Unlocking Ambition Challenge

£4m fund to support the entrepreneurs of the future.

A new scheme to nurture and support up to 40 budding entrepreneurs each year, backed by £4 million, has been set out by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

The Scotland CAN DO Unlocking Ambition Challenge links established and successful entrepreneurs with high potential individuals who can demonstrate that their ideas can be a success, create jobs and benefit Scottish society.

The entrepreneurial mentors, who will select the candidates, include:

  • James Watt, co-founder of BrewDog
  • Leah Hutcheon, founder of online scheduling business Appointedd
  • Cally Russell, founder of multi-retailer shopping app Mallzee
  • Chris van der Kuyl, co-founder of videogame developer 4J Studios
  • Amy Livingstone, co-founder of baby products company Cheeky Chompers

Open for entry early in the New Year, the programme will recruit candidates from anywhere in the world – on the basis that they relocate or establish their business in Scotland. The successful cohort will be mentored and funded as they develop their ideas, receiving bespoke support by partner organisations from the public and private sectors.

Launching the fund at the Start-up Summit – an annual event to help new businesses in Scotland to grow and thrive – the First Minister said:

“We want to ensure the most talented entrepreneurs, from Scotland and elsewhere, have the best opportunities to develop their ideas here, bring them to market and create the successful new companies we need for our economy to continue to grow.

“The Unlocking Ambition Challenge is a fresh and innovative approach to how we can make this a reality. By tapping into the experience of Scotland’s most successful business people, as well as the great companies and institutions based here, we can unlock the potential of the next generation of entrepreneurs.”

James Watt, BrewDog co-founder said:

“The Unlocking Ambition Challenge offers innovative entrepreneurs everything they need to take their business to the next level – time, money and amazing support from world-class organisations. It’s an extraordinary opportunity that will unearth the game-changers of the future and I’m excited to be a part of it.”

James Stuart, Managing Director of Entrepreneurial Scotland added:

“Unlocking Ambition is an exciting initiative and one that we are delighted to be involved with. The initiative has the potential to drive a substantial impact.

“What is as exciting, is that the approach – linking a number of world class programmes of entrepreneurial support and deliberately embarking on a co-production design process – is set to drive additional benefits for Scotland and the broader entrepreneurial ecosystem too.”


The Unlocking Ambition Challenge will be delivered as part of Scotland CAN DO, the programme to support Scotland becoming a world-leading entrepreneurial nation.

Alongside Scottish Government agencies, partner organisations from the private sector, third sector and academia will help support the successful candidates.

The cohort will receive 12 months of funding, mentoring, and incubation with one of the partner organisations. Those demonstrating the most progress will receive support for a further 12 months.

The Start-Up Summit takes place on 1 November at the Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh.


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