How Scottish EDGE propelled the ambition of Alex Papanikolaou
The Scottish EDGE is a funding competition aimed at identifying Scotland’s top young, early stage and high growth potential entrepreneurs. Historically the Scottish EDGE was run by Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise alongside various partners. However, in August 2014 Sir Tom Hunter and RBS agreed to extend the success of the fund and lead in its delivery going forward.
In essence the Scottish EDGE is a £5m+ fund endowed by serial entrepreneur Sir Tom Hunter, the Royal Bank of Scotland PLC and the Scottish Government. The competition itself consists of three categories: Scottish EDGE, Young EDGE and Wild Card EDGE. Depending on their eligibility for these categories, companies can potentially win an award of up to £100,000.
Young EDGE winner Alex Papanikolau
Alex Papanikolaou of Freedom One Life won the top prize of £10,000 at the first Young EDGE Awards in June 2014. Young EDGE Awards are a special category of the EDGE Awards for 18-30 year olds.
Freedom One Life is developing a new power wheelchair which will be lighter, have a longer battery life and be very easy to repair. Alex has had mild Athetoid cerebral palsy since birth and is a power wheelchair user himself. He experienced the limitations of power wheelchairs when he set out to travel the world and decided he needed to develop a chair which kept up with him and gave him and other wheelchair users the freedom they desire.
The EDGE funding has been used to pay for a prototype of the frame. Alex has also been successful in securing an Innovation Grant, a Feasibility Grant and a grant for IP protection from Scottish Enterprise as well as funding from the Prince’s Trust and a small grant from his local council.
However, Alex has benefitted from more than just the funding provided by EDGE.
Alex’s Young EDGE pitch was judged by Martin Izod of Safehinge who invited Alex to move into his co-working space at Skypark in Glasgow in August 2014. Another one of the judges, Stuart Macdonald of Seric Systems is now providing informal mentoring to Alex. He is also being mentored by GlobalScot Colin Adams of the School of Infomatics as part of his EDGE award.
Alex had been working with a factory who kept letting him down but another business in the co-working space, Filiment PD, helped him source another factory and he has now taken delivery of the frame. The product designers at Safehinge are helping with the electronics and assembly and Alex is now raising money to put an initial batch into production to test in the field.
He also recently reached the final of the Stelios Award for disabled entrepreneurs.
Alex said “I thought winning the EDGE was just about the money but it’s been about much, much more. The support and contacts have been invaluable and have really helped me move my business forward in the last six months.”