SCOTTISH entrepreneurs have mobilised to an unprecedented degree during the coronavirus pandemic and are expected to play a key role in rebuilding the economy coming out of the crisis.

New businesses seeking to scale-up to create more jobs and offer new services that have a positive impact on the community surged forward for a boost in the process by bidding for the Scottish EDGE awards.

Record numbers of applicants this year included a some that may not have existed without the pandemic, such as firms creating safe event spaces and innovative protection devices, although these were too early in development to reach the next level of the process overseen by some of the country’s top entrepreneurs.

Overall applications were up by 24 per cent, with female co-founders representing 57% .

As the awards near the May 11 online finals, Scottish EDGE, a social enterprise supported by the Hunter Foundation, Royal Bank of Scotland, the Scottish Government and Scottish Enterprise, said it has awarded over £16 million in grants and loans while supporting over 420 companies since its launch in 2013.

One key element for new companies going through the process is the creation of jobs.

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A Sir Tom Hunter-funded independent analysis of past winners by economic research group Ekos found that EDGE-supported businesses have helped generate more than 850 jobs and a gross value added of £67.9m.

Evelyn McDonald, chief executive of Scottish EDGE, said: “We’ve been really delighted with the interest in EDGE with this round. The quality was really high as well so we found it difficult to whittle it down to take businesses forward to the next stage of the competition.

“We are seeing some real ambition, we were chatting to a young guy this morning who is talking about turning over £9m in the next few years.

“Another thing we are seeing is a real focus on sustainability. Concerns around the climate are definitely coming through.

“We worked out that 37% of the businesses that are pitching at the semi-finals have got sustainability focus at their core so that is interesting as well.

The Herald: Ms McDonald said the standard of application was high.Ms McDonald said the standard of application was high.

“People are also looking at what impact is their product or service having on customers, on the planet, are there ways of doing good through their business.

“We were amazed at how far advanced people were in their thinking around the impact they want to make.”

Among those to apply in the first round this time included a business that helps events and venues operate safely and protective device innovations and services that have come directly from the pandemic.

Other innovations include insect-based dog food and a flat-packed building system made of recycled plastic.

“We are a social enterprise, it is about making an impact on the community, so what we are looking for from these businesses is job creation,” said Ms McDonald.

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“For example, one of the businesses that pitched to us is from the north of Scotland and if they are successful in seeing through their growth plans, they will create ten jobs locally, so that is fantastically impactful.”

Another based in Perthshire is aiming to create 65 jobs in three years.

“That is essentially what we’re looking for at EDGE.”

She said: “What we are looking at is can we help the Scottish economy by giving these businesses a boost that will enable them to get there faster, create jobs, have an impact and bring cash into Scotland.”

Sir Tom, the retail tycoon, said that “early stage, high growth businesses will play a vital role in rebuilding our economy and driving employment opportunities” adding “the businesses that come through EDGE grow faster with less risk because EDGE is not just about money, but the embedded support on offer”.