A MAJOR step forward has been made by an entrepreneurship development programme with the appointment of leading academics and business leaders to its new Strategic Advisory Board (SAB).

Comprising some of the country’s most respected and influential academics and business people, the members of the SAB will be ambassadors for the Converge Challenge programme.

As well as advising on future funding opportunities, the new board aims to identify the emerging challenges and opportunities for the Scottish entrepreneurial community.

Converge Challenge was established in 2010 for students, recent graduates and academic staff across the higher education sector. Jointly the companies formed within the programme have raised over £37 million of funding through grants, investment and sales, and they employ 158 staff.

“The Converge Challenge programme is instrumental in the creation of world leading products and services which are already making an invaluable contribution towards Scotland becoming a world-leading entrepreneurial nation,” said a spokesperson.

Former Converge participants have jointly formed 62 companies with a 41 per cent incorporation rate and over 80 per cent have survived beyond three years. Two thirds of the companies formed are technology companies with high growth potential for global trading. The sectors cover life sciences, energy and renewables, ICT, financial services, construction, fashion and others.

The new SAB members are: Paul Atkinson, founder and partner of Par Equity LLP; Conrad Chin, CTO at Netthings Ltd and chair (non-executive) of Blackford Analysis Ltd; Professor Sir Pete Downes, principal and vice-chancellor of the University of Dundee; Dr Stuart Fancey, director, research and innovation at the Scottish Funding Council; Susan Fouquier, regional managing director Business Banking Scotland, Royal Bank of Scotland; Adrian Gillespie, managing director of operations, growth companies, innovation and infrastructure, Scottish Enterprise; Dr Roddy Macdonald, head of higher education and science division, Scottish Government Advanced Learning and Science Directorate; Professor Sir Jim McDonald, principal and vice-chancellor of the University of Strathclyde; Professor David Sigsworth OBE, chair, Sigma Capital Group plc; Professor Richard Williams, principal and vice chancellor, Heriot-Watt University; Professor Lesley Yellowlees CBE, vice-principal and head of the College of Science and Engineering, the University of Edinburgh; Sandy Finlayson, chairman, Converge Challenge and Dr Olga Kozlova, director, Converge Challenge.

“Formation of the Strategic Advisory Board represents a big new step for Converge Challenge,” said Converge chairman Finlayson.

“I am delighted to see such an impressive group of leaders from academia and business come together to advise us on strategy and ensure that Converge keeps developing and delivering best value to our participants and stakeholders,”