Collaboration with the School of Physics and Astronomy

Stephen's biography and his role as the School's Entrepreneur in Residence


Having studied Physics with a year of astronomy at the University of Edinburgh, graduating in 1974, Stephen Roe started out his career with a summer at CERN working on the Intersecting Storage Rings detectors. He has since worked  in multiple industries including medical devices, steel, computers, semiconductors, food and drink, aerospace and instrumentation. For 16 years Stephen was a management consultant, latterly with KPMG Consulting where he was a UK partner. He was responsible for technical and operational transformation team of KMPG UK. During these years he developed skills in leadership, people management, problem solving, technology management, starting and growing businesses and turning round badly performing businesses.

Using this experience, Stephen went on to run his own business for 5 years focusing on company turnaround. The companies he worked with in this role had science and technology at their core.

  • A University subsidiary had won a contract with the European Southern Observatory (ESO) to develop the polishing methods for segments of the main mirror of the Extremely Large Telescope planned for ESO’s site in Chile. This project had stalled and was in danger of being cancelled by ESO. Stephen was hired and given 6 months to restart the work, determine how to turn the business into profitability, and find a permanent successor to run the project. All three objectives were achieved. The project required that he quickly understood the technical and commercial issues with the large, folded interferometer at the centre of the polishing process.
  • Media Lario, a privately-owned company based in Lecco, Italy, was struggling to manufacture X-ray mirrors for Extreme UV lithography equipment. Stephen was hired to manage the team and find solutions to long standing manufacturing problems. This was achieved during the period as VP Engineering. Media Lario also made collectors for the e-Rosita and XMM Newton X-ray, space telescope using the same technology and panels for the Alma array microwave telescopes.
  • A leading European manufacturer of precision optics based in Scotland headhunted Stephen to join them as Managing Director. Stephen’s role was to improve quality, delivery and output in a highly technical industry: the customers were the biggest users of optics across the globe and the components were used in multiple applications, including Glasgow University’s contribution to LIGO. During Stephen’s tenure sales grew by over 30%, profitability doubled, and on-time delivery performance rose from 28% to 85%.
  • A privately-owned designer and manufacturer and world leader of precision, broadband seismometers had been acquired by a private equity firm and within 12 months was failing. Stephen was hired as Interim CEO to turn the business round. It took 21 months to return the business to profitability and when he left, the company had achieved record sales revenue of £12M and had won their first and major contract for Total, the French oil company, worth £3.3m. The work consisted of leading the resolution of a very large number of technical, quality and operational issues.

Stephen has a life-long interest in both Physics and Astronomy and has kept up to date with developments since graduation. Throughout his career he has applied his physics background to solve complex business problems. He has a wide range of knowledge of industrial applications and can learn quickly through working across multiple industries over 48 years.

Stephen was appointed as Entrepreneur in Residence for the School of Physics and Astronomy in 2023. He is also currently the Chair of OGI Bio Ltd (a start-up from University of Edinburgh), Chair of Dollar Community Development Trust, and has worked extensively supporting Edinburgh Innovations’ client companies. 

Collaboration with the School of Physics and Astronomy 

During Stephen’s last full-time role as CEO, he commissioned work with the Edinburgh Complex Fluids Partnership to understand the detailed mechanisms that kill microbes in liquids exposed to microwave radiation. The results were surprising and may enable new pasteurisation methods for temperature-sensitive food stuffs. 

Stephen has also helped the early stage of development of several businesses under Edinburgh Innovations (EI) programmes including:

  • ŌGI Bio Ltd where Stephen is now Chair. ŌGI Bio is a start-up business from the University which design, makes and sells laboratory equipment that seeks to automate the processes of growing bacteria.
  • Whitehaul: a pre-company project with low cost, high performance internet access for remote locations.
  • Robotics business focussed on automating recycling industry.

Stephen commented:

This appointment funded by the Royal Society is very exciting for me being able to help the University where I graduated in Physics some years ago. It provides me with the opportunity to use my many years’ experience in working with science-based businesses and applying it to help my new colleagues in the School of Physics and Astronomy. I plan to build on the excellent work my predecessor, Lucinda Bruce-Gardyne, has done over the past three years. It is an honour to be working with both The Royal Society and the University of Edinburgh.

Royal Society Entrepreneur in Residence

The key activities of Stephen’s programme are:

  • 1:1 meetings to engage staff across the School.
  • 1:1 meetings with ECFP staff to explore recent work in expanding industrial collaborations with larger companies.
  • Mentor promising and already engaged academics to spin out companies with EI.
  • Build on the work of Lucinda Bruce-Gardyne in extending the Masterclass series to focus on new topics such as managing intellectual property, structured problem solving, design of experiments, critical thinking and role of standards in high performing businesses. These five topics are relevant across the School.
  • Working with EI to introduce and build a network of commercial and industrial contacts for the School in sectors which have strong science-based businesses. Where appropriate, include companies led by physicists.
  • Introduce application search workshops to stimulate thinking on possible applications for research outputs and secondly, identify industrial problems that need new thinking.
  • Holding clinics to evaluate commercial potential of opportunities through due diligence workshops.

Get in touch with stephen.roe [at] (Stephen Roe) via email.