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Heriot-Watt University’s Trailblazing Entrepreneurs Triumph in Scotland’s Converge Challenge Awards

Heriot-Watt University’s Trailblazing Entrepreneurs Triumph in Scotland’s Converge Challenge Awards

Fantasy Fibre Mill: Connecting Regenerative Agriculture to Ethical Fashion

Heriot-Watt University’s Fantasy Fibre Mill, founded by Rosie Bristow and Nick Evans, has won the Create Change prize at the 13th annual Converge Awards. The project aims to connect regenerative agriculture to ethical fashion by producing natural fibre yarn grown, processed, and spun in the UK.

Heriot-Watt University has emerged as a winner at the prestigious Converge Awards, Scotland’s largest company creation program for the university sector. The initiative provides support to university spinouts and startups, equipping them with the necessary skills, guidance, funding, and network to transform their ideas into commercial reality.

At the awards ceremony in Glasgow, Converge recognized 16 projects from Scottish universities across four different categories: Converge, Create Change, KickStart, and Net Zero. The total prize fund amounted to an impressive £320,000. The winning projects shared a common goal of addressing pressing societal issues such as gas leakages, fast fashion pollution, and the challenges of drug discovery.

One of Heriot-Watt’s triumphs was Fantasy Fibre Mill, a project that seeks to bridge the gap between regenerative agriculture and ethical fashion. The company, founded by Rosie Bristow and Nick Evans, produces natural fibre yarn that is grown, processed, and spun entirely in the UK. This unique approach promotes sustainable practices and supports local industries.

Fantasy Fibre Mill was awarded the Create Change prize, which includes £30,000 in cash and £9,750 of in-kind business support. The recognition highlights the project’s potential to make a significant impact in the fashion industry by offering an environmentally conscious alternative to conventional manufacturing methods.

Another Heriot-Watt success story at the Converge Awards was Dr Oleg Ishkov, a Research Fellow in the university’s School of Energy, Geoscience, Infrastructure, and Society. Dr Ishkov’s future spinout, Rockit, secured the Net Zero award for its groundbreaking technology that prevents greenhouse gas leaks from legacy drill sites in the North Sea. This innovation contributes to the global effort to combat climate change.

Additionally, Darius Roman, a machine learning researcher at Heriot-Watt, received recognition as the runner-up in the Net Zero Challenge. Roman’s startup, yaiLab, utilizes artificial intelligence to predict when batteries connected to the power grid require maintenance. This technology has the potential to optimize energy storage systems and enhance overall efficiency.

The Innovation Minister, Richard Lochhead, commended this year’s winners for their outstanding talent and creativity in addressing environmental and societal challenges. Dr Claudia Cavalluzzo, executive director at Converge, praised the achievements and ambition demonstrated by the talented pioneers recognized at the awards. She emphasized that Scotland’s universities are world-class and play a crucial role in driving innovation.

The Converge Challenge program, launched in 2011, has been instrumental in training over 700 aspiring founders and supporting the creation of more than 330 companies. These startups have collectively raised over £320 million in follow-on funding, showcasing the program’s significant impact on Scotland’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Overall, Heriot-Watt’s success at the Converge Awards highlights the university’s commitment to fostering innovation and sustainability. Fantasy Fibre Mill’s mission to connect regenerative agriculture to ethical fashion exemplifies the transformative potential of university spinouts in addressing pressing environmental issues. With projects like these, Scotland continues to position itself as a global leader in innovation and entrepreneurship.

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