My First Project working with Academia – Dr. Colin Soper, the School of Pharmacy & Pharmacology, The University of Bath
Stephen Law & Bath University 1990s

I would like to say that I somehow masterminded my career in working with Academia and Industry.  The truth is that it just happened one day without me noticing.  I had to solve a problem and it was the best idea that popped in to my head.  I will explain how it began…

An old colleague from University contacted me to ask if I could help him with a business idea.  He had stumbled upon a thriving industry based around disease-control risk assessment for industrial HEVAC systems.  He knew that I had designed heating systems for years and that I had a reasonable understanding of the properties of water and microbes.  As the best sales person he knew, he asked if I would help?

My colleague decided that the best way to sell this crazy idea to me was to fill me with alcohol.  I remember waking up in the morning, having promised to help my colleague.  I then recalled the bet he had made and that I had foolishly accepted – “I bet you can’t win an account with the MoD?”

Well, I’m always up for a challenge and I guess I am rather good at making complex sales to intelligent buyers.  I spent umpteen hours researching everything I could on the subject, including some very dry Government Directives.  Within a matter of weeks my research had paid off.  I had met up with the MoD in Bristol and sold them a contract for Risk Assessment, Monitoring and Analysis.  So far so good, then things started to get awkward…

My colleague was supposed to take care of the operational work.  Then he had an argument with the guy who was supposed to do the work.  Then he argued with me and walked off from the project.  So I had put in many hours of my time, won over the MoD and now I wasn’t going to get paid unless I could figure out what to do?

I sat down and put all the data in front of me.  I read and re-read all the Government Directives on the subject.  To be honest, my head was spinning with a million and one questions.  After a short while feeling sorry for myself that I wasn’t born a genius, the idea popped in to my head – FIND A GENIUS!

I was living in Bath, which has one of the best Universities in the UK.  So I picked up a prospectus and researched all their schools and all the doctors and professors.  I then cross-referenced all the skills necessary from the Government Directives with the university departments and their experts.  I finally found a match with a chap called Dr. Colin Soper.

I guess this is where my sales training came in very handy.  I managed to pitch to the Secretary for the Department of Pharmacy & Pharmacology, that I had a potential lucrative contract for the University.  The next thing I knew, I was pulling in to the car park of Bath University to meet up with their expert Dr. Soper.

Colin Soper was a genius and a straight-talking, down-to-earth scientist.  I believe it took him about 2-minutes to realise that my knowledge of chemical and microbiological analysis was at level Dummy.  He glared at me for what seemed like an eternity, then he burst out laughing.   It turned out that he admired the fact that I was prepared to take on this challenge and that I was honest about my need to learn from him.

Dr. Soper took out his blackboard rubber.  He cleared the board, then began scribbling with chalk like a whirling dervish.  After a couple of hours my head was almost exploding with data.  By the time I left the University that day, I had gained a general understanding of what to do and we had agreed upon a plan.

I worked with Dr. Soper for the whole 6-month project.  Bath University were very happy with what I paid them.  The MoD were very happy with the work I did for them.  My bank manager was very happy with my invoices.  And so began my career in Eco Tech Development, working with Academia

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