Leading Scottish microbiology firm moves to employee ownership

L to R: Ann Turner (Administration Manager), Dr Douglas Cameron (Technical Manager), Alan Kelly (Operations Manager)

LEADING Scottish healthcare manufacturer, E & O Laboratories Limited, is the latest business to move to an Employee Ownership Trust. Founded in 1990 by Virginia Lucey, the company has built a well-respected brand recognised throughout the UK diagnostic sector and across 36 countries worldwide.

Virginia Lucey says, “We have an experienced young diverse management team at the helm and a loyal workforce who all enjoy operating in a modern team environment. I felt it was time to hand over more leadership responsibility to the staff who will continue to build our strong brand. After careful consideration, it was decided that the option of transferring ownership to the employees using an Employee Ownership Trust would benefit each and every employee. I believe this is a very positive decision that will enhance the business longevity, secure jobs for the future and ensure our culture remains progressive, modern, fair, and non-corporate.”

Virginia was introduced to the option of an EOT by her legal advisers Kerr Stirling. Partner, Alastair Barclay says, “EOT was an obvious choice for Virginia. The company plays an important role as a local employer. The sale to an EOT allows the company to continue its success securing the future for many years to come. We at Kerr Stirling are proud to have played a small part.”

The company is headquartered in a beautiful rural location west of Bonnybridge, where the company first built its reputation for harvesting and selling donor animal blood to NHS bacteriology laboratories throughout the UK. Back in 1995, E&O diversified its products to include Ready-to-use Culture Media and built its first GMP cleanroom facility. Further investment followed as the “Team” grew and skill set widened.

With 70 employees and a turnover of 5.5M, major investment followed in 2013, with a new facility in Cumbernauld and farming activities extended its into West Lothian. This new space allowed the team to plan and build/design a new state-of-the-art media manufacturing operation including extensive temperature-controlled warehouse & logistics hub.

In 2020 the company was faced with a huge decision after 80% of the microbiology product orders stopped overnight when the Covid-19 pandemic hit. Faced with furloughing staff and dwindling production, the company took a brave move to reinvent itself and focused on virology reagents. New formulations, tubes, swabs, labelling, packaging, quality control testing and compliance criteria. Despite Covid restrictions, the company broke all previous sales records and helped to contribute to the global response of the worldwide pandemic.

Running 3 shifts with 170 employees they achieved a record turnover.

Organic growth has always been E&O’s model, so post Covid expansion was back on track in the South of England. 2022 E&O invested in a new industrial unit in Reading. Following the installation of a cold room storage and warehousing equipment, this new “Southern distribution Hub” went live in the summer of 2023. E&O is in a very stable financial position, having built a very strong brand within the Microbiology Diagnostic sector and is now looking forward to future UK and international growth.

Virginia Lucey has no plans to leave the business and will remain as Managing Director. She will take a position on the board of the Employee Ownership Trust alongside fellow Director Judith Dawkins (Financial Director) plus three employee Trustees. These are Dr Douglas Cameron (Technical Manager), Ann Turner (Administration Manager) and Alan Kelly (Operations Manager). Judith says “We are a very diverse business, with a unique working environment/culture which has driven our success. Virginia has demonstrated great vision in taking this path. Employee ownership will allow us to continue to grow and innovate whilst securing local jobs”. Employee ownership is continuing to grow in Scotland with almost 200 businesses adopting this ownership structure. The Scottish government is committed to there being 500 employee-owned firms in Scotland by 2030.

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