley Martin & Mark Anderson.