A digital platform for knitters and an inflatable, energy-producing water wheel have been awarded cash prizes in a leading a competition for university and academic business ideas.
Lucy Fisher and Ken Morrow, both graduates of Robert Gordon University, have been awarded £20,000 each after being crowned winners in the annual Converge Challenge awards scheme.
Ms Fisher received recognition in the creative challenge category with her business Knit-It, an innovative platform aiming to revolutionise the age-old craft of knitting with digital knitting patterns and online tutorials.
Mr Morrow was selected as the standalone winner of the SSE net zero award, with Hydrowheel, the world’s first inflatable waterwheel.
Designed for easy installation across the developed and developing world, the technology generates affordable, accessible, renewable energy without causing harm to local ecosystems.
Converge is Scotland’s largest entrepreneurial development programme for the university sector and is open to university staff, students and recent graduates across Scotland.
Ms Fisher, who graduated with a masters degree in architecture, is an architectural assistant by day and a knitting entrepreneur by night.
Knitting has been part of the young entrepreneur’s life since she can remember and it was in January last year she decided to enter her idea into the RGU Startup Accelerator, which enabled her to make Knit It a reality.
In November, Ms Fisher, launched her first product called a KnitPic Kit, which lets users knit a portrait of loved ones or pets by transforming a photo into a knitting pattern
New product in the pipeline
Since then Ms Fisher, along with the support of her mum and grandma, has gone on to win a number of different competitions, and most recently was a finalist in London Tech Week.
The prize package is worth more than £40,000 as Ms Fisher will also receive extra business support.
She plans on investing the money into a new product she is working on – but is staying tight lipped for the moment.
She said: “We are currently developing a minimum viable product with plans to launch in Spring next year.
“We are doing a digital platform to modernise knitting but that’s all I can say just now.
“Our mission is to inspire the digital generation to pick up their needles and start knitting by providing them with an enabling tool in using upcoming technology they are used too.
“We want to revolutionise knitting to keep it fresh and up to date for young people.”
Knitting creation went viral
Ms Fisher recently saw one of her creations go viral after British diver Tom Daley, who is also a keen knitter, shared one of her social media posts.
The 25-year-old had knitted a portrait of Mr Daley and tagged him in the Instagram post.
To her delight he then shared it, receiving more than 300,000 views.
Ms Fisher said: “I really couldn’t believe it. It got us lots of new followers and engagement online.”
This year’s Converge final was hosted virtually and by more than 200 guests including university principals, investors and entrepreneurs.
Mr Morrow, 55, was delighted when his company won the last standalone prize of the evening sponsored by low carbon energy company, SSE.
The former business graduate only registered his company last month but had been working on the idea for a while.
“We were absolutely delighted to win.
“The money will be used to get some more prototypes made up and installed for more testing.
“Ultimately we want to sell these to the developing world so people can use them to power microgrids in more isolated communities.”
Great hope for post-pandemic recovery
Converge director Claudia Cavalluzzo, said: “Our university sector has experienced a difficult year with uncertainty regarding return to campus and budgets, international students and research projects.
“However, despite all the odds our institutions have risen to the challenge with ingenious ideas and ground-breaking innovations that have the power to transform not just our economy but people’s lives and also the planet.
“The sheer ingenuity and creativity of this year’s Converge winners and finalists show just how innovative we can be as a nation which gives me great hope for our post-pandemic recovery”.
Converge is funded by the Scottish Funding Council, all 18 Scottish universities, Creative Scotland and a number of other partners and sponsors.